World’s First Natural Gas-Powered Motorcycle Could Arrive This Year

Bajaj Auto, the Indian industrial partner of Triumph, has said that it expects to announce its first CNG-powered motorcycle in 2024

"Columbia purchases more compressed natural gas buses" by KOMUnews is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A CNG-powered bike is set to be launched this year, according to the Indian manufacturer, Bajaj.

Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Rajiv Bajaj, the Managing Director of Bajaj Auto, which builds the Triumph Speed 400 and Scrambler 400 X, said that a CNG-powered motorcycle would have to be affordable for ordinary people, and also that Bajaj’s first motorcycle to use CNG will be ready to be announced before the end of 2024, with a launch expected for 2025.

The Indian motorcycle market “is polarised around displacements,” Bajaj said, “the most popular being 100-125cc, and the 150-160cc displacement. So we believe that a CNG motorcycle should appeal to consumers at each of these three displacement points and that allows us to build a portfolio as opposed to just one motorcycle of a particular displacement.”

CNG is the initialism for ‘Compressed Natural Gas’, which, rather like hydrogen, requires a high-pressure cylinder to be fitted to the motorcycle to store the gas. These tanks must be cylindrical for pressure equalisation throughout their interior and typically take up more space than that of a petrol tank that you’d find on a conventional, petrol motorcycle. That said, one of the advantages of CNG as a fossil fuel alternative is that existing internally combusting vehicles can be converted to run on CNG while producing fewer emissions.

Mr. Bajaj explained both the packaging and engineering challenges of a CNG motorcycle and the potential advantages. 

“It's not a trivial problem to package a CNG cylinder in a motorcycle, which unlike a scooter has no obvious storage space. 

“The motivation is twofold. One is from the point of view of the environment because, now, we are well into testing and we can see that, compared to a gasoline motorcycle, CO2 is down by almost 50 per cent, CO2 is down by around 75 per cent and non-methane hydrocarbons are down by around 90 per cent. So, this is a motorcycle that's potentially fantastic for the environment. 

“But equally, it promises to do what Hero Honda did 40 years ago, which was effectively to double mileage or halve the cost of fuel for the Aam Aadmi (‘ordinary man’), which I think has a fantastic impact on the wallets of those consumers.”

Finally, the point of production. Bajaj has previously said that 2025 was the target date for the launch of the manufacturer’s first motorcycle using CNG as fuel. But, in this interview with CNBC-TV18, he said that Bajaj Auto is “so encouraged by the results we've seen from the testing, that we can prepone that by a whole year. So, within this calendar year 2024, very shortly, you will see us announce the world's first CNG motorcycle.”

Bajaj’s comments make it fairly clear that the bike would be built especially with the Indian market in mind, so whether we would see it in Europe is not certain. In any case, the distribution of the motorcycle would be an almost secondary matter: infrastructure is a key issue with CNG, as it is for other fossil fuel alternatives, such as battery electrics or hydrogen.

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Lead image credit: KOMUnews, under CC BY 2.0.