Yamaha, and frankly all of the major Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, have been slow to embrace electric motorcycles and scooters. This hesitation has opened the door to countless startups that have risen to meet the demand with quick progress.
Now Yamaha may be looking to play catchup and prevent the motorcycle giant from losing future market share.
Yamaha’s only major development in the Asian electric motorcycle market has been in the form of the Yamaha EC-05 electric scooter, unveiled over 18 months ago.
The scooter didn’t disappoint, scooping up several international design awards and offering decent performance claims of speeds between 85-95 km/h (53-60 mph).
But the scooter wasn’t really Yamaha’s, at least not under the skin. Yamaha lent its styling department, but the actual technology powering the scooter came from Taiwanese scooter giant Gogoro, including the pair of swappable batteries said to give the Yamaha EC-05 a range of up to 100 km (62 miles) per charge.
And perhaps that was for the best, as Yamaha’s own in-house electric two-wheeled projects have been rather underwhelming in comparison.
But now new reports indicate that Yamaha is preparing to up its game as Yamaha eyes the Indian electric two-wheeler market. India is home to the largest motorcycle market in the world, buoyed both by the country’s warm embrace of two-wheelers and its ballooning population of over 1.3 billion.
The Indian auto industry was expected to reach a 30% electric market share by 2030, according to BikeDehko, though the pace of India’s EV expansion has more recently slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its manufacturing disruptions.
The government’s FAME-II subsidy program designed to boost EV manufacturing is still expected to support that growth, further enticing companies like Yamaha to manufacture electric two-wheelers locally.
Yamaha already has three manufacturing facilities in India, and has been analyzing the opportunity to expand its EV manufacturing there.
As Yamaha Motor India sales senior vice president Ravinder Singh explained to PTI earlier this summer:
We are conducting a feasibility study on EVs and are trying to understand the market requirements as well as the government’s roadmap on EVs. We might introduce electric vehicles in India in next couple of years.
But now that timeline could be getting a boost, as Yamaha looks to return to its pre-COVID-19 manufacturing levels as India exits lockdowns.
As Yamaha’s Singh continued:
India can achieve success only through a clear roadmap, stable policy and proper planning. But as we enter the new normal phase with the unlock, we must embrace a holistic evaluation of the current scenario in order to rethink about how the automobile industry can be restored to its pre-Covid glory.
Ramping up production of two-wheeled EVs in India would fit with Yamaha’s broader plans for EV expansion, though the company’s overall EV timeline remains unclear.
Yamaha has made serious strides toward progress, such as the joining of a coalition to develop electric motorcycle batteries with Honda, Suzuki, and Kawasaki. Together, the companies make up the Big Four motorcycle manufacturers in Japan.
But despite a few fancy concept vehicles and a new Yamaha electric motor designed for adoption by other EV manufacturers, we have yet to see such moves and coalitions result in industry-changing EVs from Yamaha or the other major Japanese manufacturers.
Could India represent a fertile launching ground for Yamaha to make major progress? And if so, could the company’s Indian-developed electric two-wheelers reach international markets such as Europe or North America? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
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