Honda Plans for Electric Motorcycle

December 22, 2008
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

Honda President and CEO  Takeo Fukui.
Honda CEO Takeo Fukui (seen here at the 2007 Tokyo Motorcycle Show) has announced Honda will produce an electric motorcycle in about two year’s time.

Doom and gloom has been the economic outlook of late and the motorcycle industry is feeling the pain too. Honda is no exception, with the largest motorcycle manufacturer on the planet announcing cutbacks to its racing programs due to the current economic woes. Last week’s year-end speech by CEO Takeo Fukui delivered some promising bright spots however.

Perhaps the most important news from racing fans perspective was what Mr. Fukui did not say, any large-scale reduction of the firm’s MotoGP effort. Second good news, although overall sales slowed in the second half due to the credit crisis, Honda sales in Asia Oceanica and South America gained a respective 15 and 13%. Third, and potentially a huge impact on the industry as a whole, was the announcement of an electric motorcycle to join the Honda lineup in about two year’s time.

Details are scant but Fukui said of the potential bike: “Honda is currently developing a battery-powered electric motorcycle which emits no CO2 during operation, because the characteristics of a battery can be better utilized in the area of motorcycles, which are often used for short distance travel. Honda is aiming to introduce this electric motorcycle to the market about two years from now.”

Electric motorcycles have thus far been the domain of ambitious startups, like the Vectrix scooter or the Brammo Enertia, which we tested earlier this summer. Since then, however, KTM has unveiled a prototype electric dirt bike and now Honda enters the mix.

The news can’t be good for the startups, with the motorcycle industry juggernaut turning its considerable resources to the electric two-wheeled market. Honda has revolutionized transportation in the past, with its Cub the most sold vehicle in history. It is not unreasonable to imagine Big Red doing it again with an affordable battery-powered urban commuter.

Looks like we will find out “about two years from now.”