Atsushi Agatha is clearly set on the prospect of flexible fuel for two-wheeled Honda plants in India.
“Honda has extensive experience in Brazil over the past decade, where we sell flexible fuel bikes and own the technology,” says the CEO, President, CEO and CEO of Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI).
It is also synchronized with the “direction of the energy strategy” of the Center to reduce oil imports and expand the agricultural segment with sugar cane, which allows you to convert biofuels. It was also a year ago when the Center officially announced its biofuel roadmap and “we stick to that vision”.
Interestingly, emission standards in Brazil are below Euro 4, and India is “the toughest” in Euro 5 / BS VI. “The BS VI with flex-fuel technology is the first for Honda, but we have the confidence to release the first flexible fuel model by the end of 2024,” adds Ogata.
It is likely that HMSI will work to expand the use of flexible fuel gasoline engines after 2025 and “we will gradually increase our portfolio of products with flexible fuels”.
However, the head of HMSI is much more cautious about electricity, which is a “difficult issue because we don’t have a product for India right now”. This contrasts sharply with the dominant landscape, in which there is massive pressure on the electrification of two-wheeled vehicles and which is largely dominated by startups.
“We’re still far behind, but honestly, we have technology in other countries and experience to develop EV products,” says Ogata. However, from a business standpoint, it’s “hard to say much” because the cost of the battery remains high in terms of lithium-ion in addition to safety issues.
“We have a lot of experience in selling EVs in Japan and China, where other conditions are,” he says. However, hotter conditions in India and more difficult road conditions can make it difficult for the battery. “We need to make a feasibility study and have held talks with senior engineers in Japan over the last year. How to make it a sustainable business in India is the key after we launch it, ”Ogata continues.
The simplest option is to produce the same product that is sold in China, but Honda is adamant that it wants “100 percent manufacturing in India.” It won’t be a transparent walk on any submission.
“We have never produced EV for India and there is no supply chain for motor, battery and PCU (power control unit). How to do in India from the beginning will be a challenge, and it will take time, ”admits Ogata.
In Japan, Honda is part of a battery replacement consortium that includes Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha. The consortium was completed in Japan under the name “Gachaco”, established on April 1, with the energy organization Eneos as the fifth partner.
The goal is to “contribute to the realization of a recycling-oriented society by creating a BaaS platform (battery as a service) for electric mobility” and other battery disposal systems. The next step is to become a real business, where the joint venture will use Honda’s battery replacement system in Japan.
As for Europe, Honda and Yamaha are part of a consortium that includes KTM and Piaggio, but negotiations are still underway to “harmonize” hardware and software in the fuel tank. According to Ogata, the EU has “so many countries with different rules” that it will take time for decisions to converge.
Although there is no such Japanese consortium in India yet, Honda has set up a battery maintenance company in Bangalore, Honda Power Pack Energy India, which can hopefully pave the way for partnerships with other OEMs. There has been speculation that HMSI and Yamaha are also in talks to merge into a backend for battery management, but there has been no official confirmation yet.
In addition to electricity, Ogata plans to restart HMSI in terms of launching a new 100 bike for rural India and transforming the Manesar plant in Haryana into an export hub. All of this is consistent with what he told this writer two years ago shortly after he became a doctor of medical sciences. Then he said that the company has “enough product lines”, and in the near future will be even more.
Thus, “this kind of production or development of a new model” could be comfortably considered in India. Honda’s headquarters in Japan, according to Ogata, was also looking to expand India’s global role. This meant that exports would soon go beyond developing countries in Africa and South America, to Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Australia and so on. “HMSI has the largest export resources among the Honda Group,” he said.
In the past, Ogata admitted, HMSI had hoped to increase market share and volume, but in reality there was no need for that. “From now on, after we build a strong company, we will try to gain market share without (offering) huge incentives. Sometimes OEMs buy market share this way, but I don’t want to do that, ”he repeated.
From Agatha’s point of view, it was more important to “believe and trust” Honda’s philosophy and her core DNA. Even if the company’s products were “a little more expensive”, customers across Europe and ASEAN had no problems because it was “easy for them to understand what Honda is.”
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Honda is optimistic about flexible fuel for bicycles, electric for a while
In addition to electricity, Ogata plans to restart HMSI in terms of launching a new 100 bike for rural India and transforming the Manesar plant in Haryana into an export hub.