New Bikes

Honda reveals electric scooter with standardised battery

A battery that can be swapped at a vending machine, meaning no waiting around while it recharges. Is this the big eureka moment for electric bikes?

WHAT do you do when the batteries in the TV remote run out? Take some out of another household appliance, right?

Or when your gas cannister for the barbecue runs out? You go and swap the empty for an identical full one.

Yet this idea of standardisation is one that has apparently eluded electric vehicle makers.

Until now.  

Because Honda has taken on the same idea at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, showing a range of products that operate around a standardised rechargeable battery pack.

Back in October the firm revealed its production-spec PCX Electric scooter (pictured above), with two removable batteries under the seat.

Now it’s shown how those batteries – dubbed ‘Mobile Power Packs’ – can be incorporated into life and shared with other machines.

The firm has revealed a range of devices using the same batteries, from a side-by-side ATV (the ‘Mobile Power Pack 4W Vehicle Concept) to an indoor device that basically wheels you around in a sitting position (the catchy-named 3E-B18). There’s also an autonomous four-wheeled buggy – the 3E-D18 – intended as a workhorse vehicle for companies and even emergency services to use in places too dangerous for humans. And of course there’s the PCX Electric scooter.

All the vehicles use various numbers of the same battery pack just like so many existing gadgets use multiple ‘AA’ batteries to provide different levels of power.

There’s even the idea to use the batteries as simply a portable power supply – the ‘Mobile Power Pack Charge and Supply Portable Concept’ – which looks a bit like the wheeled shopping basket your granny uses, only in white and silver, not tartan.

And then there’s the most important part of the whole idea; the Mobile Power Pack Exchanger Concept.

This is basically a vending machine for fully-charged battery packs. Slide your empty one into one slot and, presumably after you’ve swiped a credit card, it will dispense a fully-charged replacement. The idea is that they can be positioned, like vending machines, on street corners anywhere in the world.

So waiting around for an electric bike to recharge becomes a thing of the past (or maybe a thing that never caught on in the first place).

Honda even reckons the Exchangers could help national power grids by charging their banks of batteries at low-demand times and feeding power back into the grid when there’s a spike in demand.

Obviously much of this is still very much still conceptual, but the idea itself seems sound, with one proviso; to make this work, surely Honda needs other manufacturers to come on board and build their own bikes around the standardised Mobile Power Pack. If it remains a Honda-only device, then it’s just as self-limiting as if the inventor of the AA battery had decided to only allow it to fit his own brand of torches.

But, heh, it’s movement in what clearly looks like the right direction, at last.

The electric Honda ATV which uses the same standardised batteries as the PCX Electric scooter (top).

The ‘Mobile Power Pack 4W Vehicle Concept', which uses the same batteries to wheel you around indoors. We don't know why.

The autonomous four-wheeled buggy concept.

And the portable power supply.


I've been saying this for many years.
In fact, I'm a little bit miffed that the TTZero didn't follow up on its original commitment to have the race run to two laps in year two and progress from there. This would've demonstrated how the change of battery packs would take place in the pits, i.e. quickly.
It's a real shame that the race didn't get this. and it would've increased the relevance of the race further. It's already the pinacle of electric motorcyle racing in the world. That it takes place on a 37-mile road circuit makes the real-world applicability much greater than the racetracks and street circuits of formula-e, for example.

It depends on the battery pack weight and time to swap. Marketed to fit mobility vehicles (old and infirm people) to rescue vehicles. These are marketed as transferable... but only if they can be easily lifted. People still need to do the swap. Lithium based batteries are lighter, but have other potential limitations. I suspect the Honda image of the young lady effortlessly loading into the swap unit is an "unobtainium-ion" model ;-)

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