Why are motorcycles losing the fuel economy race?

MalcolmReynolds

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As the CAFE and EPA standards get tougher on cars and trucks we are seeing fuel economy being forced higher for most vehicles on the road. However motorcycles appear to be stagnant and even falling behind some of the cars on the road for fuel economy. Some of it makes sense that the bike is a performance machine. But there are a lot of bikes out there that don't really fall into that "performance" niche. So I am curious what you guys think? I personally feel like it is a little embarrassing that cars that weighs dramatically more, carry dramatically more can get better fuel economy than a motorcycle.

Should motorcycles be held to the same type of fuel economy standards to force manufacturers to step up their game? If the cafe standards stay on track in just a few years a lot of new cars will be getting better economy than most motorcycles. What are your thoughts?
 

670cc

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I’m no expert, but here are some thoughts.

Most motorcycles use old school engine technology. Apart from fuel injection, there is no real technology for enhancing efficiency. The NC series does OK mainly by reducing friction and keeping RPM low.

Motorcycles have terrible aerodynamics. Way too much energy is wasted from drag.

Efficiency doesn’t really sell motorcycles. We here riding NCs can appreciate it somewhat, but most motorcycle buyers put style, image, thrill, etc. way above efficiency. And even if they were fuel efficient, motorcycles will never be cheap to operate, mainly due to the cost of tires. Tire cost on a bike can equal fuel costs.

The NC700/750 series is one of the most fuel efficient bikes in its size class, but it’s a poor seller in the USA. People have here an opportunity to own an efficient bike, but they’re passing it up.

Honda could have made the new Goldwing a platform for efficiency. It could have had a three cylinder engine half the current size, with direct injection, variable valve timing, cylinder management, turbo charging, 0w-20 oil, engine start/stop, and all the other stuff new cars have. Would there have been a market for it? Probably not much.
 
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happy

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When I had the nc700x, a "wise" guy from a bike group sniggered at me, "why would one choose a bike based on the fuel economy"?
I think he was right.

Now I changed over to a newer be BMW doing 5L/100km... Way more powerful and way more fun.

Motorcycles fuel efficient? I don't think so.
Scooters yes.
Electric motors yes.

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Jos

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Also keep in mind that most car manufacturers blatantly lie about economy (or to put it mildly they game the system) and real world values are nowhere near displayed numbers.

Bike owners do care less (generally speaking) about economy and thus manufacturer are not compelled to cheat as much.

I do get less than 4l with the NC, close to Honda numbers. On my car given for 4l / 100 km (yeah Europe here) I am happy when I get close to 5, in good conditions (that's 25% more than stated).
 

GregC

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Also, in the US motorcycles are rarely a primary form of transportation like they are elsewhere in the world. So fuel efficiency for bikes is about the same level of concern as for boats or snowmobiles.

And let us not forget the current EPA is working to roll back fuel efficient requirements.


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M

Moto-Kafe

When, not "if", gas prices go back up to $4 - $5 per gallon, then us NC'ers can wave (and maybe laugh??) at the other guys sitting at gas stations spending their $$$ filling up more often.........
 

Red Rider

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I read a lot of info recently on motorcycle aerodynamics. Here I was all these years picturing myself slicing through the air like a bullet only to learn I’m about as aerodynamic as a brick.

Buzz kill. :p
 

Red Rider

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When, not "if", gas prices go back up to $4 - $5 per gallon, then us NC'ers can wave (and maybe laugh??) at the other guys sitting at gas stations spending their $$$ filling up more often.........

+1^

Pennies per mile - a pretty economical way to spend a day going places and doing stuff.
 

Rapturee

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Craig Vetter has been a champion of motorcycle economy for decades! You can read about his years of experience at his site Craig Vetter dot com. I have purchased a lot of materials to personally build one of his fully faired kits. Until his accident a couple of years ago, where a deer ran into the side of him causing him to wreck and he was badly injured he was very active in pursuing the best yet most "practical/useful" aerodynamics on a motorcycle that is ridden in "Real World" conditions. Enjoy the read! :{)
CraigVetter+Streamliner.jpg
Alan's-new-Ninja.jpg
 

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MalcolmReynolds

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Once upon a time cars were only getting in the 20mpg range... And people would look at a motorcycle getting 40-50mpg and go "WOW". Today the wow factor is almost gone as far as efficiency over what you can get with a car. So as far as fuel efficiency is concerned the motorcycle is about to lose that appeal if it has any to consumers. Gas prices go back to $5+ a gallon and suddenly people are shedding their SUV's and looking for something fuel efficient. To me it always seemed short sighted to go buy a gas guzzler because fuel prices slipped for a short while.

For me the fuel economy of the NC was a compelling reason for me to get it. But then again maybe I am just "wired wrong"! LOL
 

lue42

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Out of curiosity, I did the math for the days I would ride to work over a season:
  • NC750x, it is about $150
  • For a BMW R1200xx or FJR1300 it would be about $217 (according to Fuelly avg's)
  • For my little Ford Fiesta it would be about $300

Because we get raked over the coals for insurance in Ontario, Canada... my insurance would go up about 40-50% for a BMW/FJR.

The actual cost of the bike in comparison for a decent used model would be 200 to 300% more for than than value of my NC.

For the BMW at least, the maintenance costs would be huge in comparison... also the accessories would cost more.

In the grand scheme, the mileage of the NC is not a huge factor in my decision to own one.

The NC750x is an economy bike *overall* but I think it would be safe to say that the mileage is not the top decision maker for many riders when factoring purchase cost, insurance, maintenance, accessories, etc
 

davidc83

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Fuel economy for cars on a average has increased but even my Prius only matches my C50 Boulevard (both approx. 52-55mpg at 70mph). Now I don't try to get extended anal range from my Prius as other Prius owners (I am not a hypermiler-I drive it as a normal car). Prius C: 52-55mpg at 70 mph in the warm months (it goes way down during the winter and anything over 74mph it is in the mid 40s mpg); 2007 C50 boulevard with 75,000 miles still get 52-55mpg at 70mph; 2013 nc700x: 65-70mpg at 70mph; heck, even my little Kawasaki klx250sf which revs very high gets better than 60mpg at 70mph. The higher the rpms, the more fuel being used-even the versys 650, I think it ranges in the mid-upper 40s mpg...
A ton of motorcycle riders out there wanting high revving engines (how many complaints have we seen where riders thinks the rev limiter on the nc700 is too low at 6400rpm???)-high revving engines uses more fuel-basics....
Gasoline/diesel engines have came close to maxing out their fuel efficiency (my own opinion). Heck, Volkswagen got caught cheating on their diesel engines-numerous Volkswagen owners not returning their diesel engine cars-they don't want to lose the fuel mpg....
There are numerous motorcycles on the planet which can beat most, if not all gas or diesel only cars-most don't sell in this country-people wont buy them here...HD is still the best selling bike in the US and they suck at gas mileage. There were a hundred bikes at Rabbit Hash Ky this past Sunday, and only 1 or 2 (a new ctx 700 and a weestrom) could match the NC700x in fuel efficiency-riders don't want efficiency-they want the rpms and speed or the muscle.
 

670cc

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Out of curiosity, I did the math for the days I would ride to work over a season:
  • NC750x, it is about $150
  • For a BMW R1200xx or FJR1300 it would be about $217 (according to Fuelly avg's)
  • For my little Ford Fiesta it would be about $300.

In the grand scheme, the mileage of the NC is not a huge factor in my decision to own one.

The NC750x is an economy bike *overall* but I think it would be safe to say that the mileage is not the top decision maker for many riders when factoring purchase cost, insurance, maintenance, accessories, etc

Fiesta weighs 2500 pounds, holds four people plus luggage. Only uses twice the fuel of the NC.

Fiesta tires are $75 each in the US and last 50,000 miles. So, $300 plus installation for 50,000 miles on the car vs the NC at maybe $1000 plus installation for 50,000 miles.

First Fiesta coolant change is at 6 years age, spark plugs cost a few dollars at 100,000 miles. No chains or sprockets to wear on the car, but the Fiest will probably need a clutch at 100,000 miles, whether it’s a manual or a DCT. All in all I’d say the Fiesta is less costly to operate, and more useful, but we pay more for the bike for the enjoyment.
 
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lue42

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we pay more for the bike for the enjoyment.

That is what I am saying... I am just putting the NC's mileage in perspective. That is why I think it is silly when I hear people say that they specifically chose the NC for its fuel economy and laugh at other drivers for their choices.
 

TheIronWarrior

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Fiesta tires are $75 each in the US and last 50,000 miles. So, $300 plus installation for 50,000 miles on the car vs the NC at maybe $1000 plus installation for 50,000 miles.

I just put a new pair of shoes on my NC, total cost of the tires was $412CAD ($321USD). There were cheaper options available if desired. I would imagine a $75 car tire is a fairly budget model, and you could conceivably pay over $1000 for 4 car tires easier than for 2 bike tires.
If I had to guess, I'd say the maintenance costs on the Fiesta and the NC wouldn't be that different, and I'm more likely to do more of the maintenance work myself on the bike than on the car for an additional cost savings.
Though I imagine the "cost savings" of the bike are negated by the fact that I have to have a car anyway because trying to motorcycle through an Atlantic Canada winter is asking for trouble, and the cost of ownership of the bike likely outweighs and "savings" from not driving the car as much in the summer months. Having just the bike would absolutely be cheaper than just the car if I could have managed it.
 

670cc

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I based my car tire cost off a local store selling a set of 4 Cooper CS5 tires (a so called 70,000 mile tire, but maybe good for 50,000) for $75 (US dollars) each with a $70 rebate for buying a set of four. Plus you’d have tax and install fees but I’d doubt it could come to over $350 total after the rebate. The small tire sizes used on sub compact cars makes them low priced. I could buy premium motorcycle tires and have them mounted and pay over $350 just for two tires that would be lucky to go 12,000 miles.
 
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MalcolmReynolds

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Part of it also depends on where you live. When I lived in the Bay Area the traffic was so horrific at rush hour that if I were in my car it would take me 30-45 minutes longer daily sitting in traffic where I was able to split lanes with the bike. Also the car is sitting there running while your in a freeway parking lot. Plus the cost of fuel at the time was $5 a gallon so it added up pretty fast. So for that circumstance factoring in time and fuel cost the bike made perfect sense economically given the number of miles I drove every day. But that is a pretty unusual set of circumstances and I don't have to commute for the job at this time so now my bike is a luxury that I get to take out every once in while for fun.

Practically speaking if the cost of fuel climbs like I expect it to then people will pay more attention. But a good portion of the bikes on the road really don't get good fuel economy so it just makes it a harder sell as an economical form of transportation. Maint cost is higher, tire costs are higher, and fuel savings may or may not be there.

All that being said how would the motorcycle landscape shift if the same type of cafe standards were levied against bikes? Car manufacturers seem to be making vehicles that people still want while getting smarter about how to make them cleaner and more efficient. So I have to wonder if by excluding motorcycles from those standards if we aren't actually unintentionally impeding progress in the motorcycle market? Do manufacturers really have to be hit up side the head in order to get them to improve their products? Strangely it sure seems that way from what I can see in the motorcycle market. A motorcycle getting 40mpg is still burning a gallon of gas every 40 miles, and it is still emitting the same polutants that a car is, maybe even worse. I haven't looked at the tailpipe emissions data from the bikes to compare to the typical car on the road, but my initial gut feeling is that the bikes probably are not as clean as many of the cars on the road.
 

lue42

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If I had to guess, I'd say the maintenance costs on the Fiesta and the NC wouldn't be that different

You are right... I'd say that my Fiesta and my NC are about the same $. I just checked Autotrader and the cost of a 2014 Fiesta and a 2014 NC are not too different. Tires on the NC every 5-10k @ $400. Tires on the Fiesta every 80k @ $7-800. Oil changes and insurance is same. Generally... the costs are pretty comparable when you add it all up. I don't think I have bought too many farkles for my fiesta but I have spent a ton (windshield, luggage...) on the bike though.
 

670cc

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I’d imagine if tougher fuel and emission standards were imposed on motorcycles, you might have an even larger group of owners than you have today that would want to modify said bikes to put them back the way they were. We already have noise standards and emissions standards today that some owners chose to circumvent by modifying intakes, exhausts, or fuel mapping.
 
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MalcolmReynolds

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I’d imagine if tougher fuel and emission standards were imposed on motorcycles, you might have an even larger group of owners than you have today that would want to modify said bikes to put them back the way they were. We already have noise standards and emissions standards today that some owners chose to circumvent by modifying intakes, exhausts, or fuel mapping.

This is true. Some car owners do the same of course. The percentage of car owners that go through the expense etc is pretty small because most people aren't necessarily car enthusiasts. However when it comes to bikes that percentage may be higher because is is a "special breed" to want a bike in the first place. :) Maybe we are more "enthusiastic" than the typical car owner. LOL
 
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