Not willing to cede ground to competition, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) is working to introduce two different categories of electric two-wheelers which will address distinct buyers who are expected to migrate to electrified mobility in the near future.
The Japanese motorcycle heavyweight will make its debut in the electric space with the likely launch of an electric moped (EM) before moving to an electric scooter in later stages. According to Honda, an EM is a vehicle whose top speed is limited to 50 km an hour, while all other vehicles having speed higher than that are classified as an electric vehicle (EV).
A top company official said that Honda has moved from the product planning stage to the actual developmental stage. About 10 days ago, several Japanese engineers who specialise in electric components visited the country to meet select suppliers to consider the final product concept.
Atsushi Ogata, president, managing director and CEO, HMSI, said, “We have been in deep discussion since the last 1.5 years on electric vehicles. Our first priority would be EM, the moped class, because a market exists for them and then EV.” He added that there exists another segment of two-wheelers which is essentially electric bicycles, but the company has no plans to launch them in India.
Ogata remained non-committal about the date of entry of HMSI in the electric space stating that the government of India has put in place new regulations around safety of EVs which is essential to incorporate before launching an EV. These new pointers from the government come on the back of multiple cases of fire reported in electric scooters.
“Recently, some new regulations on battery safety have come. Safety of the consumer is the first priority for us and that’s why we need some time (for the launch),” Ogata added.
HMSI had internally planned to launch its first EV in 2023.
Honda has several electric two-wheeler models on sale in China and Japan, but the company opted to move cautiously in the Asean countries, including India, since its market share in this region is significant. However, with demand for electric two-wheelers remaining strong in India despite the pandemic, Honda has decided to venture into the segment.
Ogata admitted that getting a fully-ready EV product from China to India is possible for the company and can be done in six months, but it will refrain from doing that because it wants to develop a localised solution, including components such as battery, electronic control unit, and the motor for the Indian market.
Honda’s rivals like Hero MotoCorp, Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor Company have already entered the EV space. Hero will unveil its first product under its own brand in October, while Bajaj and TVS are working on adding more products in this space.