If you’re old enough to remember the original 1980s Honda Motocompo micro-motorcycle – or are like me and have enjoyed learning about it since – then today’s announcement from Honda will come with all sorts of warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia, either earned or learned. The long-awaited spiritual successor to the Motocompo has just been unveiled, and this time it’s gone electric. Meet the Honda Motocompacto.
The original 1983 Honda Motocompo was a tiny little gasoline-powered motorcycle designed to fit in the trunk of small car and give drivers a way to extend their reach into a city.
Instead of driving all the way in, owners could park on the outskirts of a city, pop out their tiny motorcycle from their trunk, unfold it into something that was more or less comfortable to sit on, then ride anywhere in the city.
If you’re thinking that an oil-leaking, gasoline-burning motorcycle isn’t a great thing to keep in the trunk of a car, then you’re right.
That’s probably why the little bike was discontinued after only two years.
It’s also likely why when Honda brought the old idea back to life today, they did it with an electric drivetrain instead. Which if you’re an Electrek reader, probably won’t come as a complete surprise. We covered Honda’s trademarking of the Motocompacto name last year and surmised that this was the likely outcome.
Just don’t expect peak performance from the Honda Motocompacto. In fact, you’d be well-advised to not get your hopes up for even moderate performance. The tiny little folding scooter has an even tinier drivetrain. The front wheel motor measures 490W and the top speed is a mere 15 mph (25 km/h).
The battery is listed as “6.8Ah,” though it’s impossible to determine the actual battery capacity without any info on the system voltage. With either a 24V or 36V battery, that would mean a measly capacity of just 163 or 245 Wh, respectively.
Honda does give us an estimate range, though the “up to 12 miles” (20 km) isn’t very promising. But then again, this is an urban-centric motorbike and few people commute further than 12 miles in the heart of a city. A 110V charger can recharge that battery in 3.5 hours and there’s even room to store the charger on board, just in case you want to recharge in the office under your desk.
As Honda described it, “Motocompacto is perfect for getting around cityscapes and college campuses. It was designed with rider comfort and convenience in mind with a cushy seat, secure grip foot pegs, on-board storage, a digital speedometer, a charge gauge, and a comfortable carry handle. A clever phone app enables riders to adjust their personal settings, including lighting and ride modes, via Bluetooth.”
The Honda Motocompacto takes much of the same folding inspiration from the original Motocompo, including handlebars and seat that drop down into the body. With the folding footpegs, the little scooter is a mere 3.7 inches wide (9.4 cm) when fully stowed. In fact, it folds up into a package barely larger than a briefcase, measuring just 29 inches (73 cm) long and 21 inches (54 cm) high.
Fortunately the Motocompacto’s weight 41.3 lb. (18.7 kg) is just under half the weight of the original 1980s Motocompo, so it should be much easier to actually slide out of your hatchback.
It appears that Honda plans to sell the Motocompacto along with some of its electric vehicles, according to Jane Nakagawa, vice president of the R&D Business Unit at American Honda Motor Co., Inc.:
Motocompacto is uniquely Honda – a fun, innovative and unexpected facet of our larger electrification strategy. Sold in conjunction with our new all-electric SUVs, Motocompacto supports our goal of carbon neutrality by helping customers with end-to-end zero-emissions transport.
In practice though, it’s likely that few owners will actually treat it like a dinghy for their car in the same way that the original Motocompo was used. Instead, it’s probable that the Motocompacto will stand on its own as part of Honda’s small yet growing electric scooter and motorcycle lineup.
The bike sounds like it was designed as a primary vehicle, as explained by Nick Ziraldo, project lead and design engineering unit leader at Honda Development and Manufacturing of America:
Motocompacto is easy to use and fun to ride, but was also designed with safety, durability, and security in mind. 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.
Now the only question is whether or not it will sell. Priced at US $995, sales will begin exclusively online and at Honda and Acura automobile dealers in November.
I’m about as pro-micromobility as anyone on the internet, but I’ll tell you right now that the coolest thing about the Honda Motocompacto is merely the fact that it exists. If you actually look at specs and pricing, there’s not too much to get worked up about.
Sure, Honda’s engineers can pull a muscle patting themselves on the back all day for bringing back the Motocompo, which is a really cool feat. But a thousand bucks for a briefcase with wheels? That’s a tough sell.
The original Motocompo was so incredible because it was the only thing like it – there just weren’t any other tiny motorbikes that could fit in a trunk. These days there are literally a thousand different electric scooters and mini e-bikes that can fold up to fit in a trunk and fulfill the same role as this thing. So ultimately, that means the only differentiator here is the design. And it IS a legitimately cool design. In fact, it looks awesome. The origami game is strong with this one. But I’d still rather ride a JackRabbit or a folding stand-up scooter if I’m looking for a serious micromobility for urban use. They’d fit in a car trunk just as well and would actually give better performance as well as bang-for-your buck.
But even after saying all that, I’m still going to be tempted to buy one of these just for “kicks and jiggles” as my non-native-English-speaking wife likes to say. It wouldn’t even be the first weird little folding e-bike thing I’ve bought this month.