Japanese motorcycle manufacturers Honda Motor, Yamaha Motor, Suzuki Motor and Kawasaki Motors plan to stop producing about 20 models currently available in the market.
Motorcycle manufacturers are forced to give up some of their older models as stricter ‘Reiwa 2-year emission regulations’ environmental standards are enacted in Japan in November. They have been in effect for new models of Japanese motorcycles since the end of 2020.
Challenges for Japanese motorcycle manufacturers
Environmental regulations in Japan comply with the Euro 5 standard for motorcycles introduced by the European Union in January 2020. It provides for a 33 per cent reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions that motorcycles emit while driving. Experts note that the Euro 5 standard for them is almost identical to Euro 6 (Euro 6) for passenger cars in the European Union. Since September 2014, a limit has been in force according to which light passenger cars with diesel engines must not emit more than 80 milligrams of nitrogen oxides per kilometre, the official EU website informs.
To comply with eco-standards, motorcycle manufacturers must either upgrade their catalytic converters to clean the exhaust gases or equip them with new eco engines. However, their creation is a costly undertaking. As for modern catalysts, the increase in global prices of the rare metals that are used in their production also makes them too expensive.
Upgrading the existing models “will increase their selling price three or four times,” a representative of a leading motorcycle manufacturer said, quoted by Nikkei Asia.
This is a severe challenge to Japanese corporations amid forecasts that motorcycle sales in Japan are not expected to grow.
Which Motorcycles will go?
Because of this, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki plan to stop producing 10 per cent of the approximately 190 models they offer.
The world’s largest motorcycle maker, Honda, will stop selling about 10 of its 80 models. Among them is the legendary CB400 Super Four, one of the best-selling models of the 1990s.
Equipped with a water-cooled 4-stroke 4-cylinder DOHC 4-valve engine, the CB400SF is a model many people love in various modes, such as a hobby sports bike, as a training vehicle, and as a companion for motorcycle rides in the city. Many will regret leaving the CB400SF, which has been on Honda’s 400cc class lineup for about 30 years.
Among the models that Honda is discontinuing are the Gold Wing series of motorcycles and the Benly moped, intended for retail delivery.
Yamaha is stopping sales of two models of its flagship FJR 1300 motorcycle series (FJR1300).
Suzuki will remove at least five models from its production lines by October, including the GSX250R mid-range motorcycles.
Kawasaki Motors, which is part of the concern “Kawasaki Heavy Industries” (Kawasaki Heavy Industries), has already stopped the supply of some high-end motorcycle models.
Manufacturers will be forced to make choices on “non-gasoline” bikes
The companies are faced with developing a motorcycle powered by something other than a gasoline engine or electrifying it.
Manufacturers expect the future to belong to electric motorcycles amid the gradual limitation of emissions of harmful substances into the atmosphere.
Honda plans to entirely switch to producing electric motorcycles by the 40s of the 21st century.
By 2050, 90 per cent of Yamaha models will be powered by electricity, writes Nikkei Asia.
Kawasaki has announced that it is working on creating electric motorcycles, and Suzuki recently unveiled an electric moped.
Japanese companies hold about 40 per cent of the global motorcycle market. They invest more and more funds in the creation of new electric models. Nikkei Asia notes that this trend is expected to accelerate the transition from gasoline-powered bikes to electric machines.
The challenge will be to trying put larger batteries on smaller bikes.
Another option is to use synthetic fuels instead. As part of the government’s efforts to “realize a carbon-neutral, decarbonized society,” it is said that development support will be provided for the scale-up of synthetic fuels.
Synthetic fuel is produced by synthesizing CO2 and hydrogen and is said to be a substitute for gasoline. However, production requires a large amount of water and electricity, the price is higher than gasoline, and it is said that it still takes time to put it to practical use.
One can also consider changing the gasoline engine to a hydrogen engine. On April 22, 2021, Toyota Motor announced that it would participate in a 24-hour endurance race with a car equipped with a hydrogen engine based on the Corolla Sport. It may be said that Toyota has a clear prospect of putting a hydrogen engine into practical use.
Transition a challange
However, it turns out that this transition is a severe challenge for automotive companies on a global scale, and motorcycle manufacturers are likely to face the same problems.
Last week, the environment ministers of the EU countries decided to stop the sale of cars that emit carbon dioxide from 2035. The European Parliament must agree upon these rules to come into force. If it does, it effectively means a ban on new cars with internal combustion engines in the EU from 2035.
The German Association of the Automotive Industry has announced that the number of charging stations for electric cars in Europe is woefully insufficient.
“The biggest challenge will be to increase the supply of batteries for electric cars,” said the chief financial officer of the German carmaker “Volkswagen” Arno Antlitz, in an interview with Reuters.