You Shouldn't Worry About The Supposed 2040 Petrol Motorcycle Ban: Opinion

Even if it goes ahead, the apparent 2040 ban on petrol motorcycles might not be anything to worry about

Ducati Diavel V4 road test

Lots of people seem to be currently getting out of sorts over the news this week that UK ministers are set to ‘imminently’ decide to ban all new petrol-powered motorcycles from 2040.

My response? Don’t worry about it – it almost certainly won’t happen, certainly not as currently described, and, even if it does, it won’t be as bad as it sounds. Here’s why:

First: Those new reports are based on ‘rumours’ of suggested ‘proposals’. In other words: it’s a long, long way from any certainty just yet.

Second: Even if it does happen, 2040 is further off than you might think. Yes, 16 years isn’t that big a number, but it can be plenty big enough when it comes to automotive technical development. Sixteen years ago, for example, Tesla hadn’t even built its first car. Sixteen years ago, to come up with another, the first (and very basic) electronic motorcycle riding modes had only just been introduced (on Suzuki’s 2007 GSX-R1000K7) – to say nothing of the sophisticated multi-axis IMU-based aids, radar and more that’s come out since. Lordy, 16 years ago Zero hadn’t even produced its first electric bike – get the idea? Who knows what will be available in 2040.

Third, the current rumoured proposals concern only ‘new’ motorcycle sales so, although ICE development will surely tail off towards that 2040 date, you’ll still be able to buy a state-of-the-art petrol machine right up to December 31, 2039, and run it for as long as you like. Or maybe even buy two – and then run one after the other…

(By the way, that ‘new’ gambit, also by definition, doesn’t affect used sales, so you’ll be able to buy and run used 2039 ICE models indefinitely, too. I’m starting to concoct my own ‘dream garage’ as I write…)

And fourth, and finally, as alluded to above, by 2040, just imagine how good electric bikes (if that really is what we’ll be restricted to) could be by then. Yes, there are currently infrastructure issues (but we’ve hardly started to be honest). And, yes, the offerings so far from Zero, Energica and, mostly, the Chinese, could be a lot better – but give it a chance. Once Honda, Yamaha, Ducati and more really go for it electric bikes, I promise you, will get interesting.

And is it all about electric bikes anyway? Personally, I have my doubts. Industry types still talk more about zero-emission eco fuels such as bioethanol, or possibly even hydrogen, more likely being ‘the future’. And even if they’re not, they’ll surely come up with something else.

Those big marques such as Honda are also all currently conspicuously dragging their heels on electric, suggesting they’ve different plans up their sleeves. Triumph’s much-mooted TE-1 hasn't been seen for ages, suggesting either it wasn’t good enough, wasn't viable or Hinckley is working on something else. Yamaha currently only has a 50cc equivalent electric ped (but I’d love to see what they’re working on behind closed doors). And even Ducati, whose corporate position seems to have flipped 180 degrees from dismissing electric entirely to taking over Moto-E, have yet to unveil anything. The bottom line is, whatever 2040 brings, you can bet your bottom dollar the big brands will have something exciting to offer. There’s simply no way it could be otherwise.

And, besides, there are two other things to (maybe) comfort yourself with: 1. This is a ‘rumour’ of a ‘proposal’ from an incumbent Government that’s surely in its final death throes and, 2. Unless you’re a young whippersnapper (the average age of a UK motorcyclist is currently 54), it might not matter anyway 'cos you’ll be too old.

Ah, maybe that’s not much of a comfort, after all…