Although some still turn up their noses, everything indicates that, in the not-too-distant future, cars and motorcycles will have to be powered by electricity. Whether fully electric or hybrid, electric vehicles are touted as a solution to save the planet from the harmful effects of pollution emitted by internal combustion engines.
As is often the case with new technologies, automobiles are more advanced than motorcycles in this electrification process, which is entirely understandable. First, for financial reasons. After all, the four-wheel industry is bigger and much richer than the motorcycle industry.
But also for the sake of engineering. Because they are larger, it is easier to accommodate electronic modules and higher capacity batteries in cars, thus ensuring more autonomy, still one of the Achilles heels of electric vehicles. Mainly motorcycles.
But there are already some initiatives that should accelerate the electrification of the two-wheel fleet and help to popularize electric motorcycles and scooters in Brazil and in the world. Get to know some of these ideas that have been tested and promise to revolutionize mobility.
national electric motorcycles
To accelerate the electrification of the two-wheel fleet, Brazilian companies are investing heavily to produce electric motorcycles in the country. With capital contribution from investment funds, national startups will open factories in the Industrial Pole of Manaus (AM) to produce on a large scale and popularize electric in Brazil, the seventh largest motorcycle market in the world.
Voltz Motors received an investment of R$ 100 million in an investment round, led by Creditas, a company specializing in credit, at the beginning of last year.
Part of this amount enabled the installation of a plant with 12 thousand m² in the capital of Amazonas with the capacity to produce 15 thousand units per month.
The factory, which began operating in early June, will initially produce the EV1 scooter and two versions of the EVS, all electric. Soon, the Miles tricycle, also electric and aimed at deliveries, will begin to be assembled in Manaus.
Multilaser, one of the main information technology and electronics companies in the country, acquired Watts Mobilidade Elétrica, from Paraná, for R$ 10.5 million, last March. Among the plans is an assembly line at the Multilaser plant in the capital of Amazonas to produce scooters, scooters and even an electric motorcycle, starting in the second half of this year.
Last December, in another round of investments, Origin, a startup from Brasília (DF), also raised R$100 million to set up its electric motorcycle factory in Manaus. Focused on motorcycles for professional use, and with its own fast charging network, Origin wants to produce 50,000 motorcycles/year from 2023.
Professional electric motorcycles
Several companies are adhering to ESG (Enviromental, Social and Governance) practices and looking to reduce their impact on the environment. Among them, logistics and delivery companies that are seeing electric motorcycles as a way to reduce their carbon footprint.
Recently, iFood, a delivery platform, entered into a partnership with the Brazilian company Voltz, a manufacturer of electric motorcycles, to make electric motorcycles available to its delivery people.
Sold at an inviting price, less than R$10,000, the iFood electric motorcycle will help reduce CO² emissions in deliveries made by the platform, but it should also make motorcyclists increase their income at the end of the month. After all, with the price of gasoline soaring, it’s cheaper to charge the battery than to fill the bike’s tank.
In addition to the food delivery platform, which aims to put 10,000 electric motorcycles on the streets of São Paulo by 2023, other companies, such as FedEx, are testing electric motorcycles in deliveries. The professional use of electric motorcycles will certainly help to popularize this type of non-polluting modal.
battery change stations
Low autonomy is still an issue that restricts the use of electric motorcycles. Currently, most models are not capable of driving more than 150 kilometers on a battery charge.
Not to mention the long recharge time. Most electric motorcycles and scooters currently on sale in Brazil need more than five or six hours for a full charge.
To address this issue, Voltz created a pilot project of battery swap stations. The initiative, carried out in partnership with iFood and Turbo, Ipiranga’s Innovation hub, will start by serving only iFood delivery people, but it is just the first step of a large project, which includes the sale of motorcycles without batteries and a subscription for use of exchange stations also for end consumers.
“The battery change stations are here to redefine the mobility of electric vehicles in Brazil. They will make our product more accessible and eradicate the limitation of autonomy, which today is a challenge to accelerate the transition of consumers from combustion-powered motorcycles to electricity”, comments Renato Villar, CEO of Voltz.
Sold without batteries, electric motorcycles are more affordable. The spread of exchange stations, which can be used by paying a subscription, solves the problem of lack of autonomy and long charging times. For now, there are only 33 exchange stations in 19 Ipiranga stations in the capital of São Paulo, but Voltz’s plan is to reach 100 stations this year.
However, for battery change stations to work on a large scale, the batteries need to follow the same pattern. Barely comparing, the ideal is that they are like fossil fuels.
Although there is some difference in the composition of gasoline between countries, it is possible to fill up your national motorcycle at practically any station on the planet where it will work normally. With motorcycle batteries, the idea is that this is the case, at least in each country. And this is already being done.
Early last year, a consortium made up of Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha created a standard for interchangeable electric motorcycle batteries and replacement systems.
The aim is to allow battery sharing and pave the way for greater use of electric motorcycles in Japan at first. But, of course, standardization could be extended to other markets, also benefiting the electrification of the two-wheel fleet in the rest of the world.
Since its creation in April 2019, the consortium has been working on the formulation of standards for the exchange of batteries in several models of different brands. In addition to establishing parameters for battery replacement and recharge systems.
In this way, the companies believe they can solve two problems that prevent the widespread adoption of electric motorcycles as a more ecological and convenient mobility solution – autonomy and long charging time.
Batteries will evolve
In the same way that fuels have improved over the years and the power system has evolved from carburetor to electronic injection, batteries and energy management systems will become more efficient in the future.
In a few years, batteries have already improved and should evolve even more. Recently, a partnership between CBMM and Chinese company Horwin, a manufacturer of electric motorcycles, began testing with a lithium-ion battery with niobium, which allows for ultra-fast recharging safely and without impairing the life of the component.
The noble metal will be applied to the anodes of the lithium-ion battery in the form of niobium oxide, which, as it is a very stable element, allows for safer and more efficient recharging.
“In addition, due to its more open crystalline structure, which facilitates the intercalation of lithium, it allows full recharge in less than 10 minutes, without causing damage to the battery”, explains Rogério Marques Ribas, battery program manager at CBMM.
That is, in the future, the long recharge time of batteries can be drastically reduced. And refills can be done at electroposts, while you make a stop to stretch your legs and have a cup of coffee. Allowing even long trips with electric motorcycles.