Skip to main content

Manufacturing and collaborative R&D - Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha work together on standardised battery

As large manufacturers begin to see the benefits in collaborative R&D including lower development costs, time to market reductions, wider market accessibility and scalability - it seems that the line between competitor and partner may be fading.

Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha have formed a new company in collaboration with energy company Eneos called Gachaco Inc which will create a standardised battery for electric motorcycles and the associated sharing service infrastructure in Tokyo.

Gachaco, which is majority owned by Eneos, will create infrastructure in Tokyo which they hope to roll out across other major Japanese cities by autumn 2022 to support the Mobile Power Pack system developed by Honda, which has led the project.

Yamaha is already part of a similar scheme with Gogoro’s battery swapping system in Taiwan. Current projections show that Gogoro battery swapping stations are likely to outnumber petrol stations in Taiwan by the end of 2022.

The majority of efforts for universalising EV batteries have been focussed on motorbikes, mopeds and other light commuter vehicles due to the size and weight of EV car batteries. Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL) has launched a battery swapping service for electric cars in 4 locations in China, wanting to add another 30 by the end of 2022. The Choco-SEB swappable battery system will be compatible with 80% of the global EVs available on the market currently and all EV models to be released in the next three years. Several manufacturers in China have launched their own battery swapping services, such as Nio and Geely, for two and three-wheeled vehicles with nearly 1,500 stations across China. CATL is so far the only company to have universal battery swapping capability in China.  

In Europe, German company Swobee received €5.9m in funding to enhance its infrastructure for motorbikes and mopeds. Unlike its Asian counterparts Swobee offers a range of batteries from different manufacturers and has so far expressed no interest in developing a uniform battery for e-bike and e-mopeds.

When presenting the budget for 2022/23 the Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs of India announced plans for an EV battery swapping policy. Part of the policy is the introduction of a Battery as a Service and battery leasing which would mean that EV users would not own their car battery. This could cut more than half the upfront cost of purchasing an EV. Battery swapping is country run in India by io BP and Sun Mobility but the push to standardise batteries and expand the network of swapping stations will allow for faster mass adoption of EVs.

A press statement released by the government in September 2021 stated that the UK’s goal was to have a circular economy for EV batteries in place by 2035. The government felt that battery swapping was commercially unproven and would “continue to watch developments across all EV technologies with interest”.

Proponents of technology sharing have argued that improvements in the swappable battery infrastructure will mean batteries can be lighter making bikes lighter, more efficient and travel just as far on a single charge as current heavier vehicles.

In heavily built-up urban areas the technology is being most quickly adopted as the space-saving of battery swapping facilities, compared to traditional charging stations means an almost negligible impact on existing infrastructure. However sceptics of EV battery swapping technologies have said that market pressures to use swappable battery technology will stifle improvements in battery performance and other technological advances which are associated with EV battery R&D.

To address consumer concerns about electric vehicle (EV) usage concerns in Japan, a collaboration between the four Japanese motorcycle makers, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki, and petroleum and energy company Eneos will commence operations April 1. The company, called Gachaco, will provide standardised swappable batteries for electric two-wheelers as a sharing service and develop related infrastructure.

This follows the Swappable Batteries Consortium for Motorcycles and Light Electric Vehicles formed by Honda, Yamaha, KTM and Piaggio in Europe to formulate a battery standard applicable to two-wheeled transport. Eneos will be building a BaaS (Battery as a Service) platform to address the main issues with TVs, namely charging time and range anxiety.”