There is a war on the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE). A ban on gas-powered leaf blowers went into effect in Washington, DC 1 January, with fines of $500 for anyone caught using them. Governor Newsom of California signed an executive order that 100% of all new vehicle sales in 2035 must be zero-emission vehicles. Japan announced plans to achieve 100% electric passenger car sales by the mid-2030s at the latest. The prime minister of the UK announced new phase-out dates for ICE passenger cars and vans, moving from the initial 2040 target to specified goals for 2035 and 2030. In Canada, the plan states that the government’s intention is for electric vehicles and other zero-emission vehicles to constitute 100% of new motor vehicle sales in 2035, and that the sale of new gas-powered vehicles will be prohibited. The U.S. state of New York proclaimed that from 2035, only new zero-emission cars and light-duty vehicles shall be allowed to be sold. The relevant bill that provides that 100% of in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks shall be zero-emission by 2035 has been passed by the state’s senate and assembly.
This is not a joke and the time horizon is within the next 10 to 15 years. It is not clear where motorcycles stand, as most of the information I read is about “light-duty vehicles” and doesn’t single out motorcycles specifically. It will be interesting, given that Japan is a major producer of motorcycles, how THEY handle them in their strategy. Given Washington DC’s action on ICE motors on leaf blowers, it makes me wonder where scooters and motorcycles will fall. DC’s chief complaint about leaf blowers seems to be noise, but there is also a strong “green” component to it that doesn’t like their emissions either. I’m sure string trimmers, chainsaws, and the like will be the next to fall. The ostensible replacements in these cases are electrically-powered. Realistically, it may take quite some time to replace all the ICE-powered vehicles on the road, including motorcycles. Some may get treated as “vintage,” but I have seen reports of language out of the EU that says they’ll try to “discourage” older vehicles and phase them out through regulation (and probably taxation).
I’m not a “screw the planet” kind of guy: I don’t like seeing smog choking cities. I was shocked when China had to shut down all industry and travel around Beijing to get the air clear enough to hold an Olympics. There are definitely drawbacks to using ICE in close quarters and high intensity. What I am not sure we are ready for is the infrastructure required for a wholesale conversion to electric vehicles, tools, etc. I think there is still a place for internal combustion in the world; for example, two days ago the vast majority of my county lost electrical power due to a snow/ice storm and ICE generators came to the rescue. Having watched California go through rolling brownouts because of the lack of electrical generation capacity makes me wonder how we’re going to feed all the electric vehicles by the targets mentioned, along with the other consumption of electricity associated with large population centers. I don’t think the timing of increase in our electrical-generation capacity will support the vehicle targets mentioned earlier.
Motorcycles occupy an interesting niche in the ICE world: they typically have much smaller engines and get much higher miles per gallon than their four-wheeled counterparts. Even my big RT is pushing 50 miles per gallon and my middleweights are even higher. Motorcycles do not occupy a lot of space in an urban traffic or parking environment. I just returned from Buenos Aires, which like a lot of cities outside the US has a huge population of small-displacement motorcycles and scooters plying the streets. They filter through traffic, park everywhere, and are universally accepted. In Buenos Aires, they are a huge part of the delivery network of everything from food to goods and they take the place of much larger, diesel-powered vehicles. Motorcycles and scooters offer a unique opportunity to reduce congestion, increase fuel efficiency on average, and help alleviate parking problems. Unfortunately, in the US they haven’t garnered the universal acceptance we see in almost all other parts of the world. It will be interesting to see where two-wheeled, ICE-powered vehicles come out in the fray of the near future. I hope we will still be able to enjoy them for many years to come.