With the latest zero emissions bikes becoming financially viable, The Motorcycle Industry Association’s Stevie Muir reports on the many benefits a bike fleet can bring an organisation
Where fleet vehicles will be operated by a single person, it makes sound commercial sense to opt for low or zero emission motorcycles or scooters. Not just because the capital outlay is much cheaper than a car, but because powered two wheelers enjoy generic benefits associated with motorcycling which can cut operating costs dramatically.
Ask any motorcyclist about the advantages of life on two wheels and they will tell you they are numerous. There’s the free or cheap parking, low running costs, cheaper insurance and tax, no congestion charge, access to selected bus lanes, time saved on journeys etc.
The more serious issue of traffic congestion is estimated by the CBI to cost the British economy around £25.3bn a year. Motorcycles and scooters can move more easily through traffic, reducing journey times and therefore saving money for the companies which choose two wheels over four.
Whether you opt for petrol or electric will depend on operational needs, but there’s an increasing choice of both. A new breed of small motorcycles and scooters can achieve up to 160mpg, which speaks for itself in terms of emissions. The most successful and long running examples of using small motorcycles and mopeds in a fleet context are to be found within local authorities. Around 30 councils and voluntary organisations run Wheels to Work schemes, many of which began in the 1990s. Typically, these provide transport to young people living in isolated rural areas and are highly cost-effective, with good safety records.
Penny per mile
Those wanting to cut their bike emissions to zero will benefit from energy costs of an estimated ‘penny a mile’ – the mantra for running costs for electric bikes. Range is a major consideration when deciding to opt for petrol or electric, explains David Gibson of Emissions Free Solutions Ltd, who imports Vectrix electric scooters into the UK. “The distance to be travelled and whether there are opportunities for interim charging are important. Routes which allow for top-up charging fit in well with an electric fleet use.”
For a Vectrix, the maximum range is 65 to 70 miles, which has resulted in its scooters being used in a number of fleet applications both in the UK and worldwide. They are used by the facilities management team at Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent for car park patrols and escort duties. Elsewhere, Strathclyde Police used the Vectrix at Glasgow Airport, Lothian Borders police use one to patrol the Scottish Parliament Buildings.
Other brands in the sector are open to fleet sales; Yamaha has recently sold its electric scooter to Melton Borough Council’s Wheels to Work scheme. Rieju will throw in a free branded paint scheme for orders over ten and Agility Motors, whose innovative design has so far been pitched at the individual customer, is developing a fleet programme for later this year.
For fleet vehicles, maintenance costs are a huge consideration. Manufacturers of electric motorcycles and scooters point out that their products have far less moving parts than a combustion engine with no clutch or gears. There is obviously variation within the market as to how long batteries last, but these figures are readily available when investigating machine specifications.
All current electric motorcycles can use a simple domestic power outlet. Some manufacturers are now offering ‘cartridge’ style battery packs that can be removed from the bike and taken indoors to charge - as the battery is often the most expensive single item on the bike, removing it offers a security advantage.
Fast charging is now an option, allowing the usual charge time of six hours to be shortened to one and a half, or just 60 minutes for a 95 per cent charge. The price for a full charge is estimated at 40p, which is equivalent to an attractive 497mpg.
The right clothes and proper training should be a priority for any employer considering opting for powered two wheelers for staff. Although a helmet is the only compulsory item of safety wear for riders, full protective clothing for staff operating powered two wheelers should be a priority, to include CE marked armour. Any local dealer will be able to help with the required kit and it’s no longer a choice between leather and leather, with new high-tech lightweight fabrics on the market, styled into clothing which can be adapted for general wear.
Choosing the right helmet (and the best ones are not always the most expensive) is made much easier with a government website service known as SHARP, the Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme. “Fit is the most important element”, explained Karen Cole. “And with the SHARP rating system you can make an informed choice.”
Cars seem to have dominated media representations of what’s available on the electric market, but that’s set to change as the electric motorcycle industry continues to mature. Like all developing sectors, some of the early innovators have been replaced. Marques which kicked off the two wheel electric marketplace have given way to others, as technology and demand evolve. Key players have emerged, including Zero, Vectrix, Agility Motors, Yamaha and Rieju. These brands have demonstrated the longevity required to convince a fleet buyer that they will be in businesses for the duration.
Any low or zero emission fleet will help meet environmental and social targets, but opting for two rather than four wheels presents extra savings in terms of cost and time, which can’t be delivered by cars.