Last week, the UK government marked the first anniversary of its transport decarbonisation plan by unveiling proposals to phase out the sale of new fossil-fuelled motorbikes and mopeds by 2035, or even earlier, for some vehicles.

The government is already committed to phasing out fossil fuel use across road transport, with sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans ending in 2030; all new cars, vans, and trucks of 26 tonnes and under being zero emission by 2035; with 2040 as a backstop for all new road vehicles.

In a consultation that ends on 21st September 2022, it has proposed ending sales of non-zero-emission L-category vehicle sales by 2035 and 2030 for other specified vehicles.

L-category vehicles are a classification of lightweight vehicles (PLVs) with two, three, or four wheels separated into seven groups. The groups are based on weight, power output, number of wheels, and seating layout. L-category vehicles include mopeds, motorcycles, motor tricycles, quad bikes, and quadricycles.

L-category vehicles make up around 3.3% of licensed vehicles in the UK and are responsible for just 0.4% of transport’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In her foreword to the consultation document, Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said: “Zero-emission L-category vehicles are now hitting the market in increasing numbers. These vehicles have a wide range of uses – whether that’s to bring deliveries to your door in minutes; to travel the open roads on longer leisure trips, or to open up a whole range of educational and employment opportunities to those in the most disadvantaged communities. I am determined to further develop the electric capability of the UK’s iconic motorcycle industry which will open up the opportunity for new skilled manufacturing jobs across the UK.

Concerns raised by motorcycle organisations

Despite promises of further funding from the government to help with the change, the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) has criticised the plans.

“The government has not considered the complexities of the L-Category sector in terms of what is and isn’t feasible when it comes to phasing out the other key segments of the market,” MCIA Chief Executive Tony Campbell said.

“The MCIA and its members will be continuing to push the case for why large capacity motorcycles need more time to phase out and are looking forward to fully engaging with the consultation process to ensure the best outcome for the industry”.

The National Motorcyclists Council (NMC) was also concerned. NMC Executive Director Craig Carey-Clinch said: “The Government’s ambitions in this area are clearly running ahead of what may be reasonable to deliver. Successful transition in any field requires those affected to be content with changes proposed. In the case of zero emission motorcycles, particularly in the premium market segments, current product availability, price point, the current state of electric bike technology and rider acceptability, suggests that much more will need to happen before a reasonable target date for full zero-emission new production can be established.”

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