Why bikes are swapping batteries
Powered two-wheelers are an integral part of our mobility, but for them to stay relevant they need to start electrifying, and now the biggest brands in the industry are working together to make it happen
We may all get tired of hearing about the shift to electric, but it’s a change that can’t be ignored. Huge amounts of emphasis is being placed on light vehicles, but it isn’t the only segment of vehicles that will switch away from combustion engines and firms are preparing.
KTM, Piaggio, Honda and Yamaha are joining forces to develop the battery technologies that will power everything from motorcycles to mopeds, quadricycles to scooters.
It’s a sign of the times that four huge companies are working together, but the cost and knowledge involved in developing electrified vehicles is considerable.
The four companies have come together to form the Swappable Batteries Motorcycle Consortium, and will work together to find solutions to customer concerns surrounding the future of electromobility, such as the range, charging times, infrastructure and costs.
The ultimate target is to develop swappable battery systems to power the low-voltage electromobility of the future.
Michele Colaninno, Chief of Strategy and Product of Piaggio Group said: “Urban mobility is going through a delicate moment of transition towards electrification. Thanks to our Consortium, representing four major global players, motorbikes will continue to play a key role in the urban context. Swappable batteries give the right answer to speed up the recharging time of vehicles offering an additional valuable choice for users.”
Just as in passenger vehicles and light commercial vehicles, there are challenges in switching to electrified powertrains but the consortium has been set up to find the solutions.
“We need to solve several challenges such as extending the range, shortening the charging time and lowering the vehicle and infrastructure costs to enhance convenience for customers. In the Consortium we have created, the founding members from the motorcycle industry and other stakeholders will work together towards standardising swappable batteries, their charging systems and surrounding infrastructure to create the environment for their use. Our final goal is to ensure that motorcycles continue to be chosen as a useful method of transportation in future mobility,” said Yoshishige Nomura, Chief Officer, Motorcycle Operations at Honda.
And it’s that final point that is perhaps most pertinent. Motorcycles should play a key role in future mobility models, so solving the challenges of electrifying the segment is crucial.
Developing interchangeable battery technology is something that’s been tried – unsuccessfully – in passenger vehicles, but motorcycles, mopeds and scooters could prove an easier application.
The consortium members may be huge, global businesses but smaller firms have used the idea of swappable batteries already.
Silence is just one of a number of firms looking to build its position in the market. The Spanish company may be a fresh face in the UK, but it’s one of the most revered and best-selling electric scooter brands on the continent, supplying vehicles for the Spanish police, the Spanish postal service as well as licensing its vehicles to the Volkswagen Group under the SEAT brand.
The defining feature of all Silence scooters is its detachable battery system, which gives owners total freedom as to where and how they charge. The 5.6kWh battery ‘cube’ from the scooter’s chassis can be detached and wheeled away via an integrated telescopic handle and hidden set of wheels.
The difference is that the Swappable Batteries Motorcycle Consortium wants everything standardised.
Stefan Pierer CEO at Pierer Mobility, owner of the KTM brand, said: “ We’ll work to deliver a swappable battery system for low-voltage vehicles (48V) up to 11kW capacity, based on international technical standards… ensuring that powered two-wheeler vehicles maintain their role in the future of both urban and non-urban mobility.”
Times are changing and the speed of development is accelerating, but it isn’t only in the light-vehicle segment where electrification is taking hold.