Electric Motorcycles Are Coming
"The Sound Of Silence" belongs to Simon and Garfunkel
Let’s take a moment to sit quietly; just soak in the sound of silent. Its quite nice for a moment away from the chaos of life, right? Now image that’s how motorbiking life is going to be soon and panic starts to set in.
As much as we’re being “Guided/Forced” into reluctantly accepting battery powered cars, its slipping under the radar that the same ban on the sale of new motorbikes is looming. Motorbikes under 125cc and Quadbikes will have their demise by 2030 and all other motorbikes by 2035. That’s just 12 years for us seasoned bikers, it doesn’t seem believable to me. So, you had better start saving for your forever petrol bike, then cherish it more than “Your own crown jewels.”
I still miss the smell of two-stroke, so I don’t know how I’ll feel with a soulless battery pack strapped to my groin, rotating two wheels like a Catherine Wheel, whilst I wait for the charge to run out. Long rides will be a distant memory. My eyes will be glued to the charge meter rather than the road, butt-clenching with less and less power to ensure I don’t get stranded and having to call out the AA with a generator to get me going. Its not like topping up the tank and a within couple of minutes being back on the road, “No Sir-ree” join a queue at a charging station and wait for what will feel like forever.
To me, the joy of biking is the smell of hot oil, the exhaust fumes lining your nostrils and sweating your nads off waiting for the lights to change, especially if you’ve got under-seat exhaust pipes. Then there’s the growl of the engine, the vibration that starts from the handlebars and earths back to the bike through your crotch.
Lets for a moment, take the emotion out and look at the practicalities. It’s straightforward to take out the drive train from a family car and replace it with an electric motor; even the batteries can fit into the space of the fuel tank and under the floor pan in the luggage area, but a motorcycle doesn’t have that luxury.
Motorbikes simply don’t have the same margins for space and mass, even allowing for no fuel tank and a smaller powertrain. You can just about manage with a very low-powered short-range urban machine, equivalent to a moped or small scooter, where the battery pack is small, light and cheap.
But the moment you try and match the power and range of even a fairly standard middleweight machine – say a Kawasaki Z900 or a Triumph Street Triple, the battery pack becomes very heavy, large and expensive.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the motorcycle industry and riders’ groups have responded with various degrees of disappointment and anger. The MCIA – the trade body for the bike industry in the UK – is normally quite restrained in its public statements. But it calls the plans disappointing, and calls for more time for the phase-out, as well as an end to the early ban on light 125cc machinery.
“The Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) has been fully supportive of the Government’s net zero ambitions, for example through the L-Category Action Plan,” said an MCIA press release. “However, we are disappointed with the announcement to phase out all new non-zero emission motorcycles by 2035.
“Making up just 0.5% of UK domestic transport emissions, this news is a missed opportunity to allow industry more time to adapt, and for technology to catch up. Our case to Government explained why this sector needs a different approach, in particular where our products are primarily used for sport and leisure activities.”
And the CEO of the MCIA, Tony Campbell, said: “We recognise our environmental contribution will increase as other transport modes phase out and so support the decision to phase out L1 [50cc] vehicles by 2030. However, we do not support the decision to include L3e-A1 [125cc bikes], which even with an ICE powertrain are significantly more environmentally efficient than some electric cars.
“The government has not considered the complexities of the sector in terms of what is and isn’t feasible when it comes to phasing out the other key segments of the market.”
The National Motorcyclists Council is a lobbying group which argues for riders’ rights at a high level in government. Again, it’s normally quite diplomatic in its communications, but also seems to be fuming about the proposals, and argues strongly that the government has not looked hard enough at the situation or considered alternative proposals including hydrogen power and synthetic biofuel use.