Honda is going to put its swappable battery packs into rickshaws in India starting in 2022, and I will say this seems like another significant step for electrification. I would say it’s just as significant as anything from Tesla or Rivian, and more significant than the many EV startups peddling vaporware, because Honda’s e-Rickshaws have the potential to affect so many more people.
The concept is hardly new. India has reportedly tried to transition its many rickshaws away from ICE as far back as 2017, according to the BBC. And the joint Gogoro and Hero Motocorp network predates Honda’s entry into the Indian market using swappable batteries. But, while Gogoro and Hero will cover e-scooters, Honda’s network will power the country’s popular tricycles.
Honda claims that there are over eight million rickshaws in India, and that they are “essential means of daily transportation” there. Many rickshaws run on compressed natural gas right now, but their steady transition to EVs seems more viable with a network of exchangeable batteries behind them.
Honda’s e-rickshaws will use a new type of swappable battery called the “MPP e:” that builds on its older “MPP” batteries. These newer lithium-ion batteries have a capacity of more than 1.3kWh, weigh about 10 kg and will be produced in India. They recharge in about five hours.
Honda didn’t specify their range, but that’s less important when the batteries are swappable because recharging is easier. Honda has been testing its electric rickshaws since February of this year, and claims to have logged close to 125,000 miles on 30 three-wheelers.
I think there’s a missed opportunity here to make an even bigger impact if Honda, Gogoro and Hero — along with more companies — would have agreed to standardize their batteries. Swappable battery infrastructure would have broader appeal and utility that way, but this is still a big step.