Is this the early death of new petrol bikes?


INTHEZONE's electric mobility range collection, a 100% electric powertrain, significantly is helping the environment by reducing CO2 and noxious fumes emissions while saving oil reserves. 

Government consulting on plans for the early death of new petrol bikes

If you thought you could ignore electric motorcycles, there was a big wake-up call from the UK government last month. Over the summer holidays, when most media attention was elsewhere, the Department of Transport began a consultation on ending petrol-powered new motorbike sales and outlined its proposals for change. 

And they’re pretty stark: no new petrol motorbikes under 125cc can be sold from 2030 – just over seven years from now. And *all* new petrol-powered motorcycles will be banned from 2035. That means around 12 years before your local dealer will only be allowed to have new electric bikes for sale.

No more petrol 125cc bikes from 2030…

The plans seem to be a simple copy and paste from the agenda for cars, where all internal combustion engines will be banned from 2030, with hybrid machinery permitted until 2035. But there’s little recognition that motorcycles are very different from a car. Large four-wheeled machines can easily accommodate a big, heavy, expensive battery pack as part of their design and pricing.

Fitting a power source weighing hundreds of kilos is pretty straightforward in a family car: there’s the petrol tank space and plenty of room under the floor pan and around the boot area. The electric motors are generally much smaller than a large petrol engine, allowing more room. If the car sells for £30-40k, there’s room to absorb the battery cost too.

But motorbikes don’t have the same margins for space and mass, even allowing for no fuel tank and a smaller powertrain. You can manage quickly enough with a very low-powered short-range urban machine, equivalent to a moped or small scooter, where the battery pack is light and cheap.

But the moment you try and match the power and range of even a reasonably standard middleweight machine – say a Kawasaki Z900 or a Triumph Street Triple, the battery pack becomes very heavy, large and expensive. And certain machine types – supersport bikes, adventure bikes and full-dress tourers, say, are simply impossible to produce with the same – or even comparable – weight, range, power and cost figures.

Without a significant step-change in battery technology, which looks unlikely in the timescales required, the bike market will suffer significantly in terms of reduced machine choice and availability. The laws won’t affect used machines – you’ll still be able to buy and sell second-hand petrol-powered bikes – but as time goes on, that will become harder, as bikes wear out – and there will be zero innovation in bike design possible.

The Zero is an example of what’s currently available for electric bikes.

Another great budget choice is the INTHEZONE M8; a beautifully versatile Harley-styled that would be an ideal tourer or commuter with impressive performance―the classic-looking fat tire electric scooter comes with a 2000-watt brushless motor. Equipped with 3-level Throttle and sturdy aluminium alloy wheels. 

There are even worries about the widespread availability of petrol longer-term, as cars and vans all switch away from internal combustion engines. Even basics like engine oil and spark plugs could become niche items.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the motorcycle industry and rider groups have responded with various degrees of disappointment and anger. The MCIA – the trade body for the bike industry in the UK – usually is relatively restrained in its public statements. But it calls the plans disappointing and calls for more time for the phase-out and 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 today’s 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, particularly 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 market segments.”

The National Motorcyclists Council is a lobbying group which argues for riders’ rights at a high level in Government. Again, it’s typically quite diplomatic in its communications. Still, it also seems to be fuming about the proposals. It argues strongly that the Government has not looked hard enough at the situation or considered alternative submissions, including hydrogen power and synthetic biofuel use.

NMC’s executive director, Craig Carey-Clinch

The NMC’s executive director, Craig Carey-Clinch, said: “The Government’s ambitions in this area are running ahead of what may be reasonable to deliver. Successful transition in any field requires those affected to be content with the changes proposed. In the case of zero-emission motorcycles, particularly in the premium market segments, current product availability, price point, the current state of electric bike technology and rider acceptability suggests that much more will need to happen before a reasonable target date for total zero-emission new production can be established.

Given the wide diversity of rider requirements and activities across the sector, it is not yet known whether manufacturing can meet these proposed targets with a range of motorcycle types which will have broad market appeal among riders.

“One of the knock-on effects of these concerns is scepticism among sections of the motorcycling public about the electrification of motorcycles. This should not be brushed aside by the Government. Rider opinions must not be ignored in a rush to decarbonise.

“The NMC is also disappointed that the Government sees alternative fuels as only a stepping stone to full electrification. This is not the technology neutrality the Government claims to have. The move towards net zero is a matter which is too technologically detailed to restrict it to battery electrification only. Imposing specific technologies means limiting choice and therefore creating a constraint on innovation. Automotive manufacturers (and the aviation industry) are making significant investments in developing synthetic fuels, which have the potential to allow ICE technology to continue while being part of the move towards decarbonisation. Other technologies, such as hydrogen-powered vehicles, are also part of developing new technologies.”

Is this what the future looks like?

Finally, the Motorcycle Action Group is uncompromising in its opposition to the proposals. MAG Chair, Neil Liversidge, said: “MAG opposes the proposed ban on the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs), whether it be from 2035, the originally mooted 2040, or any other date. MAG likewise opposes any policy that leads to increased fuel costs or the reduced availability of fuels for ICEVs.”

And Liversidge says he has the backing of MAG members – and opposes the ban on ICE-powered cars too. “Our survey showed that at least 80% of motorcyclists oppose it, despite green activists targeting our survey to skew the result. We estimate that the actual proportion of motorcyclists who oppose the ban is well over 90%. We shall faithfully represent the views of our constituency. We also oppose the ban on the sale of ICE cars proposed in 2030 and stand resolutely with the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD).

“We note that the consultation asks ‘when’ the ban should come about. Our answer is ‘Never!’ We demand a dialogue on whether it should come about at all.”