Remember Gachaco? It's the swappable battery service formed in Japan by Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Japanese power company Eneos. Back in 2022, the five companies came together to work on a single project that could potentially benefit them all, as well as those interested in the future of electrified personal transportation in Japan.

While the company has been busy in the months since, its main tasks so far have been doing trial runs and setting up a battery swapping system aimed at business clients, not individual riders. That is, until now.

On December 25, 2023, Gachaco formally announced plans to begin offering a battery sharing service for individual customers in Tokyo. Interested riders won't have long to wait before the plan is implemented, either. It's set to start on January 9, 2024, which is less than two weeks away as we write this.

Why This Could Be A Big Deal

Honda EM1 e - Indonesia 7

At present, Gachaco swappable batteries are only in use on certain Honda electric two- and three-wheelers. This includes the Benly e:, Gyro e:, Gyro Canopy e:, and the EM1 e:. Of these available vehicles, only the EM1 e: is available for individual customers to purchase. The other three are strictly business vehicles, used as fleet vehicles by delivery riders.

However, one of the reasons that Gachaco is a cooperative effort between Japan's Big Four and Eneos is so that the batteries can be used in multiple models from multiple manufacturers. Although the EM1 e: scooter is alone in the field right now, chances are excellent that it won't stay that way for long.

Taking Batteries Out of the Purchase Equation Could Potentially Remove Barriers to Electric Motorbike Adoption by Riders

2023 Honda EM1 e - Underseat Storage 2

Gachaco's announcement includes details about both the new purchase price of the Honda EM1 e: scooter in Japan, as well as available battery subscription and pay-as-you-go services for individuals.

By turning the battery into a service and removing it from the overall purchase price of the EM1 e:, the MSRP of the EM1 e: drops to just 97,200 yen, tax and local Tokyo government subsidies included. At current conversion rates as of December 28, 2023, that's $689.

As for Gachaco's battery subscription service, it will be available at different levels to suit different customer usage patterns.

There's a light subscription plan that will cost 1,078 yen (about $8) a month, including tax. There's also a standard subscription plan that will cost 2,805 yen per month including tax (about $20 a month). Pay-as-you-go and pay-per-use options are also available at just under 200 yen per kilowatt hour (or just under $1.50/kWh). 

Making Standardized Swappable Batteries Available Could Solve Multiple Problems at Once

2023 Honda EM1 e - Honda Mobile Power Pack

Most people living in 2023 have some experience with batteries, even if they're just the ones in your remote, phone, or laptop. While it's not exactly the same thing, familiar experiences include running out of power suddenly, having to wait to recharge, and perhaps also dealing with old batteries that don't hold a full charge anymore.

Thinking about those issues on the larger, seemingly more serious scale demanded by something you rely on for everyday transportation can be unsettling. Plus, if you live in an apartment and you don't have a good place to plug an EV in overnight, that's an added barrier to adoption.

Swappable battery stations with subscription services, where you don't own the battery and are simply swapping it out every time you need more power, can make life easier in multiple ways. If you don't own the battery, then you don't have to worry about what to do when it stops holding a charge. As long as swap stations are available in your area, a good deal of worry is completely taken off your shoulders.

Some people might grumble about the idea of battery-as-a-service. But if you've already been paying for gasoline or diesel all this time, I'm not sure what the real complaint is. That's especially true if a company like Gachaco is only making healthy batteries available to customers and will also be responsibly recycling the spent ones.

Can We Expect to See Gachaco Expand Outside of Japan?

Gachaco Announces Battery Sharing Trial In Tokyo Japan

As of late December 2023, Gachaco has not officially made any statements about international expansion.

However, it's absolutely worth noting that Honda has already introduced the EM1 e:, which uses the same swappable Honda Mobile Power Packs that Gachaco uses, in multiple markets outside Japan. If you follow international electric motorbike adoption at all, it won't surprise you to know that the EM1 e: has already been released in Europe and Indonesia, with plans for more markets to come.

Expansion of Gachaco or a similar battery swapping service to complement the EM1 e:'s global expansion seems like a safe bet. It might not happen everywhere, but it won't be a surprising development when it does occur.

Swappable battery scooter companies like Gogoro and Kymco Ionex have already been busy expanding their own options in multiple international markets after first consolidating power at home in Taiwan. Seeing Gachaco follow, with its backing of some of the heaviest hitters in the industry, seems incredibly likely.

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