NMC Calls on The Government to Show More Ambition on Motorcycle Decarbonisation

Net zero motorcycling should be about much more than just battery electric motorcycles and arbitrary UK-only targets

May 19, 2022

The National Motorcyclists Council (NMC) has today published its position on motorcycle decarbonisation and its policy on the potential end of internal combustion engine (ICE) production for motorcycles. The position was reached after extensive consultation among motorcycling and other organisations both in the UK and internationally.

A target of 2035 has been mooted as the phase out date for all ICE powered motorcycles, with a government consultation on motorcycle decarbonisation due shortly. The NMC opposes an arbitrary target date, given that it is not yet known whether a global manufacturing base can meet a UK-only target with a range of motorcycle types which will have broad market appeal among riders, given the wide diversity of rider requirements and activities.

The NMC calls for the Government to take a technology neutral approach to decarbonisation, utilising all methods available, not just battery electric. Other technologies such as hydrogen and synthetic fuels for ICE engines all have a role to play in a net zero future. The move towards net zero is a matter which is too technologically detailed to restrict it to battery electrification only. Imposing specific technologies means limiting choice and creating constraints on innovation.

The NMC also opposes any retrospective proposals which would ban or restrict petrol powered motorcycles already in circulation. Protections for the use of historic and classic motorcycles need to be put in place – including security of supply of fuels.

Given the environmental benefits that would arise from a greater use of current motorcycle types, the NMC urges far greater consideration of motorcycling as a lower cost and cleaner form of personal transport which can generate significant carbon savings from road transport right now if supported in government policy right now.

Although there have been impressive percentage market increases for zero emission motorcycles in the last two years, this is from a low base and is currently focussed on the smaller largely scooter based end of the market, rather than in the larger bike and premium markets. This has been for various reasons, not least the greater technical challenges posed by the need to adapt technologies and create market acceptable products at a price and with a range that will attract a wider market uptake, than is being faced by the car industry.

One of the knock-on effects of this has been scepticism among the motorcycling public about the electrification of motorcycles. Two 2021 rider surveys (MAG and FEMA) revealed that a high percentage of riders who responded are currently unwilling to give up riding ICE motorcycles. This is difficult to ignore, or brush aside. Successful transition in any field requires those affected to be content with changes proposed.

NMC Executive Director Craig Carey-Clinch said: “The Government should show more ambition in this area. Net zero should not mean the end of the internal combustion engine, but instead we should be looking towards a ‘mixed economy’ of battery electric, synthetic ICE fuels and other types of technology, with current motorcycle types properly recognised from now as a lower Co2 transport choice. Innovation should be encouraged, not restricted to narrow pathways.

“The roll out of battery electric small motorcycle types in the last few years has been impressive and this is to be welcomed, as is the innovation in manufacturing and design. But in the case of the larger and premium motorcycle market, current product availability, price point, effective battery range and charging times, suggests that much more will need to be done before rider confidence will allow a reasonable target date for full net-zero emission new production to be considered. The views of riders are an essential part of that consideration. It is clear that a different regulatory approach will be needed which recognises where electrification works for the market and where it currently poses challenges which cannot be ignored.

“Against a backdrop of motorcycle production being global, not local, technological constrains risk market and economic shocks if done to arbitrary UK-only timetables. This is particularly important at a time of rising prices and against a backdrop of fragile global economies, coupled with post-pandemic supply chain issues, plus knock-on effects from the war in Ukraine.”

The NMC supports the partnership between the MCIA and Zemo, announced in 2021, aimed at generating a ‘road map’ towards zero emission new motorcycles. The NMC is participating in this work through the industry’s ‘UK Motorcycling’ forum which is considering a range of decarbonisation issues. The NMC has also committed to close dialogue with the government and will work with the Council’s international partners, as decarbonisation policy develops.


1. For further comment from the NMC please contact Craig Carey-Clinch, on 07979 757484 / craig@uknmc.org

2. The NMC's position on motorcycle decarbonisation can be found in the downloads area of the NMC website (here)

2. National Motorcyclists Council members are: The Auto Cycle Union, the British Motorcyclists Federation, IAM RoadSmart, the National Motorcycle Dealers Association, Plantec Assist, the Trail Riders Fellowship and the Vintage Motor Cycle Club

Photograph courtesy of Harley-Davidson via Unsplash