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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Honda to Lease Electric Motorcycles in Japan

Honda Motor Co Ltd announced April 13, 2010, that it will start leasing a business-use electric two-wheeled vehicle , "EV-neo," in December 2010 in Japan and unveiled a prototype.

In 1994, the company released the "CUV ES" electric scooter in a limited number of 200. But it is equipped with a nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) rechargeable battery, and it takes as long as eight hours to fully charge the scooter, which runs 61km per charge.

The EV-neo comes with Toshiba Corp's lithium-ion (Li-ion) rechargeable battery and can be quickly charged. It runs more than 30km per charge on a flat paved road at a speed of 30km/h.

In the development of the EV-neo, Honda decreased the mass of the vehicle by reducing the battery capacity and compensated the low capacity by adding a quick charging function.

The company established Blue Energy Co Ltd with GS Yuasa Corp, a Japan-based firm that is engaged in manufacturing, sales and development of Li-ion rechargeable batteries for hybrid vehicles. But Honda employed Toshiba's battery in consideration of the concept of the electric two-wheeled vehicle and the mass production capability.

The battery employed for the EV-neo is the "SCiB," whose negative electrode material is lithium titanate and whose voltage is lower than those of commonly-used Li-ion rechargeable batteries. Honda probably decided to use it because of its rapid charging capability and high durability.

The EV-neo is classified as a motor-assisted bicycle in Japan, and the rated output of its motor is 600W or less. Honda made efforts to ensure that the vehicle has enough power to run uphill with a load of 30kg.

In fact, the company visited several firms that provide delivery services to know how they use vehicles for delivery. As a result, the EV-neo has a hill-climbing performance of 12°.

The motor was designed based on the permanent-magnet DC brushless motor used for Honda's Monpal four-wheeled welfare vehicle. And it is manufactured at the same plant where the Monpal is produced.

The voltage and rated output of the Monpal's motor are 24V and 430W, respectively. But the motor of the EV-neo probably has a higher output because it is a motor-assisted bicycle. The motor is located in the box located left to the rear wheel and driven through reduction gears.

The Li-ion battery is located under the footrest, but the EV-neo is not mounted with a battery charger. The battery capacity of the vehicle has not been disclosed.

Honda developed both a rapid charger and a normal charger for the vehicle. With the rapid charger, it takes 20 minutes to charge the battery 80% with a power supply of AC200V. And the normal charger can fully charge the battery in four hours with a power supply of AC100V.

The company said that the power consumption of the normal charger is lower than that of a microwave oven. Judging from the charging time, we estimated that its capacity is little more than 1kWh.

Honda is planning to announce the price of the EV-neo in the fall of 2010. It assumes that the sum of the lease fee and the electricity charge for use of the vehicle for three years will be equivalent to that of a gasoline-powered two-wheeled vehicle.

On the day Honda announced the EV-neo, it offered test rides of the two-wheeled vehicle and gasoline-fueled motor-assisted bicycles. When I compared the EV-neo with the Dio, which has a maximum output of 3kW and and a displacement of 49cc, I found that the EV-neo makes less noise and vibration and that its acceleration to about 30km/h is much faster because of its high torque at a low speed.

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