We have brought up the idea of saving money on gas by riding a motorcycle or scooter a few times now, and invariably, we get comments which state that motorcycles are worse for the environment than cars. Is that true? Not necessarily. Exhaust emissions are calculated in parts per million, and more parts per million of harmful particles in the exhaust is bad. This is often cited in defense of cars, as motorcycles often have worse ratings in parts per million that autos. But, what about the difference in total amount of exhaust? The smaller the engine, usually the less total exhaust comes our the tailpipe. So, motorcycles with smaller engines may or may not be better for the environment that automobiles. Note, too, that most modern motorcycles are equipped with fuel injection and modern computer controls in addition to their necessary catalytic converters (click for a test in 1999 - warning: .pdf), all of which make quite a difference in overall harmful emissions. Remember, the worst polluters are the old 2-stroke bikes, which are not sold really in America anymore.

But, what about electric motorcycles? Here is one made by Lightning Motors. The bike is based on the Yamaha R1, which, at 1000cc, does not have a small engine from the factory. The R1 is one of the highest performing motorcycles on the roads today, and is a bit of a status symbol. The conversion is slightly ungainly, because of the box-like lithium ion batteries hanging from the frame spars. The article also speaks of charging the bike using solar panels, which is an intriguing possibility for an electric cycle, as they should need fewer hours of charging for the distance required to travel in comparison to a heavier, more powerful electric car.

[Source: LA Times]


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