One of the big promises that were part of the early push to get electric vehicles off the ground was the idea of swappable batteries. You drive around, drain your battery, and then, instead of plugging in, you drive into a bay and have your battery swapped for a charged one in just a few minutes. Now, of course, we know that, for cars, that plan never really took off, but according to an announcement made on Monday, it’s looking increasingly like swappable batteries are the future of two-wheeled electric vehicles.
KTM, Yamaha, Honda and Piaggio — four of the biggest names in powersports — have signed an agreement to form a swappable batteries consortium, which could be just the push that swappable-battery tech needs to really get going. The goals of the consortium are outlined in the document as follows:
- Develop common technical specifications of the swappable battery systems
- Confirm common usage of the battery systems
- Make and promote the consortium’s common specifications a standard within European and International standardization bodies
- Expand the use of the consortium’s common specification to global level
So, if swappable batteries never took off for cars, what is it about motorcycles and scooters that makes them more likely? Well, size is a huge consideration. A battery pack for an electric car is typically enormous and expensive, so moving it around is inherently more difficult and risky. A battery pack for an electric moped or motorcycle is smaller than a piece of carry-on luggage, and with lithium-ion tech, it’s pretty lightweight, too, making it much simpler to swap over.
Another consideration is cost. A smaller pack, like one in a motorcycle, would be cheaper, so having multiple packs for a single vehicle is a lot more practical, allowing you to keep one fully charged at home or in your office, ready to swap in at any time.
Does this consortium mean we’ll soon be inundated with two-wheeled electric vehicles that have swappable, interchangeable batteries? Probably not. Development takes time, and when you pair that with the smaller market for electric two-wheelers, it’ll probably be at least a few years before that dream is realized.