The Legacy Of Honda's Motocompo Lives On In New EV Bikes

Weird vehicles make for interesting stories. Whether it's an adorable EV dune buggy, old-school all-glass surrealism courtesy of Ferrari, or an eccentric electric camper, the sheer "what the heck" factor of an automobile is enough to raise an eyebrow or incur a quick Google search from the curious car enthusiast.

While a number of strange vehicles arrive at an auto show only to disappear for their inability to make the transition to the real world, every now and again, manufacturers stumble on weirdness that works. Outlandish innovation and practicality don't have to be enemies – when they work together to deliver a truly effective piece of engineering, that's art. One example of that is the Honda Motocompo, a utilitarian motor scooter so tightly constructed that it could fold up and fit in the trunk of a car.

And while this Motocompo is no longer produced, there remain two successors seemingly inspired by its rectangular crown. The Honda Motocompacto and the Koma Tatamel both derive from that original concept of a foldable bike that slots comfortably into a car. What's even better is that they've made the jump to electric-power.

Honda keeps it weird

The Motocompo was an exciting concept plagued by practical inconveniences. The original folding scooter could be cumbersome and had just a 49 cc one-cylinder engine that put out all of 2.5 horsepower, limiting performance to roughly 30 miles an hour. That's meager even for a light rider on an open road. At the same time, the necessary bulk of even such an underpowered engine made lugging the thing around a bit of a chore. Unfortunately, the lovable Motocompo didn't meet projected sales numbers and ultimately perished in the 1983.

Honda has not given up on the folding bike as a major player in the 21st century market, however. As Cycle World reports, Honda unveiled multiple concepts afterwards that claimed to execute on the Motocompo's modular, hyper-efficient model while addressing its limitations. In 2001, Honda brought the e-Dax and e-NSR to the Tokyo Motor Show, both folding bikes with electric motors. In 2011, they revived the Motocompo name for the same event, unveiling both a battery-powered collapsible bike and a concept car it was built to slot into. Neither made it to production, but as recently as 2022, Honda secured the trademark for "Motocompacto" in the U.S. and Canada, and defined it as a "self-balancing electric scooter."

Icoma wakes up the folding bike paradigm

If Honda intends to get a Motocompacto to market, it may have to do so quickly. As of its debut at CES 2023, Japanese manufacturer Icoma has every intention of putting its own tribute to the original Motocompo on pavement in coming years. Per CNET, Icoma will start selling its Tatamel folding e-bike in Japan in April 2023. The price is projected to be $4,000.

As CNET reports, the Icoma Tatamel matches the rectangular profile of the old-school Motocompo, but its engineering is relentlessly modern. Much of the bike is customizable: side panels can be built of everything from wood to solar panels to a working TV screen. The speedometer is digital. All-electric design also makes it lighter, smaller, and easier to fold up than the clunkier gas-powered Motocompo.

All that said, the Tatamel does have one drawback in common with its 80s-vintage inspiration: limited power. The Tatamel tops out at just 25 miles an hour, firmly situating it as an urban runabout rather than a true highway machine.