Emissions and Electrification of the U.S. Motorcycle Market

By Globalmrv

Updated 9 April 2024

A motorcycle rounding a corner

In 2011, GlobalMRV made a historic appearance on the popular MythBusters TV show. We were asked to help conduct a test to see how motorcycles compared to cars.

The result?

Two-wheelers from the 2000s era performed terribly, with 3,220% more NOx and 8,065% more CO₂ than cars of the same era. 

From motorcycle myth busting to race car officiation

A motorcycle rounding a corner

That was 2011.

One year later, I had the distinct privilege of officiating the first U.S. TTXGP Electric Motorcycle Race at Sonoma Raceway.

The undercard race — featuring a dozen ragtag teams of early electric vehicle (EV) bike pioneers — was thrilling, to say the least. Many of the fans in the paddock were just as enthusiastic about the race as I was. Many fans left positive comments about the race.

There was a strong, growing potential for an electrified motorcycle future.

Present times: electric vehicles and emissions

A fleet of motorcycles all in a row

Yet, in 2024, an electrified motorcycle future still awaits. EV motorcycle sales continue to remain a tiny fraction of the U.S. automotive market.

However, two key factors could help the industry hasten its adoption into the mainstream global EV market. Those two key factors are regulation and technology.

The regulatory environment explained

A graph demonstrating average U.S. Vehicle CO₂ emissions

U.S. and global regulations have played a huge part in achieving substantially reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) emissions in the light-duty vehicle market. Part of the reason for the reduction of GHG emissions is that automakers developed and introduced ever-cleaner engines and hybrid technologies while investing heavily in EV-related development.

Now, these same regulators are turning their attention to other industry segments, segments such as off-highway machinery, ATVs, and motorcycles. This trend bodes well for the EV industry.

Improving internal combustion engine (ICE) emissions

A motorcycle with a Firefly PEMS unit strapped to the back of the vehicle

At the same time, major motorcycle original engineer manufacturers (OEMs) have made commitments to develop more electrified choices for their customers. For example, Honda — the global market leader in power sports — has set a target of electrifying 15% of its motorcycles, 30% of its automobiles, and 36% of its power products by 2030 as part of its global strategy.

Honda is pledging to reduce the rate of CO₂ intensity by 34% for motorcycles, 27.2% for automobiles, and 28.2% for power products (compared to the fiscal year of 2020). Other OEMs also have announced an increase in their electrified motorcycle product offerings.

With that said, adoption rates in the U.S. are expected to lag behind that of China and Europe.

Even if Honda achieves its modest target of 15% electrification by 2030, there is much work to do. By 2030, 85% of Honda’s products will still have ICE engines that will require emissions reductions. The time has come for more efficient designs and integration of emissions mitigation technology.

“By 2030, 85% of Honda’s products will have ICE engines that require emissions reductions.”

How do motorcycles affect the environment?

A yellow box on a motorcycle

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While manufacturers can bench-test their engines for environmental, sustainability, and governance (ESG) data efforts — and while On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) can report certain limited data points — much remains unknown about the real-world emissions of motorcycles.

GlobalMRV plans to revisit the kind of testing conducted back in the days of MythBusters.

With the improved functionality and unique portability of our Axion and Firefly Portable Emissions Measurement Systems (PEMS), our PEMS systems are already shedding some light on exactly how clean current motorcycles are in real driving environments.

The baseline data gleaned from our PEMS and HaaS products helps regulators as they seek to determine realistic motorcycle and power sports GHG reduction targets.

As a result of using PEMS, manufacturers can measure their incremental progress in creating more efficient, sustainable designs. As we approach 2030, PEMS can help manufacturers meet their emissions goals and help stakeholders adhere to evolving global emissions standards.

At GlobalMRV, we’ve collected and analyzed tens of thousands of hours of reliable data for clients of all different industries and niches. Our partnerships of Ph.D. researchers, managers, analysts, engineers, and technicians have run more than 60 different types of diagnostic testing regimes, supported over 100 different vehicles and engines, and saved companies millions on traditional dynamometer and real driving emissions (RDE) testing. To get started with PEMS and HaaS, contact us today.

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