Include Electric Motorcycles in Ontario EV incentives

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In 2010 the Province of Ontario introduced the Electric Vehicle (EV) rebate and ‘Green Plate’ program. This program recognizes the role EVs help reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants and greenhouse gases in the province. Purchasers of EVs have enjoyed saving money on fuel and maintenance, access to HOV lanes with a single occupant, and significantly lowering their carbon footprint. A 2015 report from Plug ‘N Drive found that adoption of EVs can reduce total lifecycle Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by as much as 67-95% per vehicle.

Changes to the EV rebate program were announced in February 2016 increasing the amount of rebate available for most models of EVs. In June 2016, as part of it's Climate Change Action Plan, the Ontario government announced new incentives available to EV purchasers, including making the Green Plate / HOV access permanent, working with utilities to provide free overnight charging, updating the building code to require new houses to be outfitted with EV charging facilities, providing additional rebates to low and moderate-income households to help them replace older cars with new or used electric vehicles, and working with the federal government to remove the HST on EV purchases.

To date, the EV rebate and Green Plate have not been available to purchasers of electric motorcycles. Not to be confused with electric bicycles (e-bikes), electric motorcycles are considered vehicles under the HTA, and the operator must possess a motorcycle license and maintain registration & insurance. They are also distinguished by their greater range and top speed, making them capable of keeping pace with other vehicular traffic. For many owners they are a full replacement for a gas powered motorcycle.

There are many reasons to promote adoption of motorcycles as a means of personal transportation, especially in urban areas, as recognized by the City of Toronto:

Motorcycles are significantly smaller than other vehicles, use far less road space, thus helping to reduce gridlock, and occupy less parking space when parked at an angle to the curb. (City of Toronto staff report, 2006)

Canada’s motorcycle and scooter registrations increased by 51 per cent from 2005 to 2012. In Toronto, registrations increased by 63 per cent. More than 21,000 motorcycles were registered in the city in 2012, up from almost 13,500 in 2005. (Toronto Star, May 15th 2015).

A 2011 study by the Belgian consultancy Transport & Mobility Leuven found that if 10% of all private cars were replaced by motorcycles, the total time loss (due to congestion) for all vehicles on the route studied decreased by 40%.

Sadly, motorcycles are not without their share of issues. Despite getting better fuel economy than most gas cars, many motorcycles produce worse air pollution than their four wheeled counterparts. A 2011 study found:

  • Motorcycles created several hundred times more hydrocarbon pollution than cars. Hydrocarbons cause cancer, breathing and heart ailments, and contribute to smog.
  • Nitrous oxide emissions, which cause smog and acid rain, were 138 – 3220 percent higher among motorcycles tested than cars of comparable ages.
  • Motorcycles tested emitted 313 - 8,065 percent more poisonous-to-breathe carbon monoxide than cars of comparable ages.

Thanks to strict emission regulations on modern passenger cars and trucks, the gap is getting worse. While emission regulations on motorcycles are improving, they still have much catching up to do.

Thankfully, electric motorcycles negate most of these issues. Electric motorcycles have received rave reviews from media and riders alike. Zero Motorcycles of California is currently the market leader but other brands such as BMW, Ducati, Indian are developing electric models. In early 2018 Harley Davidson announced they would have an electric model available within 18 months. Models for sale in 2018 offer advanced features such as ABS braking and fast charging. They offer much of the practicality and enjoyment of their gas fueled equivalents with a much lower pollution and noise footprint, and lower operating & maintenance costs. Travel range on each charge is improving each year and models currently sold are capable of meeting the daily transport needs or recreational riding by the majority of motorcycle riders, especially those in urban areas. They can also utilize the same public charging network as electric cars, allowing owners to extend their journey.

The sticking point for many consumers however, has been the price. Despite improvements in the technology, the price is still significantly higher than a comparable gasoline powered motorcycle.

Other jurisdictions do apply incentives to electric motorcycles. States such as California, Utah, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Maryland all offer rebates or tax credits as high as $1625 (USD), and Quebec offers an incentive of $2000.

Electric Motorcycles also present an opportunity for consumers to try out EV technology as an occasional use, seasonal vehicle without replacing their primary vehicle. Once they have experienced the advantages of EVs they may be more likely to consider an EV for their next regular vehicle purchase.

The EV rebate and other incentives are intended to help consumers of battery and plugin-hybrid cars offset the additional cost, and encourage them to make a sustainable choice. It only makes sense to extend it to electric motorcycles.



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