Interchangeable electric motorcycle batteries from Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki

Japanese heavy-duty motorcycle manufacturers known as the Big Four have unveiled a new electric motorcycle battery swap program called Gachaco. But what Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki haven’t said is that instead of the highly anticipated innovative new motorcycle battery standard, it looks a lot like a blue version of Gogoro.

The Big Four have supposedly been working on this big rollout for some time; we first heard about their ambitions for a swappable electric motorcycle battery standard since 2019.

You know, in times before.

At the time, it looked like they were developing something big enough to power mid-size electric motorcycles that could be standardized across manufacturers. It looks like that last part might be right, but the “motorcycle” part of electric motorcycle batteries seems to have been more or less replaced by “scooter” in this case.

That’s because the swappable battery standard the Big Four landed on isn’t very big at all, and more like a blue filter applied to Gogoro’s 1.7kWh swappable electric scooter batteries. Multiple batteries can of course be used together to power a single vehicle, providing more capacity and therefore longer range. This is exactly what Honda is already doing with its interchangeable batteries in its PCX electric scooter.

And in the three years the four major motorcycle manufacturers have been working on the project, it seems they haven’t developed a new battery standard so much as they’ve simply defaulted to Honda’s PCX batteries. which were unveiled in 2018.

Together with the Japanese oil company Eneos, the Big Four have now launched a new battery as a service (BaaS) for their interchangeable batteries. The exchange service, known as Gachaco, also resembles a costumed Gogoro setup.

To be fair, there are several competing battery swap standards for these small 1-2kWh batteries. Kymco has its own system, Silence has a neat wheeled battery system, and Rayvolt even recently introduced its own replaceable wheeled battery for electric mopeds starting with the BullX.

But Gogoro has become the de facto standard as it has surpassed one million batteries produced and is now spreading rapidly across the biggest motorcycle markets in Asia, India, China and Indonesia.

As for Gachaco, it looks like the nascent battery-swap service will only be available in Japan for now, where it’s expected to begin operations in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

The batteries will not only be for electric motorcycles. According to Honda, they will also find other energy storage uses:

In the future, besides electric motorcycles, Gachaco will encourage the use of standardized interchangeable batteries for other applications, such as storage batteries installed in commercial installations and private homes. In addition, used batteries generated by the sharing service provided by Gachaco will be collected through the battery-as-a-service (BaaS) platform under review at ENEOS for secondary and tertiary use and finally recycled for cyclic use of drums.

Despite the rather disappointing demonstration of what could have been a much more impactful swappable electric motorcycle battery standard, the Big Four are each making slow but steady progress over larger electric motorcycles.

Honda has several designs in the works, and Yamaha showed off some interesting prototypes as well. Kawasaki says it will have three electric motorcycles coming this year (although an electric goat came first), and Suzuki is also making its own headway on 125cc equivalent electric scooters.

Hey, that’s a start…

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