Motorcycle industry boss responds to reports of 2040 petrol motorcycle ban

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The CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) has confirmed that we could see a fresh announcement on the phase out of petrol bikes ahead of the UK Parliament summer recess in July, however states nothing is currently set in stone.

“As the representative body for the industry, we are in constant dialogue with the Ministerial Team and Department for Transport (DFT) senior officials on all policy changes that will affect our sector,” MCIA CEO, Tony Campbell told MCN.

“Whilst we are expecting an announcement on ‘phase out’ ahead of the summer recess, there is no definitive news as yet. Once we do hear, MCN will be one of our first phone calls,” he continued.

A petrol MV Agusta riding on a road with an electric Zero

Campbell’s comments come following a news story released in The Telegraph on May 12, which stated we could see an end to the sale of all new petrol motorcycles by 2040, with petrol mopeds coming far sooner in just 2030.

The article further stated that ‘industry sources’ had suggested that the full plan would be announced soon, and that it was unclear whether the full policy had yet been signed off by politicians.

While Campbell wouldn’t be drawn on this claim, he believes we could see something announced before parliament breaks for the summer on July 23.

Electric motorcycle charging indicator on TFT dash

“As an industry, we are confident Government is listening to our concerns and therefore when an announcement finally arrives, it will have taken into account the sectors challenges and provide the timeline needed to develop the technologies that will be required to meet any future regulation,” the industry boss continued.

Where do we currently stand?

Although a hard cut-off date for new non-zero emission motorcycles is yet to be confirmed, a Government consultation that ran from July to September 2022 proposed the phasing out of some smaller petrol-engined machines by 2030, with the whole lot leaving forecourts five years later.

Honda PCX125 on the road

As this date draws closer, many brands are now pushing towards a more open sourced future, rather than a complete dependency on electric. This is because some industry bosses believe current battery technology cannot meet the demands of all motorcycle genres.

Over in Japan, Suzuki are entering this year’s Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race on an experimental GSX-R1000R running specialist fuel containing 40% bio sourced material – using it as a research exercise to assist with future model production.

They have also been working alongside Kawasaki, Yamaha, Honda, and more in a partnership research the viability of hydrogen as a future fuel – however also state that electric could be a viable solution for some markets including low capacity commuters.

A side view of the Suzuki GSX-R1000R endurance race bike

“For scooters and commuters of course EV could be a good solution,” Suzuki Motorcycle Operations, Marketing, and Product Planning Division Manager, Akira Kyuji told MCN earlier this year.

“For bigger motorcycles there should be some… way to overcome this carbon neutral problem by having e-fuel combustion engines. I think this experiment could help this direction for bigger motorcycles.”

Beyond this, MCN sat down with BMW’s Head of Product Management, Christian Pingitzer back in February 2024, who said: “It would be super smart to go into e-fuels as soon as possible, or synthetic fuels, to get rid of the emissions that we have at the moment with all of the range.

BMW Head of Product Management Christian Pingitzer

“And then look closely into the innovation of other concepts. Electric is one of them, but it’s probably not the answer to each and every thing – unless we come up with a magic battery with no weight, and an acceptable price, that gives us an acceptable range.”

Further support for an open source future came from the MCIA themselves back in October 2023, following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s shock decision to extend the sale of new combustion engined cars and vans to 2035, up from 2030.

“What does this do as a minimum? The Government got it wrong,” Tony Campbell said at the time. “[It] allows the industry to say don’t get it wrong with us, because we appreciate there isn’t as much of a stake as in the automotive industry, but our industry is so complex and nuanced that if you get it wrong for us, you could kill us!”

Filling up a petrol motorbike

Strong opinions

Although the MCIA remain optimistic on future Government decision making, the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) have taken a far stronger stance on decarbonisation – calling for an immediate end to any proposals to remove the sale of combustion two wheelers in the UK.

Part of their 2024 general election manifesto, launched on May 13, called ‘Move on Motorcycling,’ the document reads: “We seek a Government that will move the national attitude toward motorcycling, embracing its sustainability benefits and positively encouraging its adoption.

“In short, we seek a Government that will firmly break with the past, scrap the proposed ban on internal combustion engine-powered vehicles (ICEVs) along with the staged EV sales targets for manufacturers, and let motorcycling flourish.”

Current electric sales

Zero SR/F naked electric bike

Despite some resistance to electric from some manufacturers in certain segments, April sales figures released by the Motorcycle Industry Association do show that registrations are currently on the rise.

Compared to the same month a year earlier, battery sales have increased overall by 23.2% across all categories – climbing from 336 in 2023 to 414 in April of this year. However, whilst this is significant growth, it is dwarfed by 9546 petrol-powered combustion bikes registered in the same period.

Across April, the biggest electric category for growth was A2-ready machines, lesser than or equal to 35kW (47bhp). Here, there was a 525% increase compared with April 2023 – however it actually represents a climb from just four to 25 registrations.

Overall, year to date sales of electric bikes are up by 10.4% compared with 2023 – sitting at 1188, compared with 1076. Year to date ICE registrations sits at 36,724 – down by 0.2% compared to the same time frame in 2023. Combined, year to date sales are up 0.1% on 2023.