This is a Sponsored Post by Honda.
In line with our philosophy of “being a company society wants to exist,” Honda has committed to achieving carbon neutrality globally by 2050, and we fully support the UK Government’s ambitions to hit net zero and to decarbonise transport. In fact, throughout Europe, we have already hit our ambitious target for 100 per cent of car sales to feature electrified powertrains (EV, plug-in hybrid, advanced hybrid) by 2022.
We have also committed to achieving carbon neutrality in new motorcycle sales globally during the 2040s. We plan to introduce ten electric motorcycle models globally by 2025 and aim to sell 1 million units annually within the next five years, and 3.5 million units annually (equivalent to 15 per cent of sales) by 2030.
However, as the world’s leading motorcycle manufacturer, bringing all of our experience and technical resources into this challenge, we do not believe a full phase out of conventional petrol motorcycles can be achieved until well after 2040.
Here in the UK, motorcycles and scooters provide millions of people with efficient, affordable, low emission mobility. Accounting for less than 0.4 per cent of UK transport CO2 emissions, the sector has a minimal impact on the nation’s CO2 emissions. And indeed, the sector supports decarbonisation by providing an alternative less emissions intensive mode of transport than cars and vans.
The government’s plans to end the sale of all conventional petrol motorcycles by 2035 will therefore add little incremental value to reaching the UK’s emission reduction targets and, will unfairly penalise British customers by taking this mode of transport out of reach of many. A rushed approach to ending the sale of ICE motorcycles also risks limiting the benefits they currently provide in terms of alleviating congestion and reducing the impact of transport on air quality and emissions.
In addition, very few EV products on the market today can deliver the minimum performance levels, range, and top speeds that we know customers want from their bikes and scooters, at an accessible price point.
Developing products that meet these consumer requirements is not straightforward, as there are significant challenges to overcome in battery technology. These challenges are different from those that face the car sector, as issues around the weight and power of batteries are much harder to deal with on two wheeled vehicles. This is particularly true of larger capacity bikes, where to provide the requisite power/performance and range, the weight of the batteries would be excessive. Bigger batteries are of course more expensive, but also create issues for safety, stability, and manoeuvrability of two wheeled vehicles.
Motorcycles and scooters traditionally have provided a low-cost entry point into mobility. However, dealing with the technical issues outlined above means that electric motorcycles tend to have higher upfront purchase costs. Our data shows average purchase costs increase 25 – 35 per cent for 50cc bikes, 40 – 75 per cent for commuter scooters and 40 – 150 per cent for mid to large size motorcycles.
Unfortunately, unlike with cars, the higher upfront purchase costs are not mitigated by lower running costs. ICE scooters and bikes, with their strong fuel efficiency already have low average running costs. The current increase in electricity costs in fact mean that it could indeed be more expensive to run an electric bike than a petrol one.
Thus, in the context of the cost of living and affordability crisis, plans to end the sale of petrol motorcycles could block access to affordable, clean mobility to thousands of people across the country who need it most.
DfT data show that the average age of motorbikes has risen from a low of 9.4 years in 2002/2003 to 15.4 years in 2020—a rise of 63 per cent. Decarbonisation requires reversing this trend and supporting customers to purchase new, cleaner bikes in the short term. Increasing costs by mandating the sale of expensive electric bikes will slow down this necessary fleet renewal.
These factors are then compounded by the lack of charging infrastructure for bikes as they cannot use the same chargers as cars. Our experience in markets around the world shows that demand for electric motorbikes and scooters is driven by government incentives and charging infrastructure availability. While it is positive that the Plug in Motorcycle Grant has been maintained, plans to develop a robust motorcycle charging network are non-existent.
As ministers finalise their approach, we recommend that the government should instead support the development of a dynamic market, providing safe, high-quality scooters and motorcycles, manufactured to the highest standards for UK consumers. Global OEMs such as Honda, develop and manufacture products to these high standards and the current proposals risk re-shaping the market to low-cost, low quality, brands that may not adopt the same high standards that UK riders expect.
We understand government is seeking to deliver a “zero tailpipe emissions” approach. However, based on Honda’s extensive research and development activities, and acknowledging the unique and varied nature of motorcycle vehicles, Honda’s approach globally is to deliver carbon neutral scooters and motorcycles using a range of technologies, from electrification to ICE improvement to e-fuels. We urge DfT to take a similar, technology neutral approach to achieving emission reduction from motorcycles while not putting at risk a mode of transport that is relied upon, and enjoyed, by millions of British people.
Honda is committed to a net zero future for motorcycling. But this will be delivered through a multi-pathway approach, in which electric bikes will be part of the solution alongside other carbon neutral technologies.