This just in. Honda, Yamaha, KTM and Piaggio have all signed a ‘letter of intent’ for the creation of a Swappable Battery Consortium for Motorcycles and Light Electric Vehicles. This means four of the main motorcycle manufacturers will standardise batteries in their electric bikes, so that which ever bike you are on you can quickly, conveniently, and cheaply replace your battery.
It’s all come about thanks to the Paris Climate Agreement. And with the gradual but inevitable transition to electromobility, the four factories are obviously proactively trying to stay ahead of the curve.
But what’s the big deal? Just because my Honda battery matches a KTM, Yamaha and Piaggio battery, it’s still not going to have enough range, and still going to take too long to charge up, right? Well yes and no. With this move to standardise EV (electric vehicles) batteries, the future could look very different.
We’ve always said that for electric bikes to work, a system where you swap a flat battery for a charged battery is the way forward. Rather than plug in and wait an hour or two for it to charge up. A bit like taking a gas bottle for a refill… rather than actually fit it up, they just swap it for a full one.
For that to work with EV bike batteries, we’d need a few things to happen. The first thing is fairly easy. It’s having electric bikes with easily removable batteries. I haven’t seen any of these yet, but I’m sure it’s not beyond the manufacturers to develop something. The second is the facility, whether it’s at petrol station, bike dealerships or wherever, to store and charge a bank of these batteries. Then you can ride up, pay your £10, remove your battery and stick a fully charged one in.
The third thing is the thing that I thought would never happen. But it is the thing that this consortium promises to address. For the system to work, all the batteries in light vehicles would have to match. That’s mopeds, bikes, trikes, and quads. And whilst this consortium, as yet, doesn’t include all the major manufacturers, it could be taken as a bit of a call to arms. If the system works I can’t see it being long before a few more jump on the bandwagon.
It’s also worth remembering that KTM also includes Husqvarna. And the Piaggio group owns the Aprilia, Vespa and Moto Guzzi brands. So they’re both bigger players than some might think.
Perhaps I’m being a bit ambitious. Realistically, I can’t see these ‘battery swap shops’ on the immediate horizon. But the fact that such a massive proportion of bike manufacturers have promised to work together can only mean good things as far as EV bikes are concerned. Batteries ought to be cheaper, more readily available and ultimately better, thanks to four lots of R&D working together.
Let’s see what happens.