In 2020, the Government announced that new petrol and diesel car sales are set to end in the UK by 2030. By 2035, all new cars and vans must be fully zero emission at the tailpipe. Between 2030 and 2035, new cars and vans can still be sold if they can drive a significant distance with zero emissions, for example, plug-in hybrids or full hybrids.

Driving ICE vehicles purchased ahead of the changeover dates will still be possible.

So what do the changes mean for motorcycles?

Over eighteen months after the planned change to new car and van sales was revealed, the government announcement clarified the position.

No new petrol motorbikes under 125cc will be allowed to be sold from 2030, and all new petrol-powered motorcycles will be banned from 2035.

Research undertaken by Minster Law in the aftermath of the Government announcement highlighted concerns by the biking community. Range, cost, the lack of noise on safety, the loss of the biking experience and concerns about the environmental impact of battery production were all cited as concerns.

Range and cost are issues shared by car buyers, while safety concerns centre on ‘silent running’ has to an extent, been addressed. To keep pedestrians safe, legislation requires EVs to emit a sound with a minimum frequency of 56 Decibels — which is as loud as an electric toothbrush. The sound should also mimic its behaviours. For example, the pitch should increase when the car speeds up. It is possible to have louder noise, and it was due to be introduced in the USA. However, it was abandoned, possibly because Tesla being Tesla, went a little too far, allowing vehicle owners to select goat bleats and DJ horns to alert pedestrians!

The most significant differentiator between EVs and e-motorcycles is an emotional one centred upon the biking experience. As with cars and vans, bikes purchased ahead of the changeover dates can still be ridden on UK roads.

Might the Ban on ICE motorcycles be extended?

While the government consultation period has ended, the Motorcycle Industry  Association (MCIA) continues to lobby. A recent meeting between the MCIA and the Minister for Transport Decarbonisation saw the Minister acknowledge and accepted that, currently, technology isn’t ready to transition ICE, higher powered PTWs to fully electric. It provides a glimmer of hope. However, the signs are that manufacturers are gearing up for an EV future.

The E-Future

For the sub-125cc bikes, the range of e-motorcycles continues to improve, and most current machines provide a range of 40 - 50 miles on a single battery; where they can take two batteries, 100 miles of range is possible.

It will be interesting to see what manufacturers can create for larger machines in the next twelve years. Harley-Davidson has already brought an electric motorcycle to market – the Livewire. Norton has secured ‘significant funding’ from the Advanced Propulsion Centre to research an electric motorbike that satisfies the brand’s criteria for performance, touring range, and lightweight handling. Triumph has launched a prototype bike with a 100 mile range.

By 2030, the Government aims to increase the charging network significantly, and the Department for Transport has earmarked £582 million for grants toward plug-in motorcycles, vans and taxis.

The change might be tough for the petrolheads amongst us, but if you have experienced the acceleration in an electric car, it might be very interesting.

Julian Oliver, National Motorcycle Manager

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