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Apr 30, 2023


That's Honda's new EM1 e, getting a battery quick-swap. Photo: Honda The Honda

That's Honda's new EM1 e, getting a battery quick-swap. Photo: Honda

The Honda EM1 e will be on the market in Europe soon—but customers won't be able to buy it. At first, at least, this electric step-through will only be offered for lease. And while it introduces some new ideas to market, many North American customers will see some problems with this offering from Honda.

Electric motorcycles have two big problems: The restrictions of their batteries (charge time, riding range) and their MSRPs. The Honda EM1 e is supposed to kinda-sorta address that first problem by offering quick-swap batteries. They’re powered by Honda Mobile Power Pack e batteries, which have kind of become a de facto industry standard. Not that everyone else is using them, but these batteries are the pattern that everyone else seems to be following. Note that Honda is one of the biggest players in the Swappable Battery Consortium.

The batteries themselves recharge from 25 to 75 percent in just under 2.5 hours if you can't quick-swap them. That is apparently a charge time from a standard Euro wall plug. Honda's PR does not mention any sort of quicker charging system.

Range from the batteries is limited, so you’ll be glad of the quick-swap capacity. According to Honda, testing indicated a range from 18.6 miles to 30 miles. The PR puts it this way:

A single charge will offer a usable riding range of 41.3km or approximately 48.0km in ECON mode under Honda's internal test conditions (30km in WMTC Class 1 testing conditions)

It's worth asking: Is that much an improvement over a pedal-assist bicycle? Honda portrays the EM1 e as an ideal commuter vehicle for students or urban dwellers commuting to work, covering basically a day's needed range with a single charge. No doubt those potential customers whose journey exceeds that distance, or who might live far away from battery quick-swap stations, will have their own opinions!

Honda's PR says the EM1 e is:

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.

Also note that this is with a top speed of about 30 mph. The electric in-wheel motor makes 1.7kW, which is roughly 2.3 hp. You won't be setting any speed records on this bike.

However, it is worth noting that this machine does not in any way seem to be marketed as a fully capable motorcycle or even a scooter. It is 100 percent being marketed as an A-to-B-in-the-city appliance. It would be unfair to judge it against the capability of a CRF300L.

If this doesn't appeal to you, no big deal. At this point, it's for the Euro market, not North America. And even Euro customers can't buy them once they show up in dealerships. These scoots are only available as leases. Here's Honda's reasoning, as per the PR:

To ensure customers do not have to take responsibility for the disposal or recycling of the Honda Mobile Power Pack e:, the EM1 e: together with the Honda Mobile Power Pack e: and charger will be available based on a lease, rental or subscription scheme, depending on the country. This will give customers complete peace of mind throughout the life of the EM1 e: regarding both the continued performance of the Honda Mobile Power Pack e:, and its eventual disposal.

No doubt EV skeptics will have reservations about that plan as well, and if this is how Honda plans to "sell" its upcoming electric motorcycle, you can expect a lot of complaining when that happens.

This does, in a way, address the second big problems of EVs that was mentioned above. In theory, it may keep initial buy-in costs down. However, there are other obvious drawbacks to the scheme, which perhaps may be discussed in a later write-up.