Reinventing the 2-wheel... The global motorcycle market, electrification and the solar promise

Jan 07 , 2020

Oliver Hildebrand

Reinventing the 2-wheel... The global motorcycle market, electrification and the solar promise

A global snapshot of the two-wheeler market and the trend towards electrification

While it’s difficult to get an exact figure, estimates of the total number of motorcycles on the world’s roads are around 200 million. While there are over a billion cars driving around alongside these two-wheelers, in some parts of the world the motorbike (particularly smaller-displacement models) predominates, a fact self-evident to visitors to many South-East Asian countries.

Vietnam, for example, recorded 45 million motorbike registrations in 2016, compared to just 500,000 for four-wheel vehicles.

As with larger electric vehicles like Tesla cars and trucks, the motorcycle market is undergoing a process of electrification, driven by steadily decreasing production costs and government policies and incentives geared towards decarbonizing the transport sector. In 2019, an influential think tank led by Indian PM Narendra Modi ambitiously recommended that new sales of motorbikes and mopeds be completely electric by 2025. This was motivated not only by green aspirations, but also a desire to reduce India’s reliance on foreign petroleum and diesel imports, with around 60% of national fuel consumption going into scooters and motorcycles.

Many Indian motorcycle manufacturers now offer EV options alongside traditional fossil-fueled counterparts, and as their popularity steadily gains it could have knock on effects outside of their national borders, with most of the motorbikes used in African nations coming from India.

Globally, the largest electric motorcycle manufacturers are from China, with brands like Niu Mobility experiencing strong growth in affluent Western markets, particularly in EU countries, with their focus on aesthetics, quality components and connectivity with mobile devices. In 2019 they achieved a significant milestone of 1 million electric moped sales. Instrumental to this success was a strategy of aggressively targeting style-conscious, younger demographics interested in an alternative to petrol-powered units in the 50-125cc range.

App-activated ride share services similar to the successful Lime model but featuring larger e-mopeds have also gained popularity throughout countries like Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands. One operator, eCooltra, boasts Spain’s largest fleet of ride share electric motorcycles, with over 2,000 vehicles from German manufacturer Govecs Group.

The carbon footprint of motorcycles and the potential benefits of going electric

The transport sector accounts for about 20% of global carbon emissions, but this proportion varies quite a lot from country to country. Factors influencing this disparity include geographic size of the nation, the quality and availability of public transport, levels of economic growth or stagnation, just to name a few. Given these numerous inputs, plus the poor data on the total number of motorcycles on the road in many countries (some who don't count 2-wheelers as registered vehicles) it is difficult to draw solid conclusions about the impact of motorcycles on emissions. However, looking at data from the World Bank it is clear that a number of countries in South-East Asia, Africa and South America -areas that have relatively high usage of motorcycles and mopeds - record transport emission percentages above the global average.

While many intuitively think that motorcycles, being generally more fuel efficient than cars, are better for the environment in terms of emissions, the truth is not so simple. A 2011 episode of the TV show Mythbusters road tested this idea, ultimately finding that while motorbikes are more fuel efficient and therefore produce less C02 than cars, they are much worse when it comes to other toxic pollutants such as hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide.

So, more evidence in support of going electric and embracing ride share mobility services like Lime and Bird e-scooters for getting around town right? Well maybe, but, again, things might not be so clear cut. A recent study on the environmental impact of dockless electric scooters found that while they are generally more environmentally friendly than using cars, a full lifecycle analysis reveals that they can be worse than other modes of transport like cycling and using buses or trains.

This holistic study looked at the total carbon emissions generated in the production of raw materials, manufacturing, shipping of the scooters from place of manufacture, plus the energy expended maintaining and regularly charging up the scooters. This last point in particular is often overlooked, as these companies employ people who drive around in cars collecting scooters to recharge, generating significant carbon emissions.

Further compounding the issue is the fact that in many countries, the electricity used to recharge light electric vehicles is generated from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels.

How Motosola can make riders see electric motorcycles in a new light

While many have hailed the move to electric vehicles as inevitable, there are a number of factors working against the uptake of electric options. These include:

  1. Relatively short range of autonomy given on a full charge;
  2. The lack of charging infrastructure in many countries;
  3. The time it takes to recharge electric vehicles.

Motosola's unique approach manages to defuse this trilemma of problems for light electric vehicles like motorcycles, mopeds and personal mobility devices.

Range is effectively increased in sunny conditions, as charge is maintained while driving. Having your own panel integrated into your vehicle tackles the second issue, meaning you aren't solely dependent on publicly available charging stations when out and about. Thirdly, the ability to charge and ride simultaneously mitigates the issue of time lost to recharging, particularly important for commercial drivers.

Plus, on top of all these practical benefits, Motosola offers a truly green, zero-carbon power generation option for manufacturers, distributors fleet operators and riders of electric motorcycles. It really is the clean green solution for the light electric vehicle revolution...