Motorcycles: Good for the Environment or Bad to the Bone?

Is riding your hog causing too much of a fog?

motorcycle1

Just you vs. the open road… The wind blows through your hair (or hopefully helmet) as the engine rhythmically switches from monstrous revs to soothing purrs. Simultaneously, you enjoy dramatically better fuel efficiency than your average SUV driver.
Your mode of transportation from home to your destination is a big part of a green lifestyle. To go along with the better gas mileage, motor driven cycles provide other advantages such as: they require less material to produce, saving on energy and manufacturing costs; they are easier to maneuver in city traffic; they’re smaller, which eases traffic congestion and you can park them almost anywhere; and did we mention better fuel economy?
Aside from being all the rave in most European countries (which are known to be more “green” than we are here in the United States), you’re well on your way to doing your part with saving the environment, because motorcycles are better for the environment than your average four-wheel vehicle…. right?

They Aren’t Perfect for the Environment

That may not necessarily be the truth, because although they use less gas, the hydrocarbons emitted into the air from your average motorcycle, can be up to 90 percent higher than your average SUV (according to an article posted by the EPA)! Motorcycles also produce greater amounts of emissions called oxides of nitrogen which are one of three pollutants that the EPA and the California Air Resources Board measure to see whether or not a vehicle meets acceptable emission levels.
Hydrocarbons are caused by unburned compounds in fuel that escape through your vehicle’s tailpipe, gas tank and fuel line. When combined with NOx and sunlight, ozone is formed which is the key component of smog. These fumes can also cause damage to your skin, lungs, and eyes. According to the EPA, a study shows that hydrocarbons dry out the protective membranes of the nose and throat, interfering with the body’s ability to fight infection. Some hydrocarbons are also considered toxic, causing serious health problems such as cancer or even death.

Other Considerations

Of course, there are ways for you to enjoy your need for speed without damaging the environment:

The electric motorcycle

There are new electric motorcycles on the market these days. Many can travel between 50-100 miles between recharges which generally only require an hour to recharge fully. At the Portland International Speedway, a special high performance 390 horsepower electric track-only bike turned a 158 mile per hour quarter mile in only 8.192 seconds!

motorcycle2

Converting your current bike into an electric motorcycle seems complicated and expensive, but actually, it’s easier than you think and the money that you would save with the conversion, suggests that the makeover is well worth having a more eco-friendly motorcycle. sustainlane.com has a great article and video that discusses the prices and steps necessary to convert your bike.

Home sweet Vrooom?

Some bikes will carry you and one passenger, but you can’t transport many others on a motorcycle. Also carrying groceries is not really an option. With carpooling being essential in helping out the environment, motorcycles seem to go against this principle. You also are hampered by weather conditions. Cold weather, rainy or snowy weather and sometimes extreme heat are problems for riders.

Overall, keeping a smaller, fuel efficient motorcycle for local errands can save fuel and space.  A partially green solution if you will.  Not as good as riding a bicycle or walking, but generally better  than using an automobile.

Other Reading and References

Eco-Rider

RVs Go Green(or at least try)

16 Comments

  1. Gary W. Hunt December 21, 2009
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  15. Tom Morgan July 6, 2010
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