The Motocompacto: Honda Turns A Box Into A Fun, Electric Runabout

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When Honda made the Motocompo, a tiny, one-person scooter powered by two-stroke, 49 cc gasoline engine, it had in mind a last-mile transporter, portable enough to fit in the trunk of a car and powerful enough to travel about 60 km (37 miles) with a top speed of 30 km/h (19 mph). Its engine produced only 2.5 horsepower — the same power as a portable lawn mover engine.

Last week, Honda announced the availability, initially in Japan, of the Motocompacto, successor to the Motocompo in function, but not in emissions. It will be available in the US sometime in November at Honda and Acura automobile dealers priced at just $995.

Designed and developed by Honda engineers in Ohio and Californi,a the Motocompacto has 32 patents under its belt.

“Motocompacto is easy to use and fun to ride, but was also designed with safety, durability, and security in mind,” said Nick Ziraldo, project lead and design engineering unit leader at Honda Development and Manufacturing of America. “It uses a robust heat-treated aluminum frame and wheels, bright LED headlight and taillight, side reflectors, and a welded steel lock loop on the kickstand that is compatible with most bike locks.”

Folded, it is slightly bigger than cabin-compliant luggage. (Photo from Honda)

The now-vintage Motocompo was created in 1980 and manufactured between starting 1981 to 1986. Designer Yoshiaki Okabe was inspired by the World War II-era British Welbike folding motorcycle. He designed the Motocompo to fold and fit into the trunk of the Honda City, a Japan-only kei car, which he also penned.

Since the new Motocompacto inherits all the collapsible and foldable traits of its parent, it quickly transforms into its own compact, light, and stackable carrying box-like case that’s easy to take along in a vehicle, on public transportation or store in tight places. It is seen as the mode of transport for getting around city streets and college campuses. It’s designed with rider comfort and convenience in mind, with features like a cushy seat, secure foot pegs, on-board storage, a digital speedometer, a charge gauge, and a comfortable carry handle.

While the Motocompo’s smoke-spewing 2-stroke engine produced 2.5 horsepower, its all-electric successor has an electric motor that outputs 490 watts, the equivalent to about 0.66 horsepower. To make it go, a 48-volt lithium-ion battery with about 1.5 kilowatt-hours capacity is used. This gives the Motocompacto a range of up to 12 miles on a single charge. It can be fully charged in just 3.5 hours in both the folded and ready-to-ride configuration using a common 110 v outlet.

Honda said that “the zero-emissions Motocompacto is designed for the modern realities of urban mobility, providing riders with an easy and fun-to-ride alternative transport that greatly reduces their carbon footprint while offering great convenience.”

To realize what exactly this carbon footprint is deserves a comparison between the Motocompo and the Motocompacto. Though Honda did not release any emissions information on its portable gasoline scooter, according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a typical 49cc two-stroke engine produces about 1.5 grams of hydrocarbons per kilometer, about 0.5 grams of carbon monoxide per kilometer, and about 0.2 grams of nitrogen oxides per kilometer. This means that the total emissions from a 49cc two-stroke engine are about 2.2 grams per kilometer.

According to Honda, the Motocompacto is designed to be personalized. “With sleek and simple styling that’s perfect for decals, stickers, skins, and more. To enhance the joy of ownership, a fun and functional line of branded Motocompacto accessories will be available, including a helmet, backpack, apparel, and more.”

A clever phone app enables riders to adjust their personal settings, including lighting and ride modes, via Bluetooth. Charging is quick and convenient with a standard compact charger that can be stowed on-board.

“The Honda Motocompacto is a great option for anyone looking for a fun, convenient, and affordable way to get around town. It is perfect for short trips, commuting, and running errands,” Honda shared in its official press statement after the launch of the electric motorcycle.

A clear view of the Motocompacto’s design with a direct motor drive and the battery pack shows ample storage space when the handlebars are not folded. Photo from Honda

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Raymond Tribdino

Raymond Gregory Tribdino is the motoring & information technology editor of Malaya Business Insight ( in the Philippines. He has been covering automotive, transport, and IT since 1992. His passion for electric vehicles started with the failed electrification of a scooter in 1994. He wrote for, one of the pioneer electric vehicle websites, in 1997. He was a college professor for 8 years at the Philippine Women’s University. He is also now a podcaster co-hosting for the Philippines' top-rated YouTube tech site “TechSabado” and the baby-boomer popular “Today is Tuesday.” He is a husband and father of five, a weekend mechanic and considers himself a handyman, an amateur ecologist, and environmentalist. He is back to trying to electrify motorcycles starting with a plug-in trail motorcycle.

Raymond Tribdino has 106 posts and counting. See all posts by Raymond Tribdino