Wouldn’t it be great if you had an electric motorbike that didn’t take an hour and a half to recharge? No? Ok not everyone wants an electric bike. In fact plenty of you absolutely detest the idea of it. But for those of you that are a little more open minded, and wouldn’t categorically rule out the idea of a ‘leccy bike, this is good news. Motorbike battery sharing is coming.
The idea behind ‘battery sharing’ is quite simple. When the battery in your bike is running low, you find a ‘swap station’, pull yours out, and replace it with a charged one, and head on your merry way. Yours goes back into the changing bank at the swap station, to be charged up ready for the next punter to come along.
It means that rather than having to wait for ages and ages to charge your own battery up, when you’re running low, you can ‘refuel’ in the same time as it would take to fill a tank of petrol, and be away.
And there’s quite a few benefits of that, as we’ve touched on in previous posts. First of all, the fact that you can top up ‘instantly’ is pretty handy for anyone that doesn’t have an hour or two to kill. But also, if you had plenty of these swap stations, strategically enough placed, it’d mean you wouldn’t need as much range out of your bike. That would mean the battery wouldn’t need to be as heavy, so it’d perform better, be more efficient etc. etc.
I thought that it would be quite a few years before battery sharing of this kind actually started happening, if at all. What I didn’t realise was that it is already happening at the other side of the world. In Taiwan, scooter company Gogoro has more than 2,300 battery swap stations that people use every day. And if it works for scooters, there’s only a small amount of scaling up required to make it work for motorcycles.
And that’s exactly what Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki are doing, with help from ENEOS. Using Honda’s ‘Mobile Power Pack e:’ the collaboration, called Gachaco Inc., are about to launch a new battery swapping system in Japan. Admittedly, the Mobile Power Pack E: is only a fairly small battery, and is unlikely to be appropriate for anything too exciting. A couple of models that currently use the battery are the Honda Gyro e: and Benly e:, the latter actually having a basket on the front. Essentially electric mopeds which are only one step up from a e-scooter. One small step.
But it is a step. And it not only marks the scaling up of the tech, but the commercialisation of the ‘electric motorcycle battery swapping’ idea.
It might only be feasible with small scale batteries at the moment (which are light enough for a five stone, 15 year old girl to carry), but more powerful batteries become lighter and more compact (which they inevitably will), you can definitely expect to see this kind of thing on bigger, faster, more powerful electric motorbikes.
Likewise, they might be initially rolling this out in Japan, but if it works (and it probably will), it might only be a few years before they ship the idea over to Europe and America.
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t solve all the problems that many people still have with electric motorcycle ownership… but it’s certainly addressing some of them. And that’s a start, at least.