Japan’s heavyweight motorcycle manufacturers known as the Big Four have unveiled a new electric motorbike battery swapping program called Gachaco. But what Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki haven’t come right out and said is that instead of the highly anticipated innovative new motorcycle battery standard, it’s looking a lot like a blue version of Gogoro.
The Big Four have supposedly been working on this big roll out for quite some time; we first heard about their ambitions for a swappable electric motorcycle battery standard all the way back in 2019.
You know, in the before times.
Back then, it sounded like they were developing something large enough to power mid-size electric motorcycles and that could be standardized across manufacturers. It appears the latter part might have been right, but the “motorcycle” part of electric motorcycle batteries seems to have been more or less replaced with “scooter” in this case.
That’s because the swappable battery standard that the Big Four have landed on isn’t very large at all, and instead looks like a blue filter applied to Gogoro’s 1.7 kWh swappable electric scooter batteries. Multiple batteries can of course be used together to power a single vehicle, offering more capacity and thus longer range. That’s exactly what Honda already does with its swappable batteries in its PCX electric scooter.
And in the three years that the four major motorcycle manufacturers have been working on the project, it seems like they haven’t as much developed a new battery standard as they have simply defaulted to using Honda’s PCX batteries that were unveiled in 2018.
Together with Japanese petroleum company Eneos, the Big Four have now launched a new Battery As A Service (BaaS) for their swappable battery packs. The swapping service, known as Gachaco, also looks like a Gogoro setup in costume.
To be fair, there are several competing battery swapping standards for these small 1-2 kWh battery packs. Kymco has their own system, Silence has a neat wheeled battery system, and Rayvolt even recently showed off their own wheeled swappable battery for electric mopeds starting with the BullX.
But Gogoro has become the de facto standard as it has surpassed a million battery packs produced and is now quickly spreading across Asia’s largest motorcycle markets of India, China and Indonesia.
As far as Gachaco, it sounds like the nascent battery swapping service will only be available in Japan for the time being, where it is expected to begin operations in Q3 or Q4 of this year.
The battery packs won’t just be destined for electric motorbikes. According to Honda, they’ll find other energy storage uses as well:
In the future, besides electric motorcycles, Gachaco will promote the use of standardized swappable batteries for other applications, such as storage batteries installed at commercial facilities and private homes. In addition, expended batteries that are generated by the sharing service provided by Gachaco will be collected via the battery-as-a-service (BaaS) platform under review at ENEOS for secondary and tertiary use and finally recycling for cyclical battery usage.
Despite the rather underwhelming showing for what could have been a much more impactful swappable electric motorcycle battery standard, the Big Four are each making slow but steady progress on larger electric motorcycles.
Honda has multiple designs in the works, and Yamaha has also shown off some interesting prototypes. Kawasaki says it will have three electric motorcycles coming this year (even if an electric goat came first), and Suzuki is also making its own progress on 125cc equivalent electric scooters.
Hey, it’s a start…
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