It’s a big step forward in the advancement of electric motorcycles … maybe. Honda, arguably the most significant player in the global moto scene, has just introduced its first electric scooter with quick-swap batteries to western markets. The EM1 e debuts in Europe in coming days, but there’s a catch. Customers won’t actually be able to buy it.
The EM1 e uses the Honda Mobile Power Pack e batteries, which were first introduced in the Asian market. These are purpose-built to power electric scooters and motorcycles, quickly swapping out old units for freshly-charged ones in roughly the same timespan that it takes to fill a fuel tank. They’ll recharge from a standard wall plug in about six hours, via an air-cooled 270W charger.
Honda may be the designer and initial user of these batteries, but the 50V li-ion Mobile Power pack e is the basis for research by a large multi-manufacturer consortium in Europe. This group contains other motorcycle OEMs as well as battery manufacturers and other transportation industry partners, all looking for a way to bring universally-compatible quick-swap batteries to market, fast.
The idea is that these batteries, while not as high-tech as the power behind electric superbikes like Zero or Energica’s offerings, will make electric two-wheelers cost-effective and easy to use—at least in urban environments.
However, in its current form, the EM1 e is really only usable as an urban commuting machine. Usable range is from 30 km to 48 km, depending how hard you’re riding. The in-wheel motor puts out the equivalent of less than 3 hp, but at least it also makes 66 lb-ft of torque, so you’ll get to your slowish top speed quickly!
Perhaps most frustrating for many users will be the low carrying capacity. The underseat storage compartment only has 3-liter capacity, meaning you can’t even carry a gallon of milk under the seat. That’s more than a Honda Ruckus, yes, but less than almost any other 49cc step-through ever made.
Honda gave the EM1 e a combined braking system, with disc up front and drum in rear.
Honda’s “selling” points
Although this may sound like a step backwards in many ways, when compared to the utility of a gasoline scooter, Honda says the EM1 e is the way forward. The PR puts it this way:
The EM1 e: is Honda’s first two-wheeled electric vehicle for customers in Europe, following the announcement in September 2022 of the company’s plans to introduce 10 or more electric two wheelers globally by 2025. It is also a notable first step towards meeting Honda’s stated aim of carbon neutrality for all its motorcycle line-ups during the 2040s.
The ‘EM’ stands for Electric Moped, and the model is aimed squarely at a young demographic looking for easy, fun, emission-free urban transport. It is compact, flat-floored, with smooth styling that marks out its difference and unique identity within the Honda range.
Perfect for short hops around town and making journeys to work or college efficient, quiet and emission-free, the EM1 e: syncs neatly with modern expectations for urban mobility.
And, as growing local legislation around parking in cities across Europe restricts the use of traditional Internal Combustion Engines (ICE), quite naturally the EV market is growing. Honda is now entering this space with a fresh, high-quality choice for both young riders and short-range commuters alike.
For a typical student, who might do a 30km total ‘lap’ of the city during an average day, the EM1 e: is a compelling proposition: simple to ride and to handle, quiet, environmentally- friendly transport.
But get this: Interested customers can’t actually buy one, at least not at its release. Honda says it is only going to lease these scooters at first. The official line is that Honda wants this arrangement so users aren’t stuck trying to dispose of unwanted, toxic batteries. So, you’ll only be able to pay a monthly (weekly?) fee to get your hands on an EM1 e.
What do you think? Would you want one?
Honda! Dudes, you are WAY overthinking this. Just take an XR150, replace the gas engine with a battery pack, put a comparably sized hub motor in the rear wheel sell them for less than $5k Poof! You will not be able to make them fast enough. It’s really not as hard as you’re making it.