Emissions standards for motorcycles are much laxer than passenger cars, almost entirely ignoring the emissions reduction potential for this transportation mode. Whereas Regulation (EU) 168/2013 introduced Euro 5 standard for new type approval starting in 2020, there is no explicit requirement to reduce the CO2 emissions in the following years.
In addition to high CO2 emissions, motorcycles are of significant concern for other air pollutants, especially high-level emissions of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and as one of the primary sources of noise pollution in urban areas. At the same time, due to the flexibility resulting from their utilisation primarily for entertainment, motorcycles are clear contenders for electrification incentives and targeted bans to reduce vehicle emissions.
The particular challenge with incentivising the switch away from traditional motorcycles is that they have a loyal following. As recent polling conducted by the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations has shown, up to 45% of riders would switch to alternative transportation rather than purchase a newer zero-emissions or electric motorcycle. The costs of e- and zero-emissions motorcycles also present a challenge, as 89% of respondents said they would refuse to pay more for one than for a classic motorcycle, and e-motorbike costs remain stubbornly high. Zero, a US-based startup manufacturing only e-bikes, charges around €16.000 for a bike, and a Harley-Davidson e-motorcycle will run north of €30.000 – incredibly expensive compared to traditional motorcycles.
One option is using incentives to promote switching from other forms of transportation, away from standard motorcycles, or to incentivise the purchase of e-motorcycles. One of the most common forms of incentive is a rebate, which has been proposed in Washington state, who’s legislature proposed a USD 1.000 rebate for the purchase of zero-emission or e-Motorcycle, in conjunction with federal rebates which are already in place. At a press conference, Washington Governor Jay Inslee noted that the state’s current incentive for e-Motorcycle purchase, a sales tax exemption was “woefully inadequate”. They hope that the proposed rebate would push a broader population segment to adopt electric vehicles.
Other incentives promote switching away from motorcycles and combustion-driven vehicles to zero-emission alternatives, focusing on promoting a specific form of transportation and the decision to stop using greenhouse gas-emitting vehicles. Finland offers special compensation for those who switch from using cars to zero-emission transport options, like e-motorcycles and e-bikes.
Bans and regulation
On the other hand, municipalities can effectively use bans and regulations to ensure reduced usage and emissions from motorcycles. Barcelona has utilised the implementation of a low emissions zone (LEZ), where only motorcycles made after 2003 are eligible for permits to access the city centre during peak hours. The city has plans to strengthen requirements in the future. Paris has recently proposed a ban on all two-wheelers within the city to reduce noise emissions and emissions reductions.