Are you a do-it-yourself type of person? While anecdotal evidence from people I've met over the years seems to skew toward a lot of motorcycle folks being wired this way, not everyone is. And, you know, that's cool. It'd be boring if we were all the same, wouldn't it?
Still, if you're a DIY person, chances are excellent that you've had some curiosity about how things are put together for a long time. Maybe you were the type of kid who routinely took your toys apart to see how they worked. Or maybe you moved on to larger things, such as small electronics in your family home.
Whether or not you got in trouble for taking apart your dad's radio isn't the point; what is the point is that you had the interest to do it in the first place. If you're that type of person, then you're probably already familiar with the website iFixit. It's a site filled with detailed guides, explainers, and teardowns to help DIY-types address the normal kinds of issues that regularly come up when you own electronics for any length of time.
Why are we talking about iFixit on a motorcycle website, you might ask? Easy.
As a last-mile machine, the Honda Motocompacto occupies a somewhat different space than its spiritual predecessor, the Motocompo. For one thing, it doesn't use any type of combustion engine at all, let alone the small two-stroke unit found in the original Motocompo.
The iFixit folks did what they do, and they tore into a Motocompacto to see what it looks like on the inside. Their objective was also to determine how easy the Motocompacto is to take apart and service yourself.
Thankfully, they found that the screws you need to remove are all the same size. That makes it a little bit easier than when you're taking your laptop apart to install more memory and suddenly discover that there are at least four different screw sizes you need to keep in mind.
Inside, they found a large battery, as well as circuitry, what appeared to be a thoughtfully packaged bundle of wires and an easily accessible fuse, and of course the little electric motor at the wheel that makes the Motocompacto move. It's a tight space, but it's clear that Honda's engineers put some thought into packaging things tidily.
Replacing consumable parts, such as the battery, will take removal of multiple screws, but that's to be expected. It's not a complete nightmare inside, which is nice to see. It of course remains to be seen how readily available replacement battery packs (either OEM or aftermarket) will be, but it's at least a little bit encouraging to see that a person with some basic hand tools and a bit of patience can probably get in and swap out a battery when it's needed.
At the same time, iFixit thinks that the job could be a bit easier than it ends up being, which is why the design doesn't get top marks for ease of accessibility to work on. What do you want, perfection?
It's Not Just The Motocompacto, Though
One trend that absolutely drives me to distraction is whenever anyone describes something as being "maintenance free," or words to that effect. When it happens, that person is usually trying to sell you something. Very frequently (though not exclusively), what they're trying to sell you is electric.
While vehicles powered by electric motors might have different maintenance requirements and intervals than combustion-powered ones, anyone who tells you that there's zero maintenance involved is either lying outright, or else they don't know what they're talking about. Either way, you shouldn't listen to them.
Let's take the Motocompacto as an example. Sure, the electric motor isn't going to have the same issues as a similarly-powered combustion one. You won't have to change the oil, and since it's direct-drive, you won't have to worry about changing a drive belt or chain, either.
You're still going to have to worry about maintaining the brakes and tires, though. Depending on how popular the Motocompacto proves to be, getting replacement parts down the line (either OEM or aftermarket) could be more or less difficult. The battery will eventually need replacing. Depending on the life your Motocompacto leads, things like the fuse, capacitors, and of course anything soldered might eventually need repair and/or replacement, as well. We haven't even touched on the motor or charging system here, either.
Curiosity Is Good, Actually
Zero Motorcycles Website Screencap, captured January 23, 2024.
No manufacturer of any vehicle wants potential buyers to think that it's going to be flaky or unreliable. We get it. That's completely fair.
At the same time, we collectively live in a world where the consequences of our increasing mountain of throwaway, one-time-use items only become more inescapable by the day. Climate change is real. Weather patterns are shifting everywhere, and while the effects are worse or better depending on your geography, there's absolutely nowhere that they're completely nonexistent.
The screengrab above comes from the Zero Motorcycles website. Like the Motocompacto, bikes that Zero makes don't need gasoline or engine oil. Most are belt-driven machines (though there are also chain-drive conversion kits available for some Zeros).
However, if you're going to ride any type of motorbike (regardless of how it's powered), at some point, you're going to need to either do basic maintenance or have someone do it for you.
Regular wear items including brake fluid, brake pads, fork oil, and tires will all need addressing on a regular basis on all bikes. If you don't tend to those things, you're going to have problems at best, or an unsafe and potentially even dangerous machine at worst. Ignoring basic maintenance issues doesn't make them go away, even on electric motorbikes.
That's Not Even Taking New Tech Teething Pains Into Account
As anyone acquainted with the history of any area of technological development can tell you, issues at the start are inevitable. Most of the time, when the first small issues arise, things can go one of two ways.
Either the company rolls with the punches and adapts to meet the moment, coming up with an improved and more long-lasting product in the process. Or else, they stubbornly refuse to address the problem, and the tech dies before it can evolve into something better.
For every product that makes it past that first fork in the road, there come a number of other branches that multiply the longer that particular piece of tech is around. If something proves popular enough, then hopefully a community of passionate people naturally accumulates and continues to share knowledge and resources regardless of whether the original company continues to exist. A lot of vintage motorcycle communities are great examples of this.
Learning, teaching, and passing on knowledge is an integral part of growing any community, whether it's motorcycles or something else. That's what sustains it into the future, well beyond buying the newest, latest, and/or greatest version of a thing. Turning vibrant passions into nothing more than commodities is a good way to pound nails into their coffins instead.
I'm not going to say that I have all the answers, because I don't. But oversimplifying things to say that electrics of any kind don't need any maintenance at all does no one any favors.