Ride Green? Why Not? The environmental case for Motorcycles


There was a lot of good information that came out of the recent Motorcycle Industry Council SymposiumMIC_left (Inroads to the Future) and believe it or not we plan to get that stuff up over at www.dealernews.com. So, until we carve out a chunk of time to write up some stories on what Paul Leinberger had to say and on the new Revive Your Ride program backed by the MIC Aftermarket Committe, we’ll do some quick and dirty here on the blog.

The MIC/DTM’s Ty van Hooydonk gave a brief presentation on the green angle (the Environment!) of motorcycling. Much has been said about this, especially during last year’s felonious sadistic high gas prices. Maybe too much as there have also been studies showing that motorcycles produce far more pollutants than cars. But Ty’s message was an attempt to move beyond the emissions argument for more of a total approach. Rather than parse what he said and try to re-explain it, Ty was kind enough to pass along his presentation that we’ll present in its entirety. Thanks, Ty.

The MIC is working to refine our green message for motorcycling, with some help from Sierra Research, which is one of the leading research and consulting firms in the field of air pollution control, and with Tom Austin over there, our partner for more than a decade.

It’s good to see that a number of manufacturers are talking more about green issues on their Web sites and posting some impressive MPG figures on certain models.

Motorcycling has long been green in a number of areas but it seems like sometimes we sell ourselves short when we’re talking about bikes. We know there’s more to it than miles per gallon alone. Even non-riders should be able to appreciate what a two-wheeler does, in total, for the environment versus a car or even a hybrid.

It starts with thousands of pounds less, tons less, in raw materials. There’s also less to scrap or recycle at the end of a bike’s life cycle. Less burning of fossil fuels equals less energy used to pull it out of the ground. And it means less greenhouse gases.

Besides less gasoline, there’s less use of other chemicals and oils in a motorcycle throughout the life of the bike. There’s no air-conditioner. Many bikes are air-cooled, so no anti-freeze. The list goes on. Many bikes take around two or three quarts of fresh oil when it needs changing. Many cars take five.

Combined motorcycle emissions amount to less than 10 percent of the total emissions from all motor vehicles. Motorcycle manufacturers have been required to make bikes cleaner and cleaner. In fact, the emissions of today’s motorcycles are about 70 to 75 percent cleaner than bikes 30 years ago. In California, it’s about 90 percent cleaner.

Now, new cars have close to zero emissions of pollutants. So it could be said that motorcycles emit 10 to 20 times more pollutants than new cars, but that’s only because new cars are so close to zero.

In California, a big state for motorcycling, and in many other places around the world, motorcycles are allowed to lane-share and filter through clogged car traffic. That means that instead of sitting there idling away, burning fuel and polluting the air without getting anywhere, a motorcycle is almost always getting its rider somewhere, and sooner, too.

And since we help ease traffic, even a little bit, that helps reduce everyone else’s emissions, no matter what they’re driving.

Altogether, motorcycles are green machines in a lot of ways, capable of everyday transportation, in many areas for many months of the year, all while minimizing waste. And we know from our MIC Owner Survey that more riders are using their bikes for commuting and errands, so that’s good news.

This is a message we’re working harder to deliver out there and we hope you take it to heart, too.

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One Response to “Ride Green? Why Not? The environmental case for Motorcycles”

  1. Motorcycle Industry Council: Two-wheelers are green » Hybrid News Says:

    […] [Sou&#114ce: De&#97le&#114 &#78ews] […]

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