Swappable batteries: Will motorbikes succeed where electric cars failed?

Good news two-wheeled friends! A group of key motorbike makers are coming together to define industry standards for swappable batteries.

Yamaha, Piaggio, Honda, and KTM have all reportedly signed an agreement to work together on the technology for motorbikes and light vehicles.

The agreement sees the companies form a consortium, which is open to other manufacturers to join. So if you’re from or know someone who works at BMW Motorrad, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, or any other motorbike manufacturer, politely, please can you get on board with this?

Kawaski and Suzuki were reportedly part of a similar deal which was discussed last April, however, those two brands appear to have been swapped (ahem) for Piaggio and KTM.

Being able to remove and replace batteries in an electric car, as if they were cells in a TV remote control, sadly isn’t really a thing. It is in some parts of China, but most efforts to bring this concept to life have, well, bombed.

I don’t know why it hasn’t taken off yet. It makes great sense to just swap out your pack when it’s flat, and put in a new fully charged unit in a few minutes.

[Read: How do you build a pet-friendly gadget? We asked experts and animal owners]

It makes charging much faster, and it takes the hassle out of recycling EV batteries when they reach the end of their life. On top of that, it means entire cars don’t have to be written off when the battery is on the fritz. In an industry that’s becoming increasingly focused on reducing waste, swappable batteries seem like a great idea.

Swapping a battery from a car isn’t exactly easy, though. That’s probably why it hasn’t taken off. More often than not, the cells are so buried in the structure of the vehicle, and intertwined with cooling systems, that it’s just too difficult.

Chinese carmaker NIO has a system that’s up and running, but it’s not universal and can only be done at specialist locations.

However, motorbikes are simpler, smaller, and lighter, so their batteries won’t need to be as big. Thanks to bikes having “open” chassis, the batteries could get away with being air cooled, which might make swapping them a bit easier.

We’ll have to watch this one closely to see how the standards play out, and you can bet that we will.

Sources: Reuters, AutoCar India

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Published March 1, 2021 — 15:22 UTC

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