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Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki’s (not so) secret electric motorcycle alliance

Updated: Jul 23, 2021

Rumours have been floating around about a shared electric motorcycle platform being developed by the big 4 Japanese motorcycle manufacturers for a while now. Electrek posted a story last September outlining a shared swappable battery platform that was in development. Testing was being conducted at Osaka University with students and staff trialing electric motorcycles and battery-swap stations on campus. Since that news – Sondors released videos of their interchangeable battery pack on the Metacycle:

If the battery changeover is that straightforward on the Metacycle - they may have just beaten every other motorcycle manufacturer to market with a decent performing ( A claimed range of 129 km on 1 full battery) and value solution. The Metacycle costs $7,000 AUD all up - so we're imaging the battery alone can't be more than half of that? Sondors have also mentioned the 'big hole' in the middle of the bike has a battery extension option, but no further details on that upgrade are available yet.

So what of the YKHS (Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki) coalition in the last 12 months? Well Honda released a swappable battery pack in their PCX and Benley scooters:

But not much else was officially released from the e-Yen Osaka trial which is due to draw to a close soon. After some digging around through some (admittedly) questionable online sources – it looks like the alliance has welcomed 2 more manufacturers to the party – KTM and Piaggio. KTM technically already have a swappable battery electric motorcycle on the market – the KTM E-Ride:

KTM claim the battery can be swapped faster than a petrol dirt bike can be refuelled but the backup battery will set you back an additional $6,500 AUD so it’s not quite the solution all of the market is looking for. Not to mention the weight – 8 kgs. Your unlikely to be lugging a spare one of those in your backpack on the trails. It feels like we are quite far off a large-scale battery swap network too (outside of Gogoro’s solution in Taiwan and China). But I guess it’s promising the motorcycle manufacturers above are working together on something. Perhaps they’ve looked at Tesla in the car industry and taken heed.

So where are all the Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki electric motorbikes? Seeing as the shared development program reportedly focused on swappable batteries - it would be logical to assume there wasn't much focus on bigger, powerful bikes with long range batteries. We've seen some of the smaller range, city scooters which they are starting to roll out (but we have very little interest in at GRID). Which means for now, we’re going to have to continue to gawk at YKHS' concept electric motorcycles and keep our fingers crossed they do actually have something coming in their back pocket. The fact that Zero Motorcycles are (reportedly) still making a loss on most electric motorcycles they sell may be one reason the big 4 Japanese manufacturers are keeping this card at the back of the pack. Playing it when they have to. With electric motorcycles now accounting for 6% of all UK motorcycle and scooter sales and battery prices falling – that day may be getting closer…

Kawasaki's Sportbike EV prototype in testing this year.

Honda's Assist-e self-balancing electric motorcycle aimed at the mobility impaired.

Suzuki's Electric Monkey concept bike.

Yamaha EMZ concept bike.


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