Kymco Ionex Swappable Battery EV Platform Will Power Many Brands

Key Takeaways

  • Electric motorcycles are gaining popularity, but the main challenges are range, charging infrastructure, and cost.
  • KYMCO’s Ionex EV Solution offers a battery swapping system that reduces the cost of buying an e-motorcycle by 33% and is already well-developed in Taiwan.
  • The Ionex system includes a standardized common battery, a battery-as-a-service model, a kiosk/vending machine charging system, and a battery monitoring unit for efficient operation and management.

The future of motorcycling will, at some stage, be electric. Electric motorcycles are already a thing, with a number of very exciting models available. They are also becoming more affordable. Mainstream manufacturers like KTM, BMW, and Harley-Davidson make electric motorcycles, with the latter starting a subsidiary to make and sell its LiveWire brand.

Just as we tend to look at the biggest and the best in ICE motorcycles, speed demons like the Suzuki Hayabusa, or super adventure tourers like the BMW R1300 GS, EV bikes like the 244hp Lightning LS-218 draw the attention.

But for most of the world, motorcycles are about affordable urban mobility. This is where public transport is lacking or crowded, roads are congested, and household incomes are often constrained. According to The Times of India, 87% of households in Thailand own a two-wheeler, while the two population heavyweights, China and India, have bike ownership of 60% and 47%, respectively. These are also countries where urban air pollution is a problem.

EV bikes are the obvious solution, but they have to overcome the handicaps of range, availability of charging stations, charging times, and cost to buy. That may all have changed.

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KYMCO And Ionex EV Solution

At the EICMA 2023, KYMCO announced its Ionex EV Solution. This game-changing initiative hinges on battery swapping as an alternative to charging. But it is more comprehensive and exciting than that. The Ionex EV Solution will create an infrastructure where a rider can swap a tapped-out battery for a freshly charged one in a few minutes, like filling up with gas.

Motorcyclists would be able to swap their batteries at thousands of kiosks, much like vending machines. Payment for the fresh battery will be via an app on a smartphone, but the app is far more powerful than that.

This system is already well-developed in Taiwan and will reduce the cost of buying an E-motorcycle by at least 33%. It will also be available to any e-motorcycle manufacturer, significantly reducing the cost of developing new E-bikes. This sounds far-fetched until you look at who KYMCO is.

Here’s What You Need To Know About KYMCO

2023 Kymco CV3 maxi-scooter hd wallpaper side view

KYMCO is a large motorcycle and ATV manufacturer in Taiwan. It is the biggest scooter manufacturer in Taiwan and the fifth biggest in the world. It used to be part of Honda but split from the parent company in 1963.

KYMCO made motorcycle parts for Honda and other manufacturers and started making its own motorcycles in 1970. It produces 570,000 vehicles in Taiwan and has factories in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the People’s Republic of China. It sells its vehicles worldwide, including in the US, with 600 dealers.

It has supplied engines to BMW, and although still mainly an ICE manufacturer, it is increasingly seen as a leader in EV technology. In this capacity, it works with BMW and Kawasaki, among others.

The Ionex system is an expanded version of a large and successful battery-swapping and related enterprise that KYMCO had set up in Taiwan. This involves around 2700 battery kiosks in the island nation.

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Battery Swapping And Its Downsides

Kymco Ionex Swappable Battery EV Platform battery docking method

The idea started with electric cars before e-motorcycles became popular. You can swap your battery for a full one once your battery is flat. But there are several reasons why this has not worked so far.

  • Car batteries are heavy and need special equipment to handle them, as well as a large, specialized area to do it in.
  • Car batteries are all different sizes and shapes, so it is impossible to keep all kinds.
  • Setting up a whole network of swapping stations would be very expensive compared to simpler quick charging stations.
  • A viable payment system would be needed.
  • EV batteries deteriorate over time, which needs to be monitored over the battery’s lifetime. Worn or inferior batteries could be a fire hazard.
  • EV batteries are very expensive, making up to a third of the price of an EV. The owner of a new EV would be reluctant to give up the battery.

Here’s Why The Ionix EV System Is Different

KYMCO created a common standardized battery that can be used in different scooters, motorcycles, and ATVs. This idea is not new; several manufacturers have tried it on a smaller scale. Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki are also in the picture and are working on a consortium to do the same thing, but their system is less advanced than that of KYMCO.

The Ionex EV System has four interlinked components:

  • The standardized common battery
  • The battery-as-a-subscription model
  • A kiosk/vending machine charging and dispensing system
  • Battery Monitoring Unit (BMU)

Standardized Common Battery

KYMCO Ionix standard battery in scooter

E-motorcycle batteries are smaller, lighter, and easier to handle. KYMCO’s standard batteries are interchangeable between different vehicles. Although sized for the scooter and smaller commuter motorcycle market, there is technically nothing that prevents more powerful batteries from being developed to fit into the same operating platform. The standard battery’s benefits are that it is light enough for the motorcyclist to handle and can fit into a compact kiosk/vending machine.

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Ionex Battery As A Subscription (BaaS)

Ionex battery swapping kiosk

Battery-as-a-Service BaaS is the same concept as Software or Hardware as a service, where ownership and management of a function stays with the provider, while the user pays only a subscription for it.

The Ionex Common Battery is a removable battery designed to be integrated into E-motorcycles. It has sophisticated battery management technology linked to the cloud-based Ionex Operating System, which drives the BaaS part of it.

This tracks real-time battery and energy use and enables autonomous battery swapping, billing, and payment. It also tracks and analyzes each battery in real-time via on-board diagnosis, alerts, and recovery.

BaaS has two significant implications.

The Expansion Of Swapping Kiosk Networks

Because the battery-swapping operation’s processing, charging, and payment are handled by BaaS, any shop, convenience store, or gas forecourt can install a modular Ionex kiosk and get paid every time someone swaps a battery.

This will result in the rapid expansion of swapping stations, which will, in turn, make E-bikes a more practical mode of transport. This has been proven in Taiwan, where a network of 2700 such stations was created in a few years and is still expanding.

Ionex battery swapping will enter motorcycle-friendly Thailand in 2024. It is already active in Sweden and expanding into the rest of Europe.

Battery Metering Unit

Ionex was designed to be used on any electric vehicle. This is made possible with the Battery Monitoring Unit (BMU), an IoV (Internet of Vehicles) interface that controls all aspects of the battery throughout its life, including its condition, upgrades, and payments.

Battery development is expensive, and this is a barrier to EV startups. Battery safety is also a concern. The BMU will allow startups to concentrate on vehicle development to use the proven and safe Ionex technology in their vehicles.

BaaS And BMU And The Cost Of Purchasing An E-motorcycle

The battery is the most expensive component of any electric vehicle. On e-motorcycles, it is usually around a third of the purchase price. Because of BaaS and BMU, battery ownership does not reside with the purchaser but with the BaaS operator.

The motorcyclist buys the rest of the scooter but not the battery. Even if their riding habits do not involve battery swapping. The battery use and health can be monitored via BaaS.

Sources for this article include KYMCO and The Times of India.

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