Honda Motor‘s motorcycle unit said it would boost electrification of its models “while also continuing to advance ICE (internal combustion engines)”.

It plans to introduce “10 or more” electric motorcycle models worldwide by 2025 and is targeting an annual sales increase of electric models to a million units within the next five years, and 3.5m units (equivalent to 15% of total unit sales) by 2030.

“In emerging nations, especially, there is high demand for motorcycles, mainly commuter models….; however, ‘popularisation’ 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,” Honda said in a statement issued following a press briefing on the plans in Japan.

“Considering these circumstances, [we] will accelerate the electrification of motorcycles as the primary focus of environmental strategies for our motorcycle business,while also continuing to advance ICE, aiming to achieve carbon neutrality for all motorcycle products during the 2040s.”

Continued initiatives to advance ICE

Honda said it was continuing initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions from ICE models, while also developing models compatible with carbon neutral fuels such as petrol-ethanol blends.

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In addition to Brazil where flex-fuel ethanol (E100) motorcycle models are already available, the motorcycle maker plans to introduce similar models in India which is one of the world’s major two-wheeler markets. The plan is to first introduce flex-fuel (E20) models in 2023 and flex-fuel (E100) in 2025.

Electrification initiatives

Honda noted demand for business use electric motorcycle models had been on the rise in recent years. To meet demand, it offers the e: Business Bike series. Japan Post and Vietnam Post Corporation are already trialling the model for mail delivery while joint trials with Thailand Post Company are under way with Honda planning to begin production and sales of the Benly e: in Thailand before the end of September.

These models are equipped with Honda’s Mobile Power Pack (MPP) swappable batteries which are said to be well-suited to business use such as the delivery of small packages and resolve issues of range and charging time, which are key challenges that need to be addressed to encourage widespread use of electric motorcycles.

For personal use, Honda plans to introduce two commuter EV models between 2024 and 2025 across Asia, Europe and Japan. It is also eyeing a new range of future personal-use models including models equipped with an unspecified “power source” besides swappable batteries.

Commuter EMs and EBs

Currently, electric mopeds (EMs) and electric bicycles (EBs) account for more than 90% of global electric motorcycle unit sales (approximately 50m units), Honda said. In China, the world’s largest electric motorcycle market, EMs and EBs are widely used as everyday transport and it offers these products using local supplier infrastructure and development and manufacturing operations.

“With the expectation that demand for EMs/EBs will be expanding globally, [we plan] to introduce a total of five compact and affordable EM and EB models between now and 2024 across Asia, Europe and Japan, in addition to China.”

‘Fun’ EVs

In addition to commuter EVs, Honda is also developing a new line of electrified models in a so called Fun category. Using a new EV platform currently under development, it plans to introduce three large size models in Japan, the US and Europe between 2024 and 2025. Honda will also introduce a Kids Fun EV model, “designed to pass on the joy of riding to the next generation”.

The automaker will adapt expertise developing ICE platforms for new electric motorcycle platforms which combine battery, PCU and motor with the motorcycle body.

The battery itself will be enhanced with solid state technology Honda is developing in-house.

Smarter use of electric motorcycles

Improved charging infrastructure and battery specification standards are seen as vital for the widespread adoption of electric motorcycles. As part of work on charging infrastructure, Honda is working toward making battery sharing more popular.

It has established a joint venture in Indonesia, another major motorcycle market, to operate a battery sharing service using both MPPs and MPP-powered motorcycles. The JV is currently operating a battery sharing service in Bali.

In India, plans to begin a battery sharing service for electric tricycle taxis (aka rickshaws) by the end of this year. It will also expand initiatives to popularise battery sharing to other Asian nations.

Last April, Eneos Holdings, and the four major Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, jointly incorporated Gachaco which will provide a sharing service of standardised swappable batteries for electric motorcycles and develop infrastructure. The company plans to begin service this autums.

Battery standardisation

In Japan, the four major motorcycle manufacturers have agreed on common specifications for swappable batteries based on the JASO TP210037 guideline.

Honda is now working on standardisation of swappable batteries while participating in a battery consortium in Europe and working with a company in India.

Added value

To increase the added value of its electric motorcycles, Honda is aiming to move its business from a focus on non-recurring hardware (product) sales to recurring sales by combining hardware and software.

It is working with software subsidiary Drivemode to create new connected products for its electric motorcycle products.

Starting with the commuter EV scheduled to go on sale in 2024, it will offer additional user experience (UX) features through connectivity such as optimal route options which include remaining range, charging spot notification, safe riding coaching and after sales service support.

Further ahead, it will establish a connected platform to link motorcycles with a wide range of other products outside the sector.