This week, 150 Heads of State and Government have convened in Paris, France, at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The goal of the Conference is to “reach a new universal climate agreement that is applicable to all,” according to the COP21.gouv.fr website. The hope is that some arrangement can be reached to help reduce carbon emissions worldwide and keep global warming from exceeding a two degree Celsius rise in the coming years.
Emissions legislation and the transition to cleaner energy, both of which are included as strategies toward curbing climate change, have obvious impacts on the motorcycle industry. Europe, for example, has set some of the most stringent emissions standards on motorcycles with further restrictions forthcoming. Further changes are likely to be seen in the US as well, in part because of the pledges two motorcycle companies have made in accord with strategies outlined by the White House in Paris. American Honda Motor Company and the BMW Group are now involved in efforts to address global warming, both companies signing the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.
In a press release issued November 30, 2015, by the White House, 154 companies are cited as having signed the pledge, each offering company-specific strategies to combat climate change. American Honda and BMW are currently the only two motorcycle OEMs to sign the pledge.
Here’s the text of the Pledge, in its entirety, courtesy of the White House:
We applaud the growing number of countries that have already set ambitious targets for climate action. In this context, we support the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.
We recognize that delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment.
Honda has made a commitment to “reducing its total company CO2 emissions by 50 percent by the year 2050, when compared to its 2000 baseline,” as well as to “reduce the CO2 intensity of its automobiles, motorcycles and power equipment products worldwide by 30 percent by the year 2020, as compared to its 2000 baseline.”
“Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases remain at the center of our vision for helping to address society’s energy and environmental concerns,” said Honda North America President and CEO Takuji Yamada in a company press release. “Our efforts toward reducing GHG emissions and other environmental impacts extend to every facet of our operations.”
Part of Honda’s strategy to reach these numbers includes increasing its use of renewable energies, “establishing zero-waste-to-landfill facilities and reducing energy usage throughout its operations.”
BMW is similarly motivated. Harald Krueger, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, provided this statement in a company press release:
“Sustainability plays a central role for the BMW Group. We have set up long-term sustainability goals which have defined targets to 2020 and thereafter. Therefore, we are pleased to join the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.”
“The American Business Act on Climate Pledge demonstrates our company’s public commitment to fight climate change by taking action,” added Ludwig Willisch, President and CEO, BMW of North America. “With this commitment, the BMW Group further shows its intent to continue being a leader in sustainability across the entire value chain: from R&D to manufacturing to operations.”
BMW’s goals include becoming the “leading automobile manufacturer in the use of renewable energy” by 2020 and continuing its investment in public/private partnerships aimed at “mass market adoption of zero-emissions vehicles.”
Strategies will be implemented at BMW’s California, South Carolina, Washington State and New Jersey locations and global initiatives will see the company reduce energy and water consumption in addition to reducing Volatile Organic Compound emissions from its vehicles.
EV technology has been slowly creeping into the mainstream motorcycle market over the past few years, highlighted by Harley-Davidson’s Livewire concept and Polaris’ acquisition of Brammo assets. Zero Motorcycles continues to lead the charge by improving the range and performance of its power sources, BMW put its C evolution electric scooter into production in 2014 and Yamaha has released a number of electric concepts. Pledges and promises are one thing, but actual resource allocation from major manufacturers will have a notable impact on the furthering of EV technology for motorcycles. An arms race to develop a smaller battery that provides better range, larger scale production to help reduce the final cost to consumers, investment in more charging stations and faster charging technology are all challenges to this shift to EV in the motorcycle industry. While the quiet hum of an electric motor will never replace the snarl of petrol-powered pistons and the sweet aroma of spent exhaust gasses, it will make for a very interesting and, hopefully, exciting industry in the years ahead. That’s our hope at least.