The future is electric

By Charles E. Buban Philippine Daily Inquirer April 10,2019

Kymco chair Ko leads the unveiling of the company’s first electric sportbike, the SuperNEX.

If you are not yet familiar with the Tokyo Motorcycle Show, this three-day, two-wheeler (sometimes three) trade fair is the largest of its kind in Japan. Running for 46 years now, it is one of the global motorcycles market’s most important events.

Japan heavyweights such as Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha are all present at this year’s show, rubbing shoulders alongside overseas motorcycle manufacturers BMW Motorrad, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, and Royal Enfield among others.

But while the world’s most popular motorcycle brands use this year’s event to showcase their gasoline-fed muscle and high-performance motorbikes, Taiwan-based Kymco decided to showcase its full-blown electric superbike, as well as a pair of all-electric scooters powered by swappable batteries.

“Kymco is taking a bold lead with electrification in the motorcycle industry. As the first major motorcycle brand to commit to a full-electric powertrain, we aim to drive the sector forward, improve the quality of the air in our cities, and increase our success as a business,” says Kymco chair Allen Ko.

Kymco, being one of the five largest scooter manufacturers in the world and Taiwan’s largest scooter company, is more than excited to lead the way—just last year, the company announced its plan to launch 10 electric motorcycle models over the next three years, set up charging networks in 20 countries, and sell “over half a million electric vehicles worldwide.”

Phase out

Just last year, in response to worsening air pollution, Taiwan announced its plan to phase out gasoline-powered motorcycles by 2035 (and fuel-powered cars by 2040). Taiwan explains that fuel-powered motorcycles contribute to more than 20 percent of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 discharge.

A PM is a complex group of air pollutants that studies found to have close link to premature death from heart and lung disease.

It’s not surprising that Kymco is taking such an aggressive approach. Despite a relatively small population of 23 million, Taiwan has about 14 million registered motorcycles. That’s one for every 1.6 people, which is one of the highest ownership rates in the world. In comparison, the Philippines currently has one motorcycle for every 23 Filipinos.

Ko shares that the number of electric vehicles on the road is predicted to expand from about 3 million today, to around 125 million worldwide by 2030. “Electric vehicles have come a long way over the past few years. Technology is getting better every day and in countries like Taiwan, there are already some things in place to accelerate the adoption of electric-powered transport.”

Ionex Commercial includes multiple models of battery-swappable electric scooters as well as turnkey battery charging stations

Moreover, Ko relates that Kymco has already initiated a game-changing solution called Ionex. The Ionex offers an uncompromised electric vehicle solution for businesses, policy makers, and riders.

With the Ionex’ versatile charging infrastructure, individuals, businesses and policy makers will have an economically feasible plan for implementing electric solution.

Governments now have a complete game-changing blueprint to go green. Meanwhile, the Charge Point Network offers incentives for the businesses to embrace green energy and improve their services, especially those ones relying heavily on providing business service through vehicles, including postal services, delivery services, and logistic operators.

These commercial users can now use the energy stations to operate battery swapping services for their own fleet of electric vehicles, with lower costs, yet better efficiency.

Storage compartments

Kymco’s Ionex version of electric scooters offer under-seat storage compartments that could carry multiple light weight (5 kilos each), and swappable 650Wh lithium-ion batteries that can be easily removed and charged at home or swapped at any energy station.

Weighing just 5 kg, the batteries employed by Ionex scooter models are making electric a popular reality for consumers worldwide.

These charging stations, resembling a vending machine, give Ionex electric scooter riders a convenient spot to swap their drained batteries for a fully charged one, in roughly the amount of time it takes to fill a fuel tank.

Additionally, Kymco designed the industry’s first smart energy bay on every Ionex version of electric scooters. It makes battery removal not only delightful, but also cool to watch—at a touch of a button the energy bay opens, bringing the battery to a perfect lifting position.

When reinserting a fully charged battery, the rider only needs to nudge the battery against the smart floor to trigger the bay door to open.

Moreover, the Ionex models also employ a dual battery system: there’s a non-removable “core” battery housed under the seat which, if the removable cells are running low (or dead), the core battery then becomes the scooters’ primary energy source to allow the rider to still ride while the other two batteries are being charged.

Ko adds that Ionex Platform allows one to conveniently carry extra batteries for longer trips. Kymco claims that the under-seat storage area can accommodate three extra batteries, which in theory should allow for a range of around 200 km between all six batteries (the core cell, the two removable units, and the three extra batteries).

Ko adds that with the Ionex public charging infrastructure, there now exists a complete game-changing blueprint to go green.

Not yet

On the other hand, while admitting that the SuperNEX is still some years short of commercial production, Ko says the company partnered with another Taiwan-based firm Noodoe that recently launched a range of charging stations that can be privately owned and used as an extra revenue stream (just like a conventional gasoline station: plug in, fill the battery, pay by credit card, Apple or Google Pay and ride away).

“We are using the Noodoe platform to test several potential battery solutions, as well as accelerating the move to widespread electric vehicle adoption,” adds Ko.

But aside from ensuring there’s a network of charging stations in place, Kymco made sure the SuperNEX would be able to demonstrate the company’s impressive commitment to electrification.

Immersive ride

Kymco employed all sorts of technology to keep the riding experience of the SuperNEX as immersive as riding a gasoline-powered sportbike.

Unlike its current counterparts, the SuperNEX is equipped with a six-speed (foot-activated sequential) gearbox and comes with slipper clutch for easy shifts. Kymco claims that thanks to this gearbox, some of the feel from traditional sportbikes are retained: the SuperNEX could deliver performance figures including zero to 100 km/h in 2.9 seconds, zero to 200 km/h in 7.5 seconds, and if you’re insane enough, zero to 250 km/h in 10.9 seconds!

Kymco’s Ionex version of electric scooters feature under-seat storage compartments

Ko explains this move is to ensure the SuperNEX would still appeal to conventional sportbike riders taking into consideration that shifting gears is an essential part of riding experience.

Another key element—missing from most electric motorcycles—is also addressed with Kymco Active Acoustic Motor, a system that amplifies the existing electric motor sound to give the rider situation awareness, ability to determine their timing for shifting the gear and applying the throttle.

Until recently, electric motorcycles and electric scooters received far less global attention than electric cars. That will soon change considering the SuperNEX only requires a little tweaking before it could be mass produced.

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