Since 2019, Japan’s big four motorcycle OEMs—Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha—have been working together on swappable electric vehicle batteries and associated technology. In the intervening years, we’ve had periodic updates that have shown the progress they’ve made so far. By September, 2020, plans were afoot to begin testing their first swappable batteries—which definitely seemed like promising news.
In March, 2021, the firms agreed on a single EV standard that their swappable batteries should meet. Much like standardized charging plugs for our electronic devices, that should make life considerably easier for customers, so that also seemed like a positive development. By November, 2021, Honda had unveiled its new Mobile Power Pack e:. It was the first unit to meet the Big Four’s battery swapping standards, so it was a big deal.
It’s now March 30, 2022, and the Big Four just announced their next move on this project. Together with Japanese petroleum company Eneos, the consortium is establishing a brand-new company called Gachaco. The new firm will officially be established on Friday, April 1, 2022. Its two purposes will be the sharing of standardized swappable batteries for electric motorbikes and the development of appropriate infrastructure to support this service.
That’s right: Service. In fact, Eneos directly refers to its vision for this future as “Battery-as-a-Service,” or BaaS. As environmental concerns grow, baking a recycling plan into the life cycle for a major energy shift like this is more important than ever. While there will, of course, be debate about whether this move comes too late, it almost certainly has to be better than not doing anything at all.
Furthermore, Gachaco says that it plans to start offering its battery sharing service in Japan sometime in autumn, 2022. To start, it will rely on the Honda Mobile Power Pack e:, and it’s not clear when or if additional swappable battery options may make an appearance in the future. Rollout will occur in Tokyo and other large Japanese cities, and will be located at convenient, centralized places, including railway stations and Eneos service stations.
It’s not clear at this time what Gachaco’s plans are for international expansion. Individual countries, as well as the European Union acting as a whole, have worked to integrate more electric vehicle options at different paces from one another. As electric two-wheeler options rise in popularity across Asia and Europe in particular, we won’t be surprised to see Gachaco’s reach expand outside of Japan. As and when these future plans develop, we’ll of course keep you updated.