Honda has taken two of its Mobile Power Pack batteries, stuffed them into a standard Parolin kart chassis, added an electric motor, and instantly changed the face of motorsports forever. Why is that, you say? There have been electric karts available for years. What’s the difference with the Honda eGX?
Simply put, the batteries are the same swappable units Honda uses to power its electric scooters and mopeds in Japan. They allow riders to stop at a swap station, replace a depleted battery with a fully charged unit, and continue riding without waiting to recharge. This is precisely what Ample wants to do for EV drivers. Each MPP battery measures 11.7 inches by 6.2 inches by 7.0 inches and weigh 22.7 pounds. According to Car and Driver, the batteries have sturdy handles integrated into the battery housing, which makes inserting, removing, and carrying them a breeze.
Honda claims a pair of MPP batteries are capable of powering a kart for 35 to 45 minutes of full throttle operation. Most kart races last about 10 to 15 minutes. Swap in fresh batteries and you are ready to hit the track for another 2 to 3 races without waiting to recharge.
The Promise Of Electric Karts From Honda
Karting is where many professional racing drivers get their start. Seven-time world driving champion Lewis Hamilton got his start in karts, as did fellow world champions Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosburg. Karting teaches young drivers about finding the limits of adhesion, controlled slides, and getting around a race track without scrubbing off speed.
The racing puts a premium on precise car control and maintaining momentum at all costs — skills that stand them in good stead as they move up to faster cars with higher horsepower. Most of the feedback a racing driver gets comes through the seat of the pants. A skillful driver feels it rather than sees it when the front wheels loose grip, making the car run wide, or the rear tires lose traction and decide they would rather lead for a while. It’s no understatement to say the driving champions of tomorrow are racing karts today.
Here’s another interesting thing about an electric racing kart. Young drivers will learn early on about the instant low end torque that an electric motor provides. Gasoline-powered karts simply can’t compete with electric karts when it comes to acceleration away from the starting line or out of a slow corner. Once they get used to it, tomorrow’s drivers won’t want to do without that instantaneous surge of power in their race cars any more than computer engineers today would want to make do with yesterday’s vacuum tubes. Motorsports will never be the same.
Honda’s Swappable Batteries
The MPP batteries operate on 50 volt architecture and each has a capacity of 1.3 kWh. They take about five hours to recharge. In the eGX, two MPP units are wired to operate in series, resulting in a more efficient system with less energy loss compared to batteries wired in parallel.
Swapping in new battery packs takes less than 30 seconds, Car and Driver says. Simply lift the plastic container lid, undo the locking mechanism by pulling up on the handle, and slide the battery out. The whole process is idiot-proof because the MPP batteries only fit into the kart one way and the locking mechanism makes an audible click when the battery is inserted and correctly seated.
Last November, my colleague Jennifer Sensiba wrote about the Honda Power Pack Exchanger the company has developed to charge multiple MPP batteries at once. First introduced in Japan, it is also being used in India to help power electric three-wheeled taxis.
The Power Pack Exchanger features an exterior design that blends in well with the cityscape and adopts the Honda Power Pack Cloud system that centrally manages all information necessary for a battery sharing service to operate in the cloud. It allows Honda to pursue the convenience and user friendliness for both battery sharing service businesses and the users of electrified mobility products.
Honda eGX For Commercial Applications
The eGX is already being used by Honda to electrify power tools for the construction industry, albeit without the large, swappable MPP batteries. The company says, “The Honda eGX is an advanced electrified power unit that accommodates the needs of the construction machinery market to enable their equipment to be more compatible with usage environments that are considered difficult for engine powered machines, such as indoor work environments and construction work near residential areas where lower noise is an important factor.”
What Honda has done here is adapt a current kart chassis to carry two MPP batteries that are wired to operate in series, which results in a more efficient system with less energy loss compared to batteries wired in parallel. The kart has a 41,3″ wheelbase and weighs 230 pounds, which is about 50 pounds heavier than a typical shifter kart.
Details Are Scarce
Honda says the eGX kart is a prototype and no decision has been made yet as to whether it will go into production. There is no information about pricing for the kart or the batteries, and Honda is reluctant to give any specifics about the electric motor.
What the Honda prototype does offer, in addition to excellent performance and the convenience of swappable batteries, is a virtual lack of maintenance. No oil and filter changes, no clutch to replace, and no fiddling with timing required. No gas cans to lug around either.The only consumables are tires and maybe a set of brake pads once a season.
What does the Honda eGX kart drive like? Car and Driver scribe Caleb Miller drove one on a temporary kart track and says the kart felt “extremely zippy.” It tops out at about 45 mph, although the track he drove didn’t have any straights that allowed it to reach its top speed. “The instant torque of the electric motor makes the eGX feel incredibly eager and responsive, and the surge of power doesn’t fall off as you keep the throttle pinned,” Miller wrote.
Miller added that the Honda eGX felt similar to other karts with vast amounts of grip, tremendously heavy steering, and touchy braking, thanks to a single 7.6-inch rear brake rotor which can be used to rotate the kart through corners without scrubbing too much speed. Below is a video of some Indy Car drivers testing out the eGX at a recent race date in Long Beach, California. Only their helmets keep you from seeing the smiles on their faces!
To Build Or Not To Build
Honda told Miller it is evaluating the business case for putting the kart into production. It could make an ideal basis for a spec racing series in which the margin of victory is driving skill, not someone’s ability to tweak a gasoline engine to provide on tenth of horsepower more than the competition.
Car and Driver envisions the simplicity of the eGX with its battery swapping capability being the inspiration for a new generation of racing drivers. If Honda decided to put it into production, that will lead to a whole new generation of drivers who prefer driving on electrons rather than molecules.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
EV Obsession Daily!
Tesla Sales in 2023, 2024, and 2030
CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.