Friday, 23 February 2018

Commnet by Editor, Robin Bradley

Pods for Bods? Nah,
I think not!

Brussels based international motorcycle trade association ACEM staged its 13th annual conference in Brussels in January. The event, titled “Sustainable Motorcycling in Europe”, attracted more than 250 attendees from all over Europe, representing businesses, representatives from the European Commission, the European Parliament, Member States, NGOs and other organisations. 
The focus, of course, was on environmental sustainability, which embraces both kinds of emissions - chemical pollutants and noise - and sustainability in terms of the safety of its customers and other road users (vehicles safety, apparel and training quality).
Although slow to start with, in terms of all these evolving requirements, the industry has responded to the ever-tightening emissions and safety requirements seen in the past twenty plus years with an increasing sense of urgency and realism about the transport landscape of the future.
As a result of doing so, motorcycling is now not only regarded by transport policy makers as a legitimate form of transport whose consumers have exactly the same citizens’ rights as any other group of road users, but is also now regarded as one of the “good guys” of future facing transport solutions with a binding regulatory requirement for all new transport safety and environmental rule- making to be stress-tested against the very specific road use requirements of powered two- wheelers.
In calling on the EU to recognise that “sustainability” also means commercial viability, it fell to ACEM President and KTM CEO Stefan Pierer to point out that commercial sustainability also needed to be recognised as an essential part of the equation - an essential precondition of society’s ability to deliver on its ambitions for clean air, reduced urban congestion and safe roads.
“A market that is not economically viable cannot be regarded as being sustainable in any sense” said Pierer. He went on to call for greater speed and balance in arriving at future stages of regulation, saying that “in addition to manufacturers having responsibilities for good quality products, regulators have responsibilities too - responsibility to deliver good quality regulations. The framework they set for manufacturers to work in must also be sustainable from a business point of view.

Stefan Pierer, KTM CEO: “A market that is not economically viable cannot be regarded as being sustainable in any sense”

“Our industry is committed to sustainability, which we understand as a complex process related to environmental performance of vehicles, road safety and economic viability of our operations.
“Since 1999, our sector moved from the Euro 0 to the Euro 4 standard. Carbon monoxide emissions were reduced by 91%. Nitrogen oxide and carbon emissions considered together went down by 92%. Even more, this reduction in limit values took place at the same time that new and more stringent testing procedures were introduced in European legislation.
“In the coming months, we will start working on the implementation of the future Euro 5 environmental standard. However, manufacturing vehicles requires complex planning and we urgently need clarity from the European Commission regarding the technical content and implementation timeline of Euro 5.”
For me, one of the “elephants in the room” as the low or zero emissions, EV, driver assist, V2V and autonomous vehicle debates continue to evolve, has been where exactly will motorcycles fit into these often competing visions of the future. Antonio Perlot, the Secretary General of ACEM, quite rightly pointed to a future in which motorcycles/PTWs have a major role to play. However, it fell to Bernd Lange, an MEP from Germany and a player in the European Parliament’s scrutiny of proposed motorcycle transport regulation, to state the obvious. That while it is clear that electric power plants have a role to play, beyond the urban mobility context, long distance motorcycle travel faces the same challenges of capacity and charge time as do cars. There will therefore always be a role for low/zero emission internal combustion engine power plants.
Yes, exactly. The future is bright, but it is hybrid. Those who think that we are headed towards an entirely autonomous vehicle future are na├»ve. That is neither possible, necessary or desirable. The evolution of 21st century transport solutions of all kinds will be a mixed palette of circumstance-specific solutions in which it is the combination of improved and new elements that will achieve transport objectives – not the elimination of established elements or dependency on any one single new element.
Indeed, for me it is driver assist and V2V technology that holds the key for the future of life on two wheels. The safer and easier it becomes to use our products, in addition to the quieter and “greener” they are, the more of them we’ll sell.
Road users of the mid twenty-first century and beyond will be beneficiaries of a mixed portfolio of solutions; hopefully a perfect storm of initiatives that will make riding and driving on the roads cleaner, quieter, safer, less stressful and, even if one inevitable area of driver assist and V2V intervention are speed limit governors, actually, the result would be quicker transport too.
Now, autonomous movement of goods across land, sea and air, now that would actually address the largest single source of airborne pollutants produced by road going vehicles – “commercials” are the largest polluters by volume of toxins released. But a fully autonomous world of pods for bods? Nah, I think not!