Photo: Ronen Topelberg

California is planning to ban sales of new petrol and diesel-powered vehicles, including motocross and enduro motorcycles. This will have a far reaching effect on the motorcycle industry

The electric future is getting closer. The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, announced a plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered vehicles, including off-road motorcycles and ATV’s. The ban is planned to start in 2035 with a ban on the sale of medium and heavy trucks in 2045. Road motorcycles are not currently included in the planned regulation, however, they could still be included in the ban at a later date.

California’s attempt to lead the way

The US state of California is facing natural disasters and significant air pollution. With 40 million inhabitants, California is also the largest automotive market in the US, and a significant market for off-road motorcycles such as motocross and enduro. The proposed ban is a direct response to California’s bushfires, heat waves and other consequences blamed on climate change.

Vehicles in California are responsible for more than half of the amount of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, 80% of smoke pollution and 95% of diesel particulate emissions. This, according to the governor, is the main cause of the poor air quality in Los Angeles for example.

The California’s regulators were instructed by Governor Newsom to develop a plan that would require automotive vendors to sell more zero-emissions passenger vehicles in the state, such as battery-powered cars and pickup trucks. The plan is for zero-emission cars to make up 100 percent of new sales in just 15 years. The goal for all heavy-duty trucks on California roads to be zero emissions is by 2045.

As part of the effort to present itself as a global leader on climate-change policy, California has already passed a law to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy (wind, solar and other carbon-dioxide-free sources) by 2045. In recent weeks the state has been scorched by record bushfires and Governor Newsom has found himself under pressure to do more.

Not everyone is happy

The 2035 ban will be imposed on new vehicle sales. It would not affect ownership of existing internal combustion engine vehicles or selling them on the used-vehicle market.

But not everyone is happy. Opponents of the plan claim a ban is not the solution for building a successful, viable electric-vehicle market. Such a market must be built on increased consumer demand for Zero Emission Vehicles and will require effective, wide-spread infrastructure.

The California plan is going to face a small obstacle: the Trump administration, as part of its rollback of Obama-era emission rules, has challenged the state’s authority to set its own pollution standards for cars and trucks. California claims it has authority to set its own rules under the 1970 Clean Air Act. That dispute is yet to be settled by the courts.

The future of motorcycles?

Manufacturers have time to accelerate the alternative propulsion capabilities – mainly electric vehicles – in order for them to mature to meet the schedules.

Such a ban will undoubtedly have far reaching consequences. Manufacturers will reduce development budgets on motorcycles as we know them today and invest large resources in emission-free alternatives. This will naturally include road motorcycles.

The various motorcycle manufacturers have a lot of work ahead of them. Since the closure of Alta – the American electric motorcycle company that manufactured electric off-road motorcycles – we have not seen a pure electric off-road motorcycle. Honda showed signs last year with the electric CR, but no progress in this project has happened lately. 

Although California is the first US state to plan a ban on internal combustion engines, it is not alone. 15 countries – including Britain, France and India – have already announced similar plans. This process of phasing out sales of vehicles with internal combustion engines has only begun and will continue to accelerate.

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