Remember Kymco Ionex? Taiwanese two-wheeler manufacturer Kymco has long been known for its combustion scooters, with the occasional motorcycle offering also joining the lineup. In the mid-2000s, the US even got the Kymco Spade, and you can still find the Kymco K-Pipe 125 listed for sale (MSRP $2,449) on the Kymco USA website.
Just because a company has historically done one thing doesn’t mean that it can’t decide to expand its horizons. In 2018, Kymco announced a new proposal for an electric battery-swapping ecosystem that it called Ionex. The plan was to consist of electric scooters and motorcycles that would share swappable batteries, as well as an established network of swapping stations where riders could go to switch out their spent batteries for fresh, fully charged units.
If you’re thinking that sounds like Gogoro, it’s no coincidence that both battery-swapping networks incubated and first came to life in Taiwan. The overlap of scooter culture and tech culture in everyday life is particularly strong on the island—making the mental calculations easy to see.
In 2021, Kymco spun Ionex off into its own brand for the Taiwanese market. Later that same year, it brought Ionex to EICMA 2021, after having first resorted to virtual debuts for Ionex-powered vehicles such as the F9 electric scooter and RevoNex. Kymco also announced a partnership with Super Soco and Felo Technology on electric vehicles in 2021, as the F9 was co-developed with Felo. In 2022 and 2023, Kymco began bringing electric scooters to market in Europe—but what other developments would Ionex see?
You Say Ionex, Thailand Says Aionex
On August 17, 2023, Arun Plus and Kymco officially announced a formal partnership in Thailand. Arun Plus is a wholly owned subsidiary of Thai petroleum company PTT and is currently building out an EV presence in Thailand in multiple sectors.
As of August 2023, Arun Plus lists electric cars, buses, and an existing battery swapping scooter network in Bangkok called Swap & Go on its website. The current Swap & Go service allows users to rent electric scooters from the company, then utilize its battery swapping stations via a smartphone app.
Batteries are not currently chargeable at home and must be taken to a Swap & Go station to be switched out when they are drained. There’s also an official Line account where users can report if they run out of battery on a journey and are stuck somewhere. Scooters using this system now include the Stallion Dragon and the iMotor Vapor (both Thai makes).
Now, here’s the interesting part. Arun Plus and Kymco’s new joint venture will be called Aionex, and the plan is to start offering services later in 2023, pending regulatory approval. Under the terms of this agreement, Arun Plus will own 51 percent of the company. Kymco’s stake will be 29 percent and Kymco Capital Private Equity Management (a Kymco subsidiary) will own the other 20 percent. In other words, if all goes as planned, Arun Plus will have the majority stake in Aionex.
Arun Plus’ existing Swap & Go service has existed for the past year, offering 24-hour battery swapping service at just over 20 stations in the Bangkok area. While it’s not clear at this point if Aionex will be incorporated into Swap & Go, or supersede it, or something else, at least one official Swap & Go video from 2022 specifically mentions the company’s desire to join with both Thai and international partners to offer improved technologies and access for its customers.
The Thai market for two-wheelers is enormous. According to Statista, around 1.79 million motorcycles and scooters were sold in the country in 2022, up from sales of 1.6 million in 2021. So far, the majority are still combustion-powered, but to make anyone consider trying something new, accessibility and ease of powering any vehicle is top of mind in every language.