Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Suzuki finally entering EV and Fuell Cell Game.

“Suzuki Motor Corporation is pleased to announce that the Suzuki Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter has become the world's first fuel cell vehicle to earn Whole Vehicle Type Approval in the European Union,” explained Mr. O. Suzuki, Chairman and CEO, Suzuki Motor Corporation.

Suzuki seems to be the first of the big four to enter the game. This press release doesn't mean the bike will be in America anytime soon or that Suzuki is rolling it out in dealerships, but it does show they are thinking about the future. The Burgman after all is the last of the Maxi-Scooter earth shattering unit sales breaking record holder in Europe with over a decade of being a top seller across continents. Only the T-max from Yamaha has generated more buzz in recent years.

If this is an indication it tells me the EV Motorcycle / Scooter field has a two to three year window of growth for small Motorcycle companies who led by American private equity want to be serious players.

The only way EV scooters will become a viable market is when Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki start distributing their units across the world. Thanks to all the new laws being passed in Europe this certainly a clear view of the future.

In Europe there are over 40 small start ups importing Taiwanese E-bikes and E-Scooters under private labels. Many of them will likely not survive the moment a real company with real distribution channels enter the game. The way Honda which happens to be number one in the world sees it, is they won't do it unless it works and it's the best.

I predict in four years most of these private label guys will be gone even if they have better products or better technology mainly because they do not have the capacity of producing viable sales networks. I've seen it and continue to see it in the USA. Yes, Brammo had a great idea selling EV units at Best Buy. Crispin Porter did a great job at marketing it, but it lead to ZERO sales. All the investment money in the world won't produce returns if there are no sales.

Vectrix has tried and is relaunching with new ownership. E-Moto and others for years have tried to create a market. It takes the market leaders to truly create the market demand since so far there has only been an industry supplier push for EV scooters.

I've come to change my mind about EV since I acquired a lot of EV parts at auction and I've seen some of the parts start to sell, but we are not at the point where the tech is mainstream. Each brand is using different engines, different batteries, parts are not compatible and there is no room for third parties to offer support or accessories. Once Suzuki enters the game or Honda there will be third parties. You need parts and universal accessories to make EV work, they have to cross-connect, there has to be an aftermarket universe associated with the industry.

What makes a company like Honda great, is not just the great product, it's also the fact that there are thousands of small companies like MRP that make a living sell accessories for Honda product. I cannot say the same for companies that only want to license their EV designs or batteries. Companies that have no track record for scooter sales. Where will they be when the incentives and grants run out? Where is the consumer demand for these UNKNOWN brands? All the money in the world couldn't save Vectrix.

How many Brammos have sold this year? how about ZERO bikes? Having ever changing tech who wants to be stuck with a battery that is yesterdays news? There are already too many players in the EV side in the USA something will likely give in the next few years. We have to build that side industry for EV to grow. Period.

The truth is it will take VESPA. The best known scooter brand to push EV. The big four to create real distribution and the real need for multiple street level charging stations across Europe. How do I know this? Well I went on a scooter ride with the mayor of Rome four years ago on a Vectrix and he told me himself. We need both consumers riding and demand and we'll put up the charging stations. Only a third of the charging stations they promised back in 2007 have been built so far. If you walk around Rome they aren't being used to full capacity.

Enter Honda, enter Suzuki its a different ballgame.

This is a good sign.

Today Intelligent Energy and Suzuki announced that their jointly developed Suzuki Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter has obtained Whole Vehicle Type Approval (WVTA) - the first time any fuel cell vehicle has achieved this level of certification. says the press release.

WVTA qualifies the Suzuki Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter design as safe to use on public roads without having to be inspected and tested individually.

First exhibited at the 41st Tokyo Motor Show in October 2009, the Suzuki Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter, equipped with the latest version of Intelligent Energy's unique, air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell system, has been participating in a UK public road testing program run by Intelligent Energy and supported by the UK Government's Technology Strategy Board.

The Suzuki Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter design has now met with specified EU performance standards meaning that the vehicle and its components are approved for production and sale within Europe.

The city-friendly Suzuki Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter was jointly launched in Europe at London's City Hall in February 2010. At the event, the Chair of the London Hydrogen Partnership and London's Deputy Mayor for Policing, Kit Malthouse, hailed the zero emission scooter as a “fantastic piece of kit which shows how we can combat climate change.” A fleet of the scooters will now undergo a further test program in various public road conditions at sites in the East Midlands and London.

“We're immensely proud that our five year partnership with Suzuki Motor Corporation has led to the Suzuki Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter becoming the world's first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to achieve Whole Vehicle Type Approval.

This is an important day in the history of fuel cell technology and a huge step towards cleaner, more efficient vehicles being part of the mainstream,” said Dr Henri Winand, CEO, Intelligent Energy.

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