Electric sales dented by grant loss: Sporty electrics slump but smaller machines continue to fly out of showrooms

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Sales of small capacity electric bikes and scooters are on the up, but bigger, more powerful and expensive machines are struggling – hit by a combination of last December’s cut to the Government plug-in grant and economic concerns due to Covid-19 and war in Ukraine. 

March sales figures published by the MCIA (Motorcycle Industry Association) show that mid-range 15-35kW electric bikes, such as Zero’s 33kW FXE, were down by 50% on the previous year.  

In addition, sales of the biggest, 35kW+, premium sports electrics, including Harley-Davidson’s 78kW LiveWire, and Zero’s range-topping 82kW SR/S and SR/F, had plummeted by more than 37%. 

Energica Eva

“The removal of the plug-in vehicle grant meant people scrambled to get bike sales finalised,” Alec Sharp of the English Electric Motor Company told MCN. “I believe that in the short term it has affected the sale of larger electric motorcycles, however, I am confident things will settle down and we are starting to see renewed interest with the better weather returning.  

“We are all positive with the ever-growing interest in riders moving to electric – subsidy or not electric is here to stay!” 

The Department for Transport announced changes to the plug-in grant scheme on December 15, 2021, meaning battery motorcycles priced up to £10,000 would now receive 35% off, up to a maximum of £500. Mopeds would get 35% off, up to a value of £150. 

Under old rules, all new road-registered electric bikes received a price reduction of £1500 or 20% – whichever was smallest – at the point of sale. 

Plugging in an electric bike

In response, Harley and Zero both said they would offer buyers a £1500 subsidy to compensate, although these schemes only ran until January 31. As a result, big electric bike sales were significantly up in January but then fell in February and March. 

Dale Robinson of Zero UK said: “This [offer] did lead to higher than expected registrations in January from buyers who brought forward their purchasing decision.  

“This was balanced out by a slight dip in February and March but, since the start of the traditional bike buying season, things appear to be back to where we would expect them to be.” 

Niu MQi GT Evo on the road

What’s more, sales of smaller electric bikes and scooters, such as the 50cc equivalent 1-4kW category and 125cc-equivalent 4-11kW class, continue to rise – with sales up 90.7% and 277.3% respectively on last year. 

It should also be pointed out that although the percentages mentioned here appear large, overall numbers of electric sales remain comparatively small.  

Total electric bike sales in the year to March were 1920, compared to 28,000 new petrol machines. While the number of bigger, 15kW+ electrics bought in this period was just 30 bikes. 

Electric bike manufacturers step in to cover reduced plug-in grants

First published on 17 December, 2021 by Dan Sutherland

Harley-Davidson LiveWire riding shot

Premium electric bike firms Zero and Harley-Davidson have announced they will continue to knock £1500 off the price of new machines into 2022, after the Government revealed changes to the plug-in grant scheme to exclude motorcycles priced over £10,000.

The shock change was revealed without notice by the Department for Transport on Wednesday, 15 December – with battery motorcycles priced up to £10,000 now receiving 35% off, up to a maximum of £500 and mopeds getting 35% off, up to a value of £150.

Under the old rules, all new road-registered electric bikes would receive a price reduction of £1500 or 20% – whichever was smallest at the point of sale.

In response to the announcement, Harley-Davidson have confirmed they will continue to offer buyers a £1500 subsidy until January 31, 2022 when purchasing a LiveWire – one of the bikes now excluded from any Government help, due to a price of £28,995.

Harley-Davidson say they will be reviewing this offer going forward, to see if it can be extended for future customers.

Also honouring the price reduction are Zero Motorcycles, whose entire range is no longer entitled to any grant money. Their offer will also last until January 31 2022, meaning their cheapest DS model will continue to stay at £10,570.

Zero SR S on the road

Managing Director of Zero Motorcycles Europe, Umberto Uccelli, said in a statement: “We were stunned to hear of the withdrawal of the Office of Zero Emission Vehicles’ grant on Wednesday, which came completely out of the blue.”

He continued: “After consultation with our dealer network, we are able to offer a £1500 subsidy, equivalent to the outgoing grant, to purchasers of a new Zero motorcycle until the 31st of January.

“This ensures that those thinking about buying a Zero will have a transitional period in which to make their purchase at the price they would have paid prior to Wednesday’s announcement.”

But it’s not just big bike firms reacting to the change, with the UK arm of small capacity electric firm Sunra also pledging to maintain their 2021 prices until at least March 1, 2022.

Sunra electric moped on the road

Logan Black from Sunra UK said: “Naturally we are very disappointed with the Government’s decision to apply this change of grant to electrically powered two-wheelers. This announcement has been compounded by receiving no notice, leaving dealers and consumers confused.

“Whilst there is a degree of logic in reducing the grant incentive for high value electric cars, applying the same constraints to entry level EV motorcycles, like those of the Sunra range, appears to conflict with the grants original mission statement.

“We are however, committed to providing cost-effective, zero emission transport, and so we have decided to freeze recommended prices until at least the new registration change on March 1 2022, subsidising the difference to make our products as accessible as possible to customers.”

Government announces cuts to electric motorcycle grants

First published on 15 December, 2021 by Dan Sutherland

The Zero SR/F will no longer be entitled to a Government grant

The Department for Transport has announced changes to the plug-in grant scheme, which will exclude electric motorcycles priced over £10,000 and likely limit the money off mopeds to just £150.

Previously, all new road-registered electric bikes would receive a price reduction of £1500 or 20% – whichever was smallest at the point of sale. However, new plans will see battery motorcycles priced up to £10,000 receive 35% off, up to a maxiumum of £500 and mopeds get 35% off, up to a value of £150.

Announced on Wednesday, December 15, as part of a larger revision to the plug-in scheme, the DfT says these changes have been made to help funding go further – with £582 million pledged to continue the grants until at least 2022-2023.

Chief Executive of the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA), Tony Campbell, criticised the plans, saying: “This is not a way to incentivise the consumer to think electric and buy electric products. What this will do, clearly, is it suddenly completely changes the landscape of the affordability of an electric power two-wheeler.

“If you’re looking at one of the cheaper model Zeros for around £10,000, that £1500 could’ve been the difference, or the motivator.”

A prime example of this would be the A2-compliant £12,300 Zero FXE – one of the firm’s cheapest motorcycles, which will now no longer be entitled to any money off. Under the old scheme, it would’ve been £10,800.

The announcement also leaves high-end electric machines from the likes of Harley-Davidson, and Energica exempt from a grant, but Campbell believes the real impact will be felt in small capacity electric mopeds and scooters, where they are proving to be popular.

Electric mopeds have proven popular with the old Government grant

“£150 is 10% of what the previous grant was, so they’ve taken 90% away,” the MCIA boss continued. “It’s purely spreadsheet politics. It’s not about decarbonisation, it is about the fact that they’ve probably overspent on other sectors and now we’re clearly paying the price as well.

“Moped category vehicles make up roughly 50% of the market now,” he continued. “In most cases, the grant – as it was – fundamentally aligned an electric powered two-wheeler with its internal combustion engine equivalent, which is why we’ve seen such a success rate in the grant and its impact in sales.

“The moped category this year will probably end up with around 10,000 vehicles – half of which will be fully electric,” he added. “If you look at the 50% it looks like a fantastic success story, but this is only the tip of potentially what the iceberg could look like.

“Therefore, it’s ridiculous at this point, to change the grant when it has been so successful.”

On top of the grant revisions, the announcement went on to pledge improvements to the UK charging infrastructure in 2022, with over 27,600 charging devices now publicly available.

The official statement continued: “Earlier in the year, government consulted to improve the consumer experience at public electric vehicle charge points. Next year we will introduce new rules that will increase confidence in our electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Charging an electric motorcycle

“This will mandate a minimum payment method – such as contactless payment – for new 7.1kw and above charge points, including rapids.

“Consumers will soon be able to compare costs across networks in a recognisable format similar to pence per litre for fuel and there will be new standards to ensure reliable charging for electric vehicle drivers.”