On July 14, 2021, the U.K. Department for Transport issued a report titled Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge. A prior U.K. deadline for the sale of new gasoline and diesel-powered passenger vehicles had been 2040. According to this report, the government seeks to bring that deadline forward to 2035 if feasible.
Unlike similar reports from some governing bodies elsewhere, this U.K. report includes definitive language regarding motorcycles. One bullet point reads, “From motorcycles to [heavy goods vehicles], all road vehicles will be zero emission. Technological advances, including new modes of transport and mobility innovation, will change the way vehicles are used.”
To support this transition, the U.K. government plans to spend around 2.5 billion pounds (around $3,402,462,500) on a raft of measures. Some of this money will go toward grants for the purchase of plug-in vehicles, including motorcycles. Other parts of this funding will go toward building up the necessary charging infrastructure, at homes and businesses as well as residential and other types of roads.
Since the announcement was made, both industry and motorcyclist rights groups have naturally weighed in with their thoughts.
“It is encouraging to see that the Government is supporting the use of Powered Two wheelers and L category vehicles within their decarbonization plan, as these were not part of the plans previously,” began National Motorcycle Dealers Association head Paddy O’Connell.
“Zero emission motorcycles and other powered two wheelers are an efficient and clean form of mobility that can reduce congestion, improve air quality and reduce noise, especially in urban areas where PTWs are perceived as a preferred option for first and last mile deliveries,” he continued.
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to take forward measures to remove these emissions, including consulting on a date to end the sale of new non-zero emission motorbikes, and ensuring they support the development of new industrial opportunities for the UK. The NMDA will continue to engage with Government, and we will respond to all relevant consultations over the coming months,” O’Connell concluded.
Meanwhile, U.K. National Motorcyclists Council executive director Craig Carey-Clinch had this to say about the matter:
“This landmark announcement marks a fundamental change to the nature of motorcycling as we know it, and is not unexpected given the recent announcement for zero emission car production. The implications for motorcycling are profound and the NMC will be playing a full part in the forthcoming consultation on the proposed phase out date for new petrol- powered motorcycle production,” he began.
“We note that the Government recognizes the congestion benefits of motorcycling in general in the Plan and notes that motorcycles are an ‘important and sizable’ part of the vehicle fleet. The NMC urges the DfT to do more to recognize this and the lower polluting and cost saving benefits of current [combustion] motorcycles in its wider current transport policies. Particularly as the motorcycles, scooters and mopeds of today already play an important part in reducing emissions from road transport,” he continued.
“Although zero-emission motorcycles are increasing their market share in the lower powered commuter end of the market, and there are opportunities for the electrification of certain types of motorcycling activity right now, there is clearly some way to go before zero emission products will be available at a cost, specification and battery range that can encompass the needs of riders across the entire motorcycle range and for the diversity of reasons that people ride. Measures to encourage rider training and education to raise awareness of the new technologies will also be required,” Carey-Clinch went on.
“We can appreciate why the Government will wish to lay a target date as this will create focus. But this ambition may need flexibility if market and economic ‘shocks’ in the motorcycle sector are to be avoided in the event that both technology and market acceptability does not meet rider expectations by 2035. Government will need to be sensitive to this and also to the views of those who ride today – not just focus on tomorrow,” he concluded.
The NMC is comprised of multiple member organizations within the U.K. motorcycling ecosystem, including the Auto Cycle Union, the British Motorcyclists Federation, IAM RoadSmart, the Motorcycle Action Group, and the Trail Riders Fellowship.