Last month Honda announced plans to introduce 10 new electric bikes by 2025 and now designs for one of the first of those models have emerged via the European Union Intellectual Property Office – showing a pedal-assisted machine with Cub-style looks and a hub-mounted motor.
Honda’s plan is to launch four ‘Fun’ electric bikes by 2024 or 2025, including a maxi-scooter, a roadster and a lower-slung cruiser as well as a kids’ motocrosser (not counted in the ten-bike total as it’s not road-legal). Between 2022 and 2024 the firm will reveal five commuter models in the power-assisted bicycle and moped classes, and in 2024-25 a pair of scooter-style commuter bikes with 125cc-equivalent performance.
The new designs appear to show one of the moped models that will appear in the first tranche of commuter EVs. The adoption of pedals harks back to the roots of the moped class – a term now commonly used to refer to 50cc scooters rather than pedal-assisted machines – but it’s one that makes more sense than ever on a lightweight electric commuter, since by pedalling riders will be able to improve performance and range.
Unlike electrically assisted bicycles, which require constant pedalling, this machine is clearly intended to be used on electric power alone most of the time, with the pedals only coming into play occasionally. That’s why there’s a large, flat footboard to use when you’re not pedalling.
Honda’s designs include lights and a licence plate bracket, again implying it’s intended to fit into the moped class rather than the pedal-electric bicycle category. The former require registration and insurance, unlike pedelecs, but in return you get 30mph performance that just about keeps up with city traffic. Electric assisted bicycles, in contrast, are generally limited to around half that speed (although there is a class of ‘Speed Pedelec’ in some countries with a 28mph limit).
The decision to lead with these low-performance electric models rather than the sexier electric bikes that other manufacturers are heading towards comes from the logic that electric mopeds and pedelecs currently account for more than 90% of the global motorcycle market, with around 50 million annual sales. Most are in China, but they’re getting increasingly popular elsewhere, too.
The Honda design seen here uses a simple, hub-mounted electric motor with a built-in, cable-operated drum brake. The pedal assistance is transmitted via a chain.
Up front, there’s a tiny hydraulic disc brake, and the whole machine is designed for simplicity and low cost. A strict single-seater, saving the weight of a rear subframe to hold a pillion seat, the bike is likely to use Honda’s Mobile Power Pack e:, a swappable, standardised battery that the firm already uses in some of its Japanese-market electric scooters. A single 48-volt MPP e: is likely to be mounted horizontally under the bike’s floorboard.
Under Honda’s plans, the first of its 10 new electric bikes are due to be launched imminently, and there’s a good chance this machine will be one of them.