As automakers dove wholeheartedly into electrifying their fleets, those of us on the motorcycle side were left contemplating why our legacy OEMs were seemingly dragging their feet about the prospect.
For reasons both practical and cultural, the pace of adoption from legacy brands hasn't been nearly as robust. That's true even among manufacturers that make both two- and four-wheeled vehicles, such as Honda. Still, times are changing, and so are they.
10 Is A Magic Number
Ten may seem like a lot to folks who are only familiar with one country's lineup of Honda motorcycles. Although Honda is a global manufacturer, it doesn't release all the models it makes in all markets. Like other international manufacturers, it carefully tailors its lineup to meet what it sees as the needs of the local market.
Thus, earlier in 2023, it introduced the Cub e:, Dax e:, and Zoomer e: electric mopeds exclusively in China. Adding those three to its earlier e-bike collaboration with massive Asian home goods and clothing empire Muji and voilà, there are four electric bikes right there.
Later in the year, it showed off the EM1 e: electric scooter, which is the first swappable battery bike (using Honda Mobile Power Packs) that Team Red introduced in Europe. Add that on to the Benly e:, Gyro e:, and Gyro Canopy e: commercial two- and three-wheelers it offers in Asia, and that's four more. It's not even 2024 yet, and we're already up to at least eight.
Honda's November 2023 Electric Motorcycle Update
With all that in mind, it's easier to wrap your head around Honda's latest electric motorcycle development updates. Buckle up, because there's a lot here.
Team Red introduced the latest two-wheeler to use its swappable HMPP, the SC e: Concept scooter, at the 2023 Japan Mobility Show. From there, it hopped, skipped, and jumped over to Italy to bring its newest electric concept to EICMA 2023. It has since announced that a production scooter based on the SC e: Concept will be introduced to the market in 2024.
Around the same time as the two early-November vehicle shows, Honda took its electric CR dirt bike prototype racing for the very first time at an All-Japan Motocross event. Although these last two are concepts and not production bikes (yet), that's ten electric two-wheelers right there.
After that electrifying early November excitement, Honda decided the time was right to give an official, detailed update on its moto electrification plans for the future. On November 29, 2023, it gave a briefing detailing its updated plan through at least 2030.
Here's everything you need to know.
Honda Wants To Sell Four Million Electric Motorcycles Annually Worldwide By 2030
An electric Super Cub patent filed by Honda back in 2020. Unfortunately, we're still waiting on this one.
Its previous goal was 3,500,000. Thanks to its development progress so far, though, it believes it can reach this goal over the remainder of the decade.
Obviously, we can't predict the future, but understanding this information is just one reason why it's important to pay attention to motorcycle markets and cultures outside your own. In the US, our own process of electrification, even in the automotive space, has been relatively slow as compared to other places in the world. The same is also true of motorcycles and scooters.
Motorcycles and scooters are much more popular as everyday transportation in both India and China than they've ever been in the US. Those two countries regularly vie for the top of the international motorcycle sales charts year after year.
In the past few years, India has usually come out on top. With statistics like 15.86 million bikes sold in FY2023, it's not at all difficult to see why. However, since 16.10 million two-wheelers were sold in China in 2023, it seems that the crown has shifted once again. Both India and China, incidentally, have been pushing electrification at a national level for the past few years, and sales in the two-wheeled space (also the four-wheeled space in China) have been on the rise.
If you're a global motorcycle maker, you'd have to be pretty bad at your job to not tailor your offerings to markets like those. (For the sake of comparison, a little over 533,000 motorbikes have sold in the US in 2023 according to Statista. Our market is but a drop in the global motorcycle bucket, even if you and I might wish the story was different.)
Honda's New Plan Is To Introduce 30 Electric Models By 2030
Already off to the races with the Honda Cub e:, Dax e:, and Zoomer e: in China.
Since it already has at least eight on the market, as well as another two closing in on production readiness, that's 10. If Honda was able to get to 10 as quickly as it has, it's not at all difficult to see how it could get to 30 by 2030.
While manufacturers sometimes announce projects that are in the early stages of development, they quite often choose to wait until their projects are further along. It's a safe bet that the company has multiple irons in multiple fires at any given time that we might not learn about until months or years later.
Honda also says that it plans to release additional "FUN-oriented models" (the company's phrasing, not ours) and plug-in electrics in 2025. It did not give numbers or specifics about these models.
Honda Plans To Incorporate Modularity Into Its Future Electric Motorcycle Lineup
Honda Mobile Power Pack.
To some degree, it's already demonstrated a tendency in this direction with its Honda Mobile Power Pack swappable battery integration. By developing several small, practical two- and three-wheelers that all use the same swappable battery pack, it also helps to solve the problems of range anxiety and battery health (and end-of-life) concerns. Making it possible to use the battery packs in other non-motorbike applications like small construction equipment is a side benefit.
Modular design, though, would take things a step further. It's also not a new concept. Just ask any motorcycle fan who's complained about "parts bin specials" over the past decades, and you'll recognize the idea.
This approach will help Honda get as many new models to market as quickly as possible. It will also aid in one of Honda's other stated goals.
Honda Hopes To Reduce The Cost Of Finished Electric Motorcycles By 50 Percent
Unlike some of the other information presented in this briefing, Honda didn't give a timeline for this cost reduction. It's also not entirely clear if this is a 50 percent cost reduction on the production side, the consumer side, or both.
Given Honda's long history of vehicle manufacturing and pricing practices, it's reasonable to assume that if it can get production costs down, it will also be able to rein in consumer pricing by some amount (even if it's not 50 percent).
This is pure anecdata, but I can't tell you how many times I've been out testing an electric motorbike of some kind, had random people come up to me to chat and ask questions about it, and then had them physically recoil when I told them the MSRP. For people who aren't ideologically opposed to electric vehicles, cost remains a serious barrier to adoption. If Honda can help to change that, so much the better for riders (and future riders).
Honda Is Putting Its Money Where Its Mouth Is To Support Electric Motorbike Development
All these electric developments can't happen in a vacuum. New technologies and processes require new thinking, as well as new production plants.
To that end, Honda says it is investing 100 billion yen (or about $678,941,900) into electric motorbike development between 2021 and 2025. Additionally, it will invest a further 400 billion yen (or about $2,715,680,000) into development from 2025 through 2030. In total, by the time 2030 rolls around, the plan is to invest 500 billion yen (or about $3,394,600,000) into this program by the end of the decade.
Part of those funds will go toward building dedicated electric motorcycle plants globally, likely beginning somewhere around 2027. Thanks to streamlining and modularization of the planned bikes, Honda estimates that the required assembly lines should be about 40 percent shorter than for ICE bikes.
Each of these plants will require a roughly 50 billion yen (or $339,330,000) investment, and each plant is expected to produce around one million bikes per year.
Additionally, Honda plans to open dedicated Honda Experience Centers for its electric motorbikes in several key markets across India, Southeast Asia, and rolling out to other geographic locations as well.
Battery And Tech Updates
Honda also mentioned that it's working on lithium ferro-phosphate (LFP) batteries, in addition to the current standard of lithium-ion batteries that are most common in modern electric motorbikes and other vehicles. It's also working on increased energy density solutions, and hopes to incorporate solid-state batteries somewhere along the line (though no timeline has been given).
Future electric Honda motorbikes will include increased connectivity, as well as over-the-air updates. These are already common with some other electric motorbike manufacturers, so while it's not a surprise, it's nice to see greater mass-market adoption of an OTA software update approach.
From 2026, Honda also intends to incorporate telematics into its motorbike lines more broadly (both electric and combustion). Gathering increased data from riders about how, where, and why they use their bikes, Honda says, will help it to better understand and develop products that riders want.
Data privacy is an ever-increasing concern in 2023, and how concerned anyone should be will depend on Honda's implementation in its upcoming models. For what it's worth, over on the four-wheeled side, American Honda and Acura already have a detailed Vehicle Data Privacy Practices document that we'll link in our Sources.
Are you excited about Honda's two-wheeled electric future plans? Let us know in the comments.