Honda rolling out swappable batteries in India in 2022

When former president, Joseph “Erap” Estrada was Manila’s mayor, electric tricycles were a common sight, largely thanks to the city’s program to rid the streets of noisy and smoke-belching three-wheelers.

However, due to poor implementation and inadequate infrastructure, what was supposed to be a viable green alternative to fossil fuel-burning last mile public transport ended up a white elephant.

In our distant neighbor, India, things are more promising than what we have here.

Just a few days ago, Honda announced plans to begin a battery sharing service for electric tricycle taxis (“auto rickshaws”) in India, in the first half of 2022, using the Honda Mobile Power Pack e (MPP e), Honda’s all-new portable and swappable batteries.

As the economy continues to grow in India, energy demand is increasing and air pollution is worsening. To address these issues, country-wide efforts are being made to expand the utilization of renewable energy and to actively pursue the electrification of the transportation sector, which accounts for approximately 20% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

There are more than 8 million units of auto rickshaws in India, and they have been an essential means of daily transportation for people. We call them three-wheelers while some may know them as Tuk-tuks as they're called in Thailand. In urban areas, these rickshaws are powered mainly by CNG (compressed natural gas) and have been a key challenge for electrification.

Electrified mobility products currently available in the market are facing three issues: short-range, long charging time, and high cost of batteries. In order to contribute to India’s effort to accelerate electrification and expand the use of renewable energy, Honda will work to eliminate these three issues through the use of swappable batteries and by sharing such batteries. To this end, Honda will start a battery-sharing service for electric rickshaws, using MPP e in the first half of 2022.

In consideration of this new business, Honda began demonstration testing in India in February 2021, with 30 units of electric rickshaw taxis driven for a total of more than 200,000 km in operation. Through this testing, Honda identified issues to be addressed and verified business viability.

Honda’s battery sharing service will enable rickshaw drivers to stop by at the nearest battery swapping stations being set up in the city and swap an MPP e with low remaining charge for a fully-charged MPP e. The use of this service will significantly reduce the driver's concern of running out of batteries as well as the risk of losing business opportunities with customers while waiting for rickshaw's batteries to be charged.

To begin this service, Honda will establish a local subsidiary in India to conduct a battery-sharing service business. The subsidiary will install a number of Honda Mobile Power Pack Exchanger e stations as battery swapping stations and conduct battery sharing services in the city. Honda will work with electric rickshaw manufacturers and begin the service in selected cities first and then expand to other areas in stages.