The 125cc class has long been the preserve of newly-qualified or young riders, but there’s an interesting alternative these days. Electric power is challenging the established masters in the superbike category, so there’s every chance it could take over in the lower capacities.
Electric bikes have come a long way in a short time, helped in part by development in the new class on the Isle of Man TT races and the TTXGP series. Now Harley-Davidson has joined the revolution, which was considered sacrilege in some quarters and a welcome addition to the likes of Lito, and Zero. There are high-quality electric motorcycles, but the big names coming in will give the whole movement a good deal of momentum and ensure that development picks up speed.
What were heavy and unwieldy bikes have been replaced with sleek machines that handle almost as well as their petrol-powered equivalents thanks to battery weights coming down and the ranges going up. Intense development from the likes of Tesla in the automotive world has brought batteries on in leaps and bounds and while they were just too cumbersome for a lightweight bike before, now the notion of them replacing the 125cc class entirely is perfectly feasible.
The environmental advantages are clear to see, as if every scooter, 50cc and 125cc in Britain was replaced by an electric bike there would be thousands less pollutants on the roads at a stroke. Noise pollution would also be reduced, especially in major cities. The road tax, while it is only £17 for a 125cc, is still an expense that young riders could do without.
So there are a number of advantages and now that battery-powered bikes are catching up to their petrol-powered brethren in the handling stakes the only real negative is cost. Electric bikes contain new technology, which still comes at a price premium. Earlier this year, though, the government added electric motorbikes to its incentive scheme, which gives grants of up to £1500 against the cost of a new zero emissions motorcycle.
With a number of tax breaks, discounts and the gradual decrease in price that will inevitably result from the technology becoming more mainstream, electric bikes will slowly increase their market share in the years ahead. The market will dictate whether they take over entirely from their petrol-powered equivalents, but there’s no reason why they couldn’t, especially in the lower capacity classes that populate our city centres right now.
Honda Accounces End of Civic Natural Gas
Honda is already at the forefront of Hybrid technology and its Insight and Civic hybrids have won plaudits around the world. The Civic Natural Gas was a brave step in a new direction, but now the Japanese marque has announced it will cease production and introduce a new fuel cell vehicle in 2016.
The Japanese manufacturer has sold 16,000 examples of the Civic Natural Gas in the US, mainly as a fleet vehicle to companies. Considering the relatively niche compact market and the fuel source, the experiment has largely been considered a success, but the falling price of petrol has forced Honda to reconsider its stance as the Natural Gas model’s main advantage lies in the price of the fuel and that advantage has slowly been eroded. The infrastructure simply has not caught up, either, as Natural Gas has not been adopted by other manufacturers.
Honda has announced the end of the vehicle in 2016 and it will be replaced with a Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle. Hydrogen has long been touted as a fuel of the future, but it too has been largely eclipsed by battery-powered and hybrid cars as the likes of Tesla, BMW and even Ferrari have turned to batteries instead. Honda, too, is heavily invested in batteries and the Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle seems almost like an insurance policy when the tide is turning against Hydrogen, which has proved expensive and inefficient to produce so far.
Honda has not revealed where the Hydrogen Fuel Cell car will be sold, but it is likely to be restricted to California, which is one of the few US States to implement the kind of infrastructure required. In other States Hydrogen fuelling stations are few and far between, which can cause problems for potential owners.
This patchy infrastructure, compared to the relative simplicity of plug-in hybrids, means that the pendulum is likely to swing further in the favour of battery-powered cars in the future and without a major breakthrough in Hydrogen production it is hard to see how the gas-powered car can come back. Honda is clearly keen to maintain some interest in Hydrogen-powered cars, though, so there must be at least some potential for the future.