For the past five years, anyone buying a plug-in hybrid or all-electric car in the UK has been able to apply for a UK Government grant equivalent to 25 percent of the sticker price of their vehicle (or a total of £5,000, whichever was smaller) to help offset the traditionally higher sticker prices associated with buying a plug-in vehicle.
To date, more than 25,000 customers have applied for that grant and as a consequence, numbers of plug-in cars on the roads of the UK have positively soared in recent months.
Under existing schemes however, funding has only been available for passenger and commercial vehicles, leaving those who want to enjoy the joys of two-wheeled zero emissions motoring having to pay the full sticker price for their electric scooter or motorcycle.
On Friday last week that changed however, with the announcement from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Department for Transport that the British Government could soon be offering bikers up to £1500 each in grants to help them make the switch to cleaner, greener bikes.
The final details are still being worked on, but both departments hope the scheme will be up and running in motorcycle dealerships as early as this summer. In total, up to £7.5 million is being earmarked to encourage zero emission motorcycle uptake, equivalent to funding around 5,000 zero emission motorcycle grants.
The new program comes on the back of meetings with the Electric Motor Cycle Industry Association and manufacturers like Suzuki, Harley Davidson, BMW, Volt and Mahindra, all of whom intend to bring zero-emission two-wheeled motorcycles or scooters to market in the near future.
We note however that two other zero-emission motorcycle manufacturers — Brammo and Zero Motorcycles — aren’t mentioned in the official governmental press release, despite being two of the most successful electric motorcycle brands to date. At the moment, Brammo’s range-topping Empulse R electric sportsbike is available to buy in the UK through a third-party vendor, but Zero Motorcycles suddenly pulled out of the UK back in 2013, claiming that a lack of UK governmental support meant that the British market for plug-in motorcycles was just too weak to sustain decent sales.
Another — Vectrix Motorcycles, which you’ll see pictured below — went out of business long ago, long before today’s announcement.
Interestingly, there are no official statement from any of the mentioned motorcycle manufacturers in the UK Government’s official press release save for Mahindra, which is aiming to bring its plug-in GenZe to market later this year.
Based on an underbone step-thru scooter design, the GenZe features an on-board charger that plugs into a standard household outlet rather than an official public charging station. Top speed is limited to 30 mph and it can travel a claimed 30 miles on its tiny removable 1.6 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, something we’re finding hard to quantify in real-world terms.
The GenZe also features a host of smartphone and smart connectivity features, including keyless ignition — the rider must enter a passcode to switch the scooter on — and a 3.5-hour recharge time.
That’s great for commuters in London looking for a way to avoid the tube and make a short trip across London on an easy-to-ride twist-n-go machine, but that won’t satisfy hardened bikers who will need to find something a bit more substantial to ride.
For them, we can only hope that some of the other motorcycle manufactures we’ve mentioned introduce their own range of vehicles to the market, or rather, introduce their current range to the UK market. And that includes Lightning Motorcycles, the Tesla of the two wheel world. Maker of the 200mph+ LS-218 superbike which has yet to officially enter into mass-production in the U.S., Lightning is promising us big things in the future, although to be part of the first batch of customers for the LS-218, you’ll need to part with an eye-watering $38,800, enough to buy two Suzuki Hayabusa 50th Anniversary Edition motorcycles and a commuter hack to spare.
Our point? While the proposed £1,500 grant will at least help towards the cost of buying an electric two-wheeler, some buyers may find that it’s still not enough to persuade them to part with their gas-powered ride unless they’re looking for a commuter scooter. To do that, motorcycle manufacturers may have to dig deep too — just as early electric automakers did — to bring the sticker price of plug-in two-wheelers down even more.
As we noted above, the scheme hasn’t been finalised yet, so we’ll bring you more information as that happens.
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