Which alternative, if any, to the gasoline 4 stroke engine do you think is most likely to become dominant in future motorcycles? Will we continue as we are now or adopt one or more of the alternatives? Over the last several years, we’ve highlighted many motorcycles built with all sorts of power plants, some of those bikes worked and looked great, some were a bit more problematic. Some, like ethanol, are fairly easy to implement, others, like hydrogen fuel cells, a lot more difficult or expensive, with diesel, hybrid or electric power somewhere in the middle, and now T. Boone Pickens is promoting natural gas, like we see in some of those autorickshaws. Do any of these seem likely to become a clear winner? Which is most appealing? Which seems most practical?
Motorcycles, obviously, get pretty decent mileage compared to the average car or truck, small displacement engines go over 100 mpg, though your mileage may vary, but even a large displacement gas hog of a motorcycle still gets 30 or 40 mpg, so we have a running start at high mileage as soon as we get on 2 wheels. Do we even need to be concerned?
For shorter ranges, electrics have a lot going for them, they’re quiet and clean with a lot of performance potential. Whether the electricity comes from a battery charged with a plug or produced from a fuel cell on board, the electric motor itself looks like a winner.
For longer ranges, we still have a lot of engineering ahead of us to come up with something as convenient and energy dense as liquid fuel running an internal combustion engine. Though the specific liquid may change, whether a biofuel or petroleum based, whether spark or diesel, liquid fuel probably has a long run yet.
CNG, compressed natural gas, is already used in a lot of trucks and buses, especially in locations where pollution is a concern, and because it works well in the old internal combustion engine a switch to this fuel could happen in relatively short order. Finding a place for compressed gas cylinders on our motorcycles shouldn’t be a problem, performance addicts have been strapping nitrous cylinders to their bikes for years. CNG could be a very interesting option.
I think enthusiasts will come around to anything that works as long as the performance we’ve come to expect isn’t lost along the way. So what are your thoughts and preferences? Gasoline, diesel, hybrid, fuel cell, battery, CNG or something else entirely?