Sales of motorcycles and similar light vehicles have plummeted in the past five years, from 2.7 million in 2007 to 1.7 million last year, industry figures show, hampering efforts to roll out a new generation of hybrid and electric transport.
“The crisis has deeply, deeply affected the European market,” said Hendrik von Keunheim, president of ACEM, the European motorcycle industry trade group. “Many European suppliers are struggling.”
The European Commission’s 2011 transportation White Paper and roadmap for a low-carbon economy both promote development of electric and alternative transportation to gradually reduce fossil fuel consumption. The White Paper calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 60% by 2050.
Development of electric, hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles that operate at a fraction of the emissions of traditional combustion engines is a central part of the shift away from gasoline. The EU executive says petroleum still accounts for 96% of transport needs.
But high initial costs of greener transportation and infrastructure needs – including fuelling and recharging stations – are putting the brakes on some developments, prompting manufacturers to call for national government and EU incentives.
“We need to get the consumer to change and they need to be encouraged,” Tim Meisner, manager of engineering strategy for Yamaha Motor Europe, said at an industry exhibit in Brussels.
Meisner, showing a visitor a new Yamaha Eco-3 electric scooter, said public subsidies like those provided for electric cars “would help, big time.”