The world of motorcycles is changing, with governments talking about ending the sales of new machines with internal combustion engines in the next decade or so (UK regulators want to achieve this by 2030). So how will Honda, the largest small engine manufacturer in the world, handle these changes?
Honda says it’s going to do three things:
- Improve efficiency and carbon neutrality of its internal combustion engines
- Improve efficiency, utility and affordability of its electric two-wheelers (including “mid-sized” models for North American market)
- Explore possibilities of hydrogen power
These plans were listed by Honda’s executives, speaking from Japan in a briefing to investors and journos alike. While none of those plans are exactly a surprise, some of the supporting details that came out were quite interesting, as Honda (like all Japanese OEMs) keeps its cards very close to its chest when it comes to future plans.
Examining the points one-by-one:
Improved internal combustion engines Honda doesn’t think the Age of Petroleum is over, and is willing to continue investing money into internal combustion. There are more ICE bikes to come, but they will have more efficient engines, including the capability to run ethanol-gasoline blends with greater percentage of alcohol than previous machines. Honda seems especially keen to explore this flex-fuel technology out of its Brazilian stronghold, where ethanol has long been seen as important to the future of internal combustion. Honda makes a lot of motorcycles in Brazil; expect future machines from that country to have more focus on flex-fuel capability, with blends as high as E100 (100 percent ethanol).
Improved electric two-wheelers In the presentation, one of Honda’s execs stressed that the company’s largest market is the developing world; for that reason, Honda must build bikes that work for everyone. In other words—even electric two-wheelers must be cost-effective, capable transportation for developing countries.
Honda is working on several aspects of the battery bike problem; currently, electric motorcycles are expensive, and they don’t have enough range for many users. With that in mind, Honda is a key driver behind quick-swap battery technology, and is working on partnerships with other organizations and government bodies (especially postal services) to develop this and other electric moto tech.
As part of its move towards electrification and a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, Honda plans to aggressively release new machines in this category. The presentation talked a lot about new machines for the commuter market, especially overseas, in the ebike and escooter categories, but towards the end, there was also a tease of three new electric motorcycles for developed markets (including North America) with performance roughly equivalent to a mid-displacement ICE bike.
Honda’s reps didn’t have any real information on those bikes; all we got was a peek at their silhouettes, revealing machines roughly equivalent to a naked bike, an adventure-sport bike and a maxi-scooter.
Honda also announced plans to improve connectivity between its vehicles, and generally pursue greater opportunities within the world of vehicle software, moving beyond a hardware manufacturing perspective to producing both hardware and software.
Hydrogen motorcycles Honda’s reps said very little about this plan, only that they’re exploring possibilities. Best guess? Hydrogen will serve as some sort a bridging technology, for industries that require the characteristics of an internal combustion engine after those engines are outlawed.