Anyone sell a low-emissions small motorcycle in the US?
April 23, 2013 6:45 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone sell a low-emissions (Euro 3 or better) under-800 cc motorcycle or scooter in the US?

BMW's been putting catalytic converters on big (1200cc & up) bikes for a while and they now have three-way catalysts with two oxygen sensors.

I'm looking for something under 800cc, preferably under 600 with a three-way catalytic converter and low emissions and I can't made head or tail of manufacturer's specs. California emissions for motorcycles aren't that stringent and while BMWs been "Euro 3" since last decade, they seem to have been meeting those emissions levels with only 1 oxygen sensor. Euro 3 for cars means 2 sensor, but I guess not for bikes. Euro 1 was 3-way cat but 1 sensor which I didn't realize was even possible.

So... while the Honda NC700X meets "Euro 3", that doesn't seem that great when cars are meeting Euro 5 & 6 (and the EPA's SULEV).

I'm not going far, so electric would work fine, but oy, the $cost.
posted by morganw to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Can you find a list of motorcycles that meet Euro 4 or 5 specs (since from the second part of your comment I'm assuming that Euro 3 isn't good enough) as equipped in Europe? I did some casual searching on this and couldn't; I think that a good first step would be to find the Euro-spec models that meet your requirements and then see if there are significant differences in the US emissions equipment, possibly by checking the dealer parts catalog to see if there's a difference in part numbers.

Since as far as I can tell anything above Euro 3 wasn't even on the table regulations-wise for L-class vehicles before 2010, if you're that concerned about emissions I think you may have to go with an electric bike.

As a reference point, my Honda VFR 800 came standard with two O2 sensors and a three-way catalytic converter 13 years ago.
posted by hackwolf at 7:53 PM on April 23, 2013

Are you looking for an emission spec because you need THAT spec, or are you looking for something extremely efficient?

The reason I ask is because, depending on your needs, a 4-stroke higher-performance scooter like a Vespa GTS 300 (which is one hell of a nice machine) is going to have very, very low emissions simply due to the low power/engine output. Your MPG is usually going to be in the 50s if you're absolutely thrashing it, and in the 60s or more if you're responsible. A GTS 200 or 250 would probably fare equally well with better mileage and lower emissions, too.

I mention THAT scooter because it performs REMARKABLY well - much more like a full-sized motorcycle. And it's also extremely well built and solid-feeling compared to similar bikes.

If emissions are a major concern for you, then make sure you look at something which has a stock exhaust on it. Aftermarket exhausts generally are less restrictive and allow the engine to breathe more freely which results in better performance, but also increased emissions.
posted by Thistledown at 4:02 AM on April 24, 2013

They don't make a scooter and I have no idea what Euro spec emissions they have but most (if not all) BMW motorcycles come with catalytic converters-not something that most other manufacturers do for the US market. Most motorcycles are exempt from emissions testing in the US and so it isn't a priority in this market, but some of the bikes are made for both markets and have the emissions stuff built in. In addition to this scooters are kinda considered a toy here in the US and not a big part of the already small motorcycle market. So I would look at the 650cc BMW bikes if you are not married to the idea of a scooter.
posted by bartonlong at 9:26 AM on April 24, 2013

Response by poster: Turns out BMW is finally bringing their maxi-scooters (C600) over to the US & they do have Euro 4 emissions. $10k though. Ouch! I'd rather buy an electric.

Found that by looking at BMW's page. Searching for Euro 4 & motorcycle or scooter brings up a lot of articles about EU plans to require that in 2015, 2016, etc. No convenient list of actual compliant bikes.

The VFR800 only enters closed loop operation at cruising speed, so it turns out even the 2 lambda sensors isn't enough to be sure. My commute is on a 40MPH road.

> Are you looking for an emission spec because you need THAT spec

Yes. I want low emissions. A scooter that only gets 2 to 3 times my car's fuel economy but is allowed to pollute at 10x is still a net loss to the environment.
posted by morganw at 11:15 AM on April 24, 2013

Bartonlong is incorrect - most motorcycles in the US HAVE to pass emissions testing before being sold here - that's one of the reasons that there are California bikes and then "rest of the US" bikes, because Cali has stiffer emissions standards. This is also why, as I said before, factory exhaust is far more restrictive to meet those standards. There may be exemptions in certain states for bikes made before certain years - in Maryland, for example, some models made in the 80s are considered "vintage" and exempt.

Something older may only meet older standards - you haven't specified used or new.

MorganW - I don't know how emissions are measured, but I would THINK that your standard 4-stroke motorcycle engine is going to produce fewer emissions than a car simply because it's burning less gas. Dunno, though.

2-strokes, not so much. You mention lambda sensors, which suggests to me that you're in the UK, but I'm not sure. Here in the states folks call em' O2 sensors. :)

If you want to be sure, then go with electric, be done with it and be happy. Otherwise, I still stand by the scooter suggestion. A 40mph road opens up a lot of options. Just make sure you stay with a 4-stroke vs. a 2-stroke motor.
posted by Thistledown at 1:23 PM on April 24, 2013

Response by poster: > I would THINK that your standard 4-stroke motorcycle engine is going to produce fewer emissions than a car simply because it's burning less gas.

CARB's rule is HC + NOx less-than-or-equal-to 0.8 g/km for motorcycles after 2008

CARB's LEV II in g/mile for cars is NOx 0.05 and HC 0.015, so in g/km 0.031 NOx and 0.0093 HC or a sum of 0.04 g/km for cars after 1998 (LEV).

Yes- that's 20x lower than motorcycle standards.

The goal for SULEV was a reduction to 1/5 of ULEV. Emissions are moving by (base 10) orders of magnitude but a moped only gets 4x the mileage of my car.

> You mention lambda sensors, which suggests to me that you're in the UK

I'm in the US (California), but mentioned that because Euro specs for motorcycles do. In the US, they specify how good you'll look in leather

A used 1st generation Brammo with it's batteries at reduced capacity due to charge/discharge cycles should still meet my range goal....
posted by morganw at 4:24 PM on April 24, 2013

This may be a bit off-topic, but I thought I'd mention it since an electric bike might be the best option to meet your goals. I haven't ridden the Brammo, but I have test-ridden the Zero S. I found it solid and well-mannered; the overall equipment spec was decent, and although I found the ride uninspiring it would make a pretty good commuter and was powerful enough to mostly get out of its own way. At least in Colorado at the time, they qualified for a full EV tax break, so you could get something like $4000 in credits on a $9500 (er, at the time - they seem to have gone up quite a bit) motorcycle. If California offers a similar program, that might affect your decision as well.
posted by hackwolf at 5:46 PM on May 3, 2013

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