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Motorcycles Finally Go Green

From hybrids to fuel cell, more electric-powered two-wheelers are beginning to appear.

Published: 30-Dec-2008

Motorcycles are by definition efficient machines, but their Prius-like fuel economy often is accompanied by emissions that make a Hummer look clean. As regulators get wise to that fact and go after two-wheelers, the motorcycle industry is embracing alternatives ranging from battery power to hydrogen fuel cells.

The pace of development in recent years is remarkable considering motorcycle design hasn't changed much since the first Hildebrand & Wolfmuller appeared in a showroom 114 years ago. Materials have advanced alongside technology, but motorcycles are still an internal combustion engine between two wheels. Motorcycles may deliver 70 mpg or more, but they can be 10 times more polluting per mile than passenger cars. That has the United States and European Union pushing motorcycles to run cleaner and greener.

"As we look at the country's air-quality challenges, including greenhouse gas pollutants and criteria pollutants, what we've found is that every sector of the transportation area is going to be required to play their part in reaching our overall goals," says Karl Simon of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality at the Environmental Protection Agency. "So even though motorcycles and scooters may represent a smaller percentage of the pie when it comes to emissions inventory, it doesn't mean their makers shouldn't have proper incentive to be using new, greener technologies."

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