Transport Committee - Plug-in vehicles, plugged in policy?Written evidence from the eMotor Cycle Industry Association



eMCI is a “sister” association to the Motor Cycle Industry Association. It was established in 2011 to bring together the developing ePTW sector and provide both a voice and also a framework for product policy development and support.

eMCI is available to give aural evidence to a session of the Transport Committee. Please contact Craig Carey-Clinch (contact details above) if this is required.

From January 2011, the Government awarded a £5,000 subsidy for the purchase of low carbon vehicles. This grant, named the “Plug In Grant”, has survived the Coalition Government’s spending review and is widely considered to be of both significant political and practical value; it underlines the Governments recognition of the embryonic electric transport sector whilst also giving the sector valuable “pump priming” by making the purchase of an electric or hybrid vehicle a viable transport option for the general public.

Also included in the Government’s plans has been a £30 million fund for a network of electric vehicle hubs, called Plugged-In Places, to promote charging infrastructure in car parks, major supermarkets, leisure and retail centres, as well as on the street.

However, notably absent from these initiatives has been any support for electric powered two wheeled transport (ePTW). This omission is an important and disturbing oversight.

The Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCI) held meetings with both the Office of Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV) and with Ministers from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) in relation to the new and developing ePTW sector from early 2010.

Ministers indicated in 2010 that they would appreciate a report on the sector which will help them consider policy and proposals for “Stage Two” of the “Plug In Grant”. This was provided in January 2011.

Further meetings with OLEV were held in 2011 and during this period, the motorcycle industry launched a new association for the alternative powered motorcycle sector, the eMCI (e Motor Cycle Industry Association). . This is a sister body to the Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCI). The launch event was attended by London Mayor, Boris Johnson.

eMCI has considered a number of technical issues in relation to ePTWs in some depth and has also liaised with industry colleagues in Europe, via the ACEM association (European motorcycle industry). OLEV has observer status at the eMCI Board.

As 2011 progressed it appeared clear that it would be difficult to determine criteria for including ePTWs in the Plug In Grant in time for the Government’s 2012 review. However, OLEV expressed an interest in including reference to the work that was being done on ePTWs in the Review, indicating that further evaluation would be undertaken in relation to any further review of the availability of the Plug In Grant. This was an important and welcome acknowledgement of the growing importance of the ePTW sector.

However, to the industry’s dismay, the 2012 review once again omitted any reference to ePTWs when it was published.

It is fair to say that despite regular dialogue with OLEV, the motorcycle industry is extremely frustrated by the Governments seeming unwillingness to take the ePTW sector seriously. This attitude seems to follow the longstanding pattern that exists with regard to motorcycling and overall transport and business policy.

The situation with the ePTW market draws this omission into sharp focus. In February 2011, Zak Goldsmith MP asked the Secretary of State for Transport how may ultra low emission vehicles were registered for the latest period for which figures were available.

Data from the DVLA suggested that 1,277 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles were registered in Great Britain during 2010: 268 cars, four quadricycles, 547 motorcycles, mopeds, scooters and tricycles, six buses, coaches and minibuses, and 452 commercial vehicles, including light vans.

This revealed that the ePTW sector was a significantly important component of the e-vehicle sector—indeed the most important sector.

However, 2011 figures revealed a drop in sales due to recessionary factors (to 402) and also (arguably) due to a lack of recognition in Government policy. The sharp increase in eCar sales to over 900 in 2011 provides further evidence of how the Plug In Grant led to what was in effect a suppression of the ePTW market.

Summary of the ePTW Sector

The electric powered two wheeler (ePTW) sector is expanding rapidly, driven by a genuine enthusiasm for a greener, low emission transport alternative. Entrepreneurial by necessity, the sector has sought out its own solutions to the issues of design, manufacture and sales of a whole new generation of electric powered two wheeled vehicles, creating a route to market that is fresh and new and designed to meet the demands of a new generation of commuters.

Design and technology are an important element of this growing transport sector. The initially slower pace of engagement by the major manufacturers left the door open to smaller design houses and technology companies to seize the initiative and secure valuable market share. As demonstrated by companies like Intelligent Energy, the potential for “UKPLC” to become a global technological “hot house” is enormous.

Over the last twelve months, many traditional major manufacturers have also revealed development of various ePTW products for market and manufacturers are taking a keen interest in technical issues and standardisation of such items as plug in technology and e-safety.

The ePTW has been impacted on negatively by the Plug In Grant, insofar as the grant omits the ePTW, with this inadvertently placing the sector in the shade of their four wheeled counterparts. However, the ePTW is a key component of a fully integrated and sustainable low emission urban transport strategy. It provides an affordable “lifestyle” transport choice that avoids the issues of urban congestion and parking.

The sector has the potential for exponential growth if given the appropriate support.

The UK ePTW Industry

To stand a chance of fully exploiting the sectors enormous potential, to deliver a genuine ULC transport solution and to help position the UK as a technological centre of excellence for Electric Vehicles, the sector needs harmonisation and focus. This is one of the roles of the eMCI.

The UK Low Carbon Two Wheeled Industry is at a very early stage of development and is currently dominated by electrically propelled Powered Two Wheelers (PTW). Alternative power types, such as hydrogen fuel cells, are being developed by universities and researchers from the low energy sector (at least one concept in conjunction with a major motorcycle manufacturer)

The “industry” currently combines a number of small specialist technology firms focusing on battery and control unit technologies and entrepreneurs with business links to Far East Manufacturers who import and retail road ready motorcycles.

The traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) manufacturers, the Japanese (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki & Yamaha) and their European counterparts (BMW, KTM, Triumph, Piaggio etc.) are all showing interest in the development of the ePTW sector, but only the larger companies have taken any public steps into the arena (though more manufacturers will be making product announcements during 2012).

Types of Product

There are three distinct groups of electric PTW’s:

Electric “Superbikes”: branded “electric superbikes”, these machines generally use a donor chassis and suspension from a current internal combustion engine (ICE) bike and are designed to give power and performance characteristics similar to their ICE equivalent. Mavizen Motorcycles are probably the most prolific in this sector, parent company TTXGP launching their “brand” at an electric motorcycle race around the Isle of Man TT course in 2009. Electric superbikes are designed primarily for recreational purposes where performance is one of the most important factors. These machines are still very niche and most of the design and production is based in the USA.

Electric Scooters: designed primarily as a short range urban transport solution, the e-Scooter is normally based on a generic ICE design, with an electric motor. The keys to success for escooters are range, recharge speeds, looks and design. Almost all e-scooter production is in China, but much of the design is European, indeed much is UK based. Current products mostly meet the range that commuters need for average daily travel mileages (National Travel Survey).

Electric Off Road Bikes: Zero and Quantya produce a range of e-motorcycles with off road capabilities. These are often targeted towards fleet users in the forestry/parks sector, or recreational off road parks. Many products have a battery range that is suitable for short range off road competition and motocross.

The Market and Trends

Currently, it is difficult to identify an existing sales “market” for electric motorcycles, despite many products being within the needs and capacity of many urban commuters. Those operating within the sector have identified a number of reasons for this lack of engagement, the most significant of which is a general lack of publicity/awareness of the ePTW sector as a viable transport option, which seems related to the lack of engagement with all other kinds of PTW within UK public policy.

Where sales are being made, almost without exception these are to short distance commuters in urban environments, with London being the dominant market place. As with ICE scooters, design is a key feature of a successful product and the best-selling ePTWs are following the trends already established. The growth in European designed vehicles supports this and more vehicles are being brought to market with design inspirations being taken from “timeless” designs such as those manufactured by Vespa and Piaggio.

Each of the manufacturers/importers has been working hard to create a market for its products but each has voiced a common concern regarding the lack of publicity around the ePTW alternative. Many of those in the sector believe that the public perception of “low emission vehicles” is overly dominated by electric cars and the car-focused publicity surrounding the “Plug In Grant” has only added to the problem for the ePTW sector.

The Challenges

Design and Manufacture

Design and technology are an important element of this growing transport sector. technology companies to seize the initiative and secure valuable market share. As with many things, manufacture of electric PTW’s is almost all overseas, predominantly in China.

However, vehicle design is very much European and a number of UK based design houses are making their name in creating innovative and exciting “lifestyle” design to attract a new generation of “carbon conscious” customers.


The key to the success of the electric vehicle as a viable replacement to the internal combustion engine lies in the hands of the technologists who are developing new innovative battery and motor designs.

ePTW technology needs to be at the cutting edge of design and performance, but also small and affordable. The UK can, with appropriate support and investment, quickly establish itself as the world leader in ePTW battery and motor technology, delivering ULC transport to the masses.

Routes to Market

Many of the key protagonists in the ePTW sector have identified potential for growth will not lie in the traditional motorcycle markets and are seeking out and embracing new and imaginative routes to market for their products.

Many of these new routes embrace the internet, with customers buying their machines on line, engaging the internet generation and helping to keep the supply chain costs as low as possible. This is vitally important for those looking to establish start up businesses as, by its very nature, the market for low emission vehicles is small and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future as financial constraints drive commuters to utilise cheaper current solutions.

Charging Infrastructure

One of the most significant challenges facing the “electric revolution” is re-fuelling.

Not only are there relatively few EV charging points, the length of time needed to meaningfully refuel a typical EV can be highly impractical.

The issue of recharging is even more significant for those who have no off street parking. They will effectively be prevented from recharging their vehicles at home. Ironically, these are the very individuals—urban dwellers whose daily commute is short and generally congested—who could benefit most from EV’s.

ePTW’s offer the perfect solution to this problem. More and more ePTW’s are being delivered with cartridge type battery units which can be easily removed from the vehicle and taken inside to charge. This has the added benefit of rendering the vehicle immobile and, by virtue of the relative cost of the battery as a percentage of the vehicles overall cost, unattractive to thieves.

The Role of Government

The ePTW sector has been damaged by the “Plug In Grant” because the press and PR coverage has focused exclusively on the electric car sector. All of the representatives of the ePTW sector were very critical of the “Plug In Grant”, not only because it didn’t include PTWs, but because it drew attention and public awareness away from the two wheeled option.

ePTWs have an important place within any low emission transport strategy and need to be included in any funding mechanism. In a congested urban environment, like any of the UK’s major conurbations, ePTW transport is arguably more relevant in terms of road space taken in relation to the number of people travelling, parking space required, energy used and as a consequence needed to be replaced, and, ultimately, practicality.

An effective transport strategy must be as diverse and multifaceted as the communities and business it seeks to serve. From public and private transport to transport for business and courier/freight sector, a combination of conventional ICE, Hybrid and full EVs can work together to create a truly sustainable and fit for purpose transport strategy.

ePTWs have a key role to play in such a strategy, particularly in the urban commuter sector and also, potentially, in the light weight urban commuter industry. For solo commuters, the ePTW offers an emission free, congestion proof, time saving and more efficient transport option. With an average urban commute of 9 miles, and no requirement to exceed 40mph, 75% of the current crop of ePTWs is capable of matching the needs of the today’s urban commuter. Future developments, technological and design will only improve this situation and make the ePTW even more relevant.

Policies Required from Government

1.Plug In Grant for ePTW’s—a scheme similar to the Grant for cars to encourage people to examine ePTW’s as well as their four wheeled cousins.

2.Inclusion of the ePTW in all future EV planning and policy—the ePTW is noticeable only by its absence—or at best token mention—in virtually all Govt and non-Governmental policy documents.

3.Recognition of the added benefits of the ePTW in terms of congestion, parking and most importantly CHARGING.

4.Recognition of the benefits of the e-Bike in the overall ULC transport infrastructure.

5.Inclusion of the ePTW in the development of Charging infrastructure across the UK.

6.Government support to Technology start up businesses working on low carbon technology, with a focus on ePTW.

April 2012

Prepared 20th September 2012