Motorcycles use less fuel shocker!

fuel consumption

Published on 27 May 2016 by Gill

Motorcycles consume less fuel than cars. You may think this is obvious, because they are smaller, weigh less and have smaller engines. But do they really? We are going to find out.

It isn’t as simple as it sounds. Often we hear people complaining – or boasting – about a car that uses less fuel than a motorcycle. Well, if you compare the official type approval test figures of a diesel car with the real-life figures of a big motorcycle, especially when that is used by a rider who likes to go fast, you shouldn’t be surprised when the bike ‘beats’ the car. However, when comparing you should do so with comparable items: apples with apples and oranges with oranges, not apples with oranges. Comparing apples with oranges is exactly what is being done all the time with motorcycles and cars. Even when you compare Type Approval test figures of cars with those of motorcycles you compare two different things, because there are big differences between the test cycles for cars and motorcycles. Even with the same test cycle there would be differences because of the different build, nature and use of the vehicles. Does this mean we cannot compare? No! Thanks to the German website www.spritmonitor.de we can.

Compare the motors…
On www.spritmonitor.de car drivers and motorcyclists can - after registration and submitting details of their vehicle - enter information such as mileage, fuel consumption, details of usage (highways, urban, rural or a mixture) and even the use of winter tyres. Early in March 2016 the database counted 524,869 vehicles of 367,429 users who entered 1,936,1874 updates of their fuel consumption. This makes the numbers very useable. In fact, the database is a gold mine for anyone who wants to know more about real life fuel consumption of cars and motorcycles.

Mind the gap
The list of the least fuel consuming cars and motorcycles is also interesting. The ICCT (International Council on Clean Transportation) used this database, amongst other databases, to investigate the gap between type approval test cycle figures and real world figures of fuel consumption by cars and marked it as very reliable. FEMA used this database to make a realistic comparison of the fuel consumption of cars and motorcycles.

The science
There are several ways to select cars and motorcycles to compare with each other. You can look at size, engine capacity, price, weight, type of vehicle, etc. The first two or three choices aren’t too difficult, but sooner or later questions arise, about comparability, about relevance (how many are sold, how much are they ridden?), about actuality (is it still in production, if not how long is it out production?). We decided not to go there, but to focus on the ten best selling cars and motorcycles in Europe in 2015. From the ten most popular cars we took both the petrol and the Diesel versions and we looked at the fuel consumption as registered in Spritmonitor.de.

The 10 best-selling motorcycles were:
BMW R1200GS
Yamaha MT07
Peugeot Kisbee 50
Honda SH150AD
Yamaha X-Max 400
Yamaha MT09
Piaggio Zip 50 2T (China)
BMW R1200RT
Honda SH300
Kawasaki Z800
The 10 best-selling cars were:
Volkswagen Golf
Ford Fiesta
Renault Clio
Volkswagen Polo
Opel Corsa
Ford Focus
Nissan Qashqai
Peugeot 208
Volkswagen Passat
Peugeot 308

fuel consumption

In the graphic you will not see the brands and types of the vehicles, because it isn’t about the brands and types themselves, it’s just about the ten best sold. The motorcycles use between 2,8 and 5,7 litres fuel per 100 kilometres with an average of 4,4 l/100km. The petrol cars used between 6,5 and 9,1 l/100km with an average of 7,6 l/100km and the Diesel cars used between 4,9 and 6,6 l/100km with an average of 5,6 l/100km.

[Editorial Note: The basis of comparison is the conventional “Litres used per 100 kilometres travelled”; used by most countries where speed & distance are measured in kilometres. Please also note that we are using Imperial Gallons, not US, in the Miles per Gallon figures below]

Conversion Table:
10 liters per 100 kms= 28 MPG
9 liters per 100kms = 31 MPG
8 liters per 100kms = 35 MPG
7 liters per 100kms = 40 MPG
6 liters per 100kms = 47 MPG
5 liters per 100kms = 56 MPG
4 liters per 100kms = 70 MPG
3 liters per 100kms = 94 MPG

Something in the air tonight…
In real-life a motorcycle uses over 1 l/100km less than a diesel car and over 3 l/100km less than petrol cars. Because fuel consumption and the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) are related, motorcycles also have lower CO2 emissions.
CO2 is one of the greenhouse gasses and is therefore seen as an important contributor to the climate change. This does not say anything about other emissions. According to a study from the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in 2013 motorcycles in general emit more carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC) when compared with cars.
However, motorcycles have, certainly compared to diesel cars, a low emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which is seen as the most dangerous polluting exhaust emission at the moment. The motorcycles that were sold in 2015 all had to comply with the Euro 3 standards for motorcycles. The new types that have received type approval this year have to comply with the Euro 4 standards for motorcycles.
EU
From 2017 all new motorcycles sold will have to comply with these Euro 4 standards. The Euro standards for motorcycles should not be confused with the Euro standards for cars and cannot be compared with each other, because of different values, different test cycles and completely different vehicles. The present standard for cars is Euro 6, implemented in September 2014. For motorcycles the present standard is Euro 4, implemented in January 2016.
Written by Dolf Willigers, Secretary General FEMA