BRUSSELS, Belgium - During last week’s conference of the Powered Two-Wheeler Industry Association, ACEM, in Brussels the European industry underlined the important role that ‘L-category’ (Light Electric Vehicles) can and will play in tackling congestion and reducing carbon intensity in urban traffic.
To an audience of ‘euro-politicians’ and other key players in shaping the future of mobility, ACEM president Von Kuenheim drew a sombre picture of the current situation in the Powered Two-Wheeler (PTW) industry, but ended on a positive note; stating that the unique know-how in developing and producing small, light and specialized vehicles will prove useful for sustainable mobility.
Depressing sales figures
To start with the ‘bad news’ ACEM (and BMW Motorrad) president Hendrik von Kuenheim gave some depressing figures of recent developments in the PTW industry. “If you look at the last ten years registrations culminated in 2007 at 2.7 million units. Last year – four years into a dire economic crisis, the PTW sector achieved its lowest result with 1.7 million units. One million less. In 2011 there was a renewed decline of 9% after the already deep fall in 2008, to 1.9 million.”
The most recent sales and delivery numbers can be found at: www.acem.eu/cms/marketfigures.php.
New EU type approval framework
Von Kuenheim stressed the vital importance of a reliable and favourable regulatory framework. Particularly for the relatively small companies that characterize the PTW industry. The ACEM president was referring to the new EU type approval framework that is still under discussion in Brussels EU offices. “There is no time for idealistic approaches – simple pragmatic solutions must be privileged especially in today’s difficulties.”
Time is of the essence
At the conference it was said that the European Council has the ball now. “With any luck they’ll approve the framework after summer. But it could easily take until 2014 if it’s sent back for changes. And that’s the year they were supposed to come into force. You can imagine that wouldn’t agree too well with the average development time of new models in the PTW industry: three to four years. Time is already of the essence now.”
Crucial role for Light Electric Vehicles
What makes that aspect even more critical is the fact that innovative developments in the field of L-category (Light Electric Vehicles) concepts – that includes three wheelers and small four wheelers – are expected to play a crucial role in keeping individual mobility alive. And at introducing environmentally more friendly vehicles in traffic at a faster rate of speed.
Automobile giants embracing LEVs
Von Kuenheim: “The e-segment is still relatively small at 1% of the European market last year – about 15.000 units – but the sales have been doubling year on year and many brands are close to market introduction of new products. Major hurdles for buyers are costs and ‘range anxiety’.” Nevertheless even automobile giants have embraced that future development of small vehicles with or without a roof. As proven by many prototypes in recent international auto shows.
Promising results research
A European White Paper A recent study by specialists of Transport and Mobility Leuven very much indicates that a shift from cars to 10% more powered two-wheelers, including LEVs, in traffic flow on primary roads in Belgium could decrease ‘lost vehicle hours’ – traffic jams and other delays – by as much as 40%. The research was done in the area between Leuven and Brussels but translates to other congested areas, the researchers say in their presentation.
Lighter, smaller and specialized offensive
For obvious reasons PTW brands have already started their development work. ACEM secretary general Jacques Compagne describes the general trend as ‘smaller, lighter and more specialized PTW’s’. With their ‘lighter, smaller and specialized’ offensive ACEM is responding to the White Paper from the European transport commission. It is one of the few places where PTW’s are mentioned in European policy making. A painful fact given the spectacular effects that a modal shift to light transport could have in all major fields of mobility.