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Proof PTWs are greener

MCIA research confirms green credentials of bikes and quadricycles, forming basis for new campaign with government.

It might seem like a no-brainer to the dealer on the shop floor, but the MCIA now has solid academic research which proves that both electric and petrol-powered bikes, trikes, scooters and quadricycles are far greener in terms of their total life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than competing vehicles like cars and light vans – even the latest battery-powered models. And the industry association is now taking that information to government in an attempt to gain further state recognition for the motorcycle industry.

The MCIA-commissioned research project, carried out by green transport consultants Zemo Partnership, used in-depth ‘life-cycle analysis’ to compare the GHG emissions of powered light vehicles (PLVs), including powered two wheelers, with larger vehicles. The Zemo study assessed eight typical vehicle uses, focusing mainly on urban areas, where bikes or quadricycles could replace cars and vans. The cases included daily urban and longer-distance commuting on smaller bikes or trikes, inner-city courier work on scooters, suburban parcel delivery via larger cargo quadricycles, and weekend leisure riding on a 950cc bike, with researchers comparing a bike or quadricycle with a car or light van in each case.

Zemo found that in almost every case, where the load requirements allowed the use of a PLV, substantial greenhouse gas emission savings were delivered. Moving to smaller and lighter vehicles gives significant GHG reductions and significant benefits can be gained by using electric PLVs which require smaller batteries, have lower GHG production impacts and lower energy requirements in use.

And according to the research, for higher mileage applications, the benefits of zero tailpipe emissions operation are amplified even using today’s grid electricity. But for very low mileage use the embedded GHG of a battery-powered electric vehicle (BEV) means battery size is critical. And the biggest savings can be seen when using electric PLVs for intensive commercial operations such as scooter food delivery, urban parcel delivery, or city commuting use.

Zemo’s life cycle analysis looked at the greenhouse gas output across a vehicle’s entire life, including the energy used to actually build the vehicle, the costs of the fuel or electricity used while travelling, the costs of recycling the vehicle at the end of its life, as well as the costs of any replacement batteries needed. Calculating this figure on an ‘emissions per kilometre’ basis allows direct comparisons between different vehicles, from small battery mopeds, through petrol-powered middleweight motorbikes and up to petrol and diesel cars and vans.

MCIA CEO, Tony Campbell, said: “Our sector has always been a staunch advocate of the right vehicle for the right journey approach. Zemo’s findings show why giving road users access to a variety of transport solutions that satisfy a particular need at a particular time, is and must be the way forward. We’re looking forward to continuing our work with the government on finalising our sector’s action plan and remain steadfast in ensuring its full and proper implementation this year.”

Andy Eastlake, Zemo Partnership CEO, said: “There’s a great opportunity to decarbonise transport through the use of smaller and lighter vehicles and to multiply the gains we can achieve through electrification. We should embrace PLVs as a key part of the spectrum of road transport solutions, which of course range from active, shared and public transport, through to cars, vans and HGVs.

“Detailed life-cycle assessment is a fundamental consideration in the context of transport decarbonisation, but it is critically dependent on the assumptions around vehicle lifetime, mileage and battery replacement as well as the rate of decarbonisation of the electricity grid over time. Hopefully, this new study begins to inform that discussion and paves the way for our ongoing work with government and the MCIA”.

Paddy O’Connell, head of National Motorcycle Dealers Association, which represents PTW dealers in the UK, commented: “Whilst consultations with government are still taking place, the data provided by Zemo Partnership is a positive step to remind decision makers that our industry is already providing low net emission vehicles for both leisure and business use.

“It is encouraging that the Zemo Partnership’s report further shines a spotlight on PTWs as a greener form of mobility. The NMDA continues to represent dealer members in talks with government to ensure that any transition away from traditional fuels is neither to the detriment of our industry nor its loyal riders and customers”.

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