Kawasaki is one of the Japanese Big Four motorcycle manufacturers, yet they’ve had little to show in the way of electric vehicles. That makes the recent uncovering of a Kawasaki patent application for a battery swapping Ninja-style electric motorcycle all the more surprising.
Kawasaki’s electric motorcycle with swappable batteries
The patent application in question shows what appears to be a Kawasaki Ninja, yet with an unfamiliar battery and motor combo in place of the bike’s conventional engine.
Electric motorcycles are becoming increasingly common these days. And while an electric Kawasaki would still be big news, it’s the unique battery system seen in the patent that could be the most innovative part.
The tubular frame may look conventional, but it’s actually designed to be removable, perhaps with a hinge or latch mechanism. As seen in the patent drawings, the side of the frame separates from the rest of the bike behind the steering stem and in front of the rear swingarm. That allows a dolly or rack to slide under the motorcycle and grab the battery. After sliding the battery out, a second fully charged battery could presumably be installed in its place.
The entire process looks similar to the original Better Place electric car battery swap system designed in Israel, that unfortunately ran out of funding in 2013.
But Kawasaki might not have to worry about the same funding issues if it has the backing of the Big Four. As we reported earlier, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki have joined forces to create a new battery swap and charging standard for electric motorcycles.
At the time we didn’t know what that system would look like, but this new patent from Kawasaki may finally shed some light on where the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers are headed.
Breaking the kWh barrier for electric motorcycles
Swappable and removable batteries have long been the holy grail for smaller electric vehicles. Even as charge times for electric motorcycles reduce to just 35 minutes, it’s hard to beat the speed and convenience of a two-minute battery swap. For anyone that wants to conveniently tour or travel long distances on an electric motorcycle, battery swapping would be the best way to do it until major battery advances allow for drastic increases in range.
For now though, the major problem is that lithium-ion batteries are still bulky and heavy. While an electric bicycle’s 500 Wh battery is fairly light at about 5 kg (12 lb), an urban electric motorcycle that tops out at 72 km/h (45 mph) has a barely manageable 1.8 kWh and 16 kg (35 lb) battery. Much more than that and most people won’t be able to comfortably remove a battery pack from their vehicle.
SuperSOCO TC Max battery – about as big as one can handle comfortably
But with Kawasaki’s new system, the battery appears to be as large as a standard electric motorcycle battery. The company has designed some type of dolly or battery cart that interfaces with the frame and battery to handle the heavy lifting.
While this won’t likely be an at-home process, one could imagine a network of battery swap stations like the Better Place model. The main hurdle would be standardizing a single system to make the economics work — but that sounds like the exact reason why the Japanese Big Four joined forces in the first place.
It’s too soon to say if Kawasaki actually plans to bring this battery swapping electric Ninja to market, or if this is just part of the drawing board process. But the mere existence of these designs shows that Kawasaki is actively working towards electric motorcycles, and that’s definitely good news.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
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