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Honda Refines EV Motorcycle Strategy

By Kali Kotoski

September 20, 2020

Honda has reiterated and refined its plan to realize carbon neutrality for all products and manufacturing activities by 2050, including its motorcycle business, which is the world’s largest.

In a recent press briefing, Honda clarified its massively ambitious business plan, which includes accelerating the electrification of its motorcycle models while advancing its internal combustion engine technology.

Some clear goals of the plan include introducing 10 or more electric motorcycle models globally by 2025 and aiming to increase annual sales of electric models to 1 million units within the next five years and 3.5 million units (equivalent to 15 percent of total unit sales) as of 2030.

“As the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, Honda will continue to lead the industry in this ‘era of carbon neutrality’ by continuing to offer the ‘joy of riding’ with its electric motorcycles and by offering products with new value by leveraging the high level of compatibility of software technology and electrified models,” the company said in a press release.

Because Honda is a significant player in both emerging and advanced economies, the company said it is aware of the constraints posed by inadequate electrification infrastructure, especially in emerging economies where motorcycles are a way of life.

“Popularization of electric models faces challenges such as heavier vehicle weight and higher prices. Also, demand for electric models depends largely on government incentives, regulations and availability of charging infrastructure in each respective market,” the company said.

To realize carbon neutrality without losing customers, Honda will continue to reduce CO2 emissions from ICE models while also developing models compatible with “carbon-neutral” fuels. For example, the company currently has a flex-fuel model in Brazil that runs off of 100 percent ethanol and plans to introduce flex-fuel motorcycles in stages in India starting in 2023.

For EV motorcycles, the company is breaking its future offerings into segments called commuters/business-use and FUN EVs.

For commuter/business-use, the company highlighted that it already supplies electric motorcycles to the Japanese and Vietnamese postal services and is conducting trials with Thailand’s postal service. These models are equipped with Honda Mobile Power Pack (MPP) swappable batteries, which aim to resolve issues regarding range and charging times, the two most complex challenges to widespread electric motorcycle use.

Honda plans to introduce two commuter EV models between 2024 and 2025 in Asia, Europe and Japan for personal use. Envisioning the future market environment, uses and technological advancements, Honda is exploring a range of future personal-use models, including ones equipped with a power source besides swappable batteries. While the company did not specify the power source besides swappable batteries, leading potentials are some sort of configuration akin to hybrid cars or potential hydrogen-fueled powertrains.

Based on its FUN EV platform currently under development, Honda plans to introduce three large-size FUN EV models in Japan, the U.S and Europe between 2024 and 2025.

“Regarding the battery, Honda aims to equip its electric motorcycle models with an all-solid-state battery Honda is currently developing,” the company said.

Honda is also exploring battery-sharing ventures, with one currently up and running in Bali, Indonesia. Besides that, the four major Japanese motorcycle manufacturers have agreed on standard specifications for swappable batteries. Honda is working on getting a similar agreement in Europe.

“Enhancement of charging infrastructure and standardization of battery specifications are vital for the widespread adoption of electric motorcycles. As part of the enhancement of charging infrastructure, Honda is working toward popularizing battery sharing,” the company said.