In September, 2020, Japan’s Big Four—Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki—began real-world testing of their swappable electric two-wheeler batteries. The program, administered in collaboration with Osaka Prefecture and Osaka University, saw students and staff at the University riding electric two-wheelers for everyday use. Electric charging stations and swappable batteries were made available to participants, as well.
Six months later, how did the real-world trial work out? So far, the consortium hasn’t announced specifics. However, we can infer that it must have gone pretty well. On March 26, 2021, the Big Four announced that they’ve agreed upon both swappable battery standards and a final design. All batteries produced under this agreement will be the same size and weight, as well as share the same durability and safety features. They will, of course, be completely swappable with one another.
Importantly, the Big Four will also work to create a battery swapping infrastructure system of exchange stations throughout Japan. This is becoming increasingly urgent, since the Japanese federal government announced in December, 2020 that it’s considering a ban on new gasoline-only cars by the mid-2030s. If that’s not enough of a call to action, the city of Tokyo took matters a step further around the same time. It currently plans to end sales of new gasoline vehicles by 2030, and gasoline-powered motorcycles by 2035.
"The electrification of motorcycles is an inevitable trend for the industry. Japan's four firms have about a 50 percent share of the world market. I believe our collaboration will benefit consumers,” Honda’s Daiki Mihara said in an interview with national broadcaster NHK TV.
Currently, all four companies are working on electric two-wheeler prototypes that will make use of this new swappable battery system. None of the four has released any further information about those vehicles. As the four started working together on this project, the initial images they used for slides appeared to show scooter designs from everyone except Kawasaki, which used an image of its Concept J prototype as introduced several years ago. We still don’t know if that was merely a placeholder, or if Kawasaki intends to bring Concept J out of the concept stage and into production. Hopefully, we’ll know more soon.