Honda Unveils Electric Motorbike


With the EV-neo electric motorcycle, Honda, which sells the Insight and other gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, and the FCX Clarity hydrogen powered fuel-cell car, brings some of its latest green technology to motorbikes.

Associated Press
A woman rides Honda Motor Co.'s new electric scooter EV-neo at Honda's research facility in Wako, a Tokyo suburb, Japan, Tuesday, April 13, 2010.

Honda said it will begin leasing the bike in Japan in December, but has no plans to sell it at the moment.

"It is becoming important for companies to meet society's needs for CO2 reduction," said Toshiyuki Inuma, a general manager at Honda's motorcycle unit, at a test-drive event in Wako City, north of Tokyo.

Honda, Japan's second biggest car maker and the world's biggest motorcycle maker by volume, first leased electric motorcycles 16 years ago, albeit in small numbers, rolling out only 200 bikes over three years.

But in a sign of potentially deep demand in some emerging markets for such advanced electric motorbikes, Yamaha Motor Co., the world's second largest motorcycle maker, also plans to roll out its latest electric motorbike this summer.

Yamaha hasn't said whether it will sell or lease the bike.

Honda plans to lease its EV-neo scooter to businesses, such as pizza restaurant operators and others that run delivery services in Japan. It doesn't plan to lease it overseas. The leasing price hasn't been disclosed and Honda hasn't decided how many bikes it will lease.

The EV-neo uses a lithium-ion battery with double the power density of the nickel-cadmium battery used in the earlier electric motorbike.

The charging time for the new model is half the eight hours of the previous bike. Honda says rapid charging equipment gives the new battery an 80% charge in 20 minutes, and the bike can travel more than 30 kilometers on a single charge.

However, the company isn't certain if it can commercialize its electric motorbike operations on a large scale, Mr. Inuma said. Honda is still sizing up the potential market for such bikes, as demand will depend on costs.

To succeed with this product line Mr. Inuma said: "We have to differentiate our technology from others. Then, we'll see whether we can offer the price that customers would want."

One of the main challenges has been making the battery smaller and reducing the total vehicle cost.
The EV-neo's electric motor shares key parts with the Insight hybrid, and that cuts costs, said Koichiro Honda, an assistant chief engineer.

The company said it will use battery technology by major Japanese electronic equipment maker Toshiba Corp. Toshiba's lithium-ion batteries give nearly twice the power as those used in Honda's earlier electric bikes, so it was chosen over GS Yuasa Corp., with which Honda has a joint battery venture, said Mr. Honda, the engineer.

"One of the reasons is the durability," he said.

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