Electric cars

Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki want battery sharing to work

Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki want battery sharing to work

A photo of a Honda electric motorcycle with the caption "no power no problem"

Battery Sharing takes care of the battery.
Photo: Honda

You know what they say about teamwork, right? Well, that makes the dream work. And, if your dream is interchangeable batteries in your chic Japanese motorcycle, then I have good news for you: Japan’s Big Four Bicycle Manufacturers — Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki— have come together to finally make battery sharing work.

The big four have been talking about their battery sharing technology plans for a while now. In fact, they started working together in 2019 when they announced their ambitions to develop interchangeable electric vehicle batteries and other “related technologies”.

Then, last year, the four bike manufacturers agreed on a standard that their batteries would all meet, which they said would make it easier for customers when they came to change their power supplies.

And last year, Honda has become the first of four to launch its own interchangeable batteriesdubbed the Mobile Power Pack e.

A photo of two Honda interchangeable batteries.

Honda Battery: Packs a punch.
Photo: Honda

With a PSU in production, the four bike makers have once again stepped into the limelight to share their next step in the quest to make swappable batteries work. They form a new common company.

Called Gachaco, the new company was created in partnership with fuel giant Eneos. Its mission is to provide a standardized and interchangeable battery sharing service for electric motorcyclists.

It will launch on April 1 and aims to create a “battery as a service” platform, or BaaS for short. By viewing batteries as a service rather than a product, Gachaco says it will be able to find solutions to some of the issues that affect EV, namely long charging times and concerns about power failure.

Once the company launches, it will begin working towards its goal of rolling out a battery-sharing service in major Japanese cities by fall 2022. The service will initially work with Honda’s Mobile Power Pack e.

It sounds like the perfect solution. You drive, and a warning light flashes to say you are almost out of power. No worries, you can enter a battery sharing station, remove your discharged battery and replace it with a fully charged battery in a few minutes. Then you hit the road again.

A photo of a Nio battery change station.

Nio has 700 battery change stations in China.
Photo: Nio

It’s a dream shared by the Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer NIO, which has started to roll out a similar service for drivers of its cars these last weeks. But, where NIO’s offering is almost the company’s USP, being exclusive to its cars, the four Japanese bike makers want it to be a more universal offering.

This, they say, will help create a “recycling-oriented society” because each battery can be used countless times by a large number of individuals.

It’s a really good idea, and I would really like to see it spread around the world. But it’s counting on even more automakers agreeing to standardize parts and components.

And things are reminiscent of the ongoing phone charging cable debacle. While every phone maker in the world can agree on USB-C chargers, there will always be one left out with its own proprietary port.

Personally, I don’t see the car world any more likely to play nice than big tech. In fact, I bet there are at least a handful of Apple-esque companies that will put profits ahead of reducing their environmental impact and improving customer experience.