Breathing Fresh Air
Improving Air Quality
on Two Wheels
Scooters? You mean those little motorized two-wheelers that are great fun to ride? Yes, scooters can be really fun, but they can do so much more: For millions of people in metropolitan areas, scooters are an indispensable form of transport. People who travel on two wheels instead of four – taking up much less space in the process – are the only reason why rush hour traffic actually flows in the world’s major cities. But what about their emissions? If technological potential is harnessed more consistently, air quality in cities can also be improved.
Two Wheels to Combat Gridlock
Want to see how much more intensive two-wheeled traffic can be? Simply stand on Yánpíng North Road in the Datong district of Taipei City, Taiwan during rush hour. Not far from the Tamsui River, this crossing is home to a never-ending stream of commuters riding their scooters to work. Be it in Delhi or Bangkok, Beijing or Manila, this spectacle can be found in almost every city where lack of space and lower income levels make scooters the vehicle of choice. This offers particularly high potential for increased air quality. Although many municipalities are already promoting and demanding the use of electric scooters, the question of finance remains – after all, not everyone has enough cash lying around to buy a new e-scooter. Creative solutions are required.
Truly Electric Driving Pleasure
Two-wheelers fitted with conventional internal combustion engines, such as the classic Vespa GTS 125, can be converted into e-scooters at a reasonable cost. In November 2017, Continental’s 48V electric scooter was presented at the international EICMA motorcycle show in Milan. This is powered by a 48-volt electric motor (with max. 9.6 kW at max. 18,000 rpm) and is fitted with a lithium-ion battery and corresponding control electronics.
The reference class is 125cc: The handling and maximum speed of internal combustion engines are almost identical to electric drives, while the 48V electric scooter has a naturally lower range due to its battery. The electric scooter must be recharged at an outlet after 75 kilometers, while conventional scooters can travel 300 kilometers before needing more fuel.
But who uses a scooter for long-distance travel? Most scooters are only ever used to cover short distances in urban areas. Interestingly, the 48V electric scooter actually offers superior vehicle dynamics to the internal combustion engine, with much better acceleration and greater agility in city environments. Driving pleasure is enhanced by the knowledge that an environmentally friendly electric vehicle will help to improve air quality in the long run. And with a quiet purr rather than a loud rattle, the 48V electric scooter also makes less noise.
How Will the 48V Electric Scooter Gain Momentum?
Four questions for Christian Eder, Manager Business Development Vehicle Electrification
Mr. Eder, is the 48V electric scooter a one-off show vehicle or something more?
Definitely the latter. We have lots of plans for this electric motor. For example, we can offer retrofitting sets at attractive prices. And the many new city-based sharing mobility services can round off their portfolio with retrofitted scooters. We are also preparing collaborations with internationally renowned manufacturers of two-wheeled vehicles. We are currently engaged in very positive negotiations in many different directions.
Will this idea remain restricted to the European market?
No, of course not. We are also in close contact with a number of Asian companies, for example in India and China, where demand is particularly high.
What about the cost?
The 48V electric scooter is absolutely competitive. The slightly higher purchase price is quickly offset by the lower price of energy needed to run it and by the reduced maintenance costs.
What further potential do you see for this?
The great advantage of the high-performance 48-volt engine is its compact size, including the control electronics. The absence of high voltages is also great for safety because extensive safety precautions are not required. The electric motor could certainly also be used to power vehicles with more than two wheels. Think of tuk-tuks, for example, the auto rickshaws that fill the streets of countries such as India, Thailand and Kenya. Retrofitting these vehicles with our 48-volt engine would really help to improve air quality.
”The great advantage of the high-performance 48-volt engine is its compact size, including the control electronics.”
Manager Business Development Vehicle Electrification
The Right Tread Is Crucial
The state-of-the-art ContiTwist scooter tire for touring and city traffic provides the necessary grip. An innovative mixing technology for a long service life ensures very precise handling on wet and dry roads, combined with harmonious handling characteristics. The newly developed Continental scooter tires will even meet the requirements of luxury scooters – both electric and conventional – with large cylinder capacities.
The Big Wide World of Scooters
In 2017, around 3.61 million German citizens aged 14 and over had a scooter in their household.
More than 200 million e-scooters dart through the roads and alleys of China’s towns and cities. However, in 2016, high accident rates caused by unlicensed or unregistered drivers led to the first driving bans in Beijing and the economic hub of Shenzhen in the southern province of Guangdong, where greater legislative regulation is required.
Back in 2005, high smog levels in Guangzhou, China caused the government in Beijing to withdraw all two-stroke scooters from circulation. Only electric scooters are permitted here.
In India, motorcycles are the symbol of the “aspirational class,” regarded by marketing experts, politicians and sociologists alike as the key to the country’s future. This term refers to people who are nowhere near joining the wealthy middle class, but have a little money and a lot of dreams.
Two-wheelers close the crucial gap in the mobility chain between cars and bicycles, covering routes of around 12 kilometers that are too short for cars but too strenuous to cycle.
The world’s largest manufacturer of two-wheeled vehicles is not in Europe or China, but in India: Every year, the Hero brand sells more than six million two-wheeled vehicles.
The Trend for Cleanliness
Motorcycles and scooters have a truly ambivalent reputation. While they allow millions of people to travel at a reasonable price, their often outdated technology can cause high emissions and a decline in air quality, particularly in urban areas. And this is why the future belongs to clean scooters, which are catching on wherever the funds and infrastructures are available for electrified travel.
Sharing concepts are already proving very useful: What began in San Francisco in 2012 with the start-up Scoot – the first company to offer electric scooters for hire in the hilly city on the Pacific coast – is now a global trend. This is particularly true for Germany – for example, almost one third of all the e-scooters available for hire in the world can be found in Berlin. However, these concepts do not work so well everywhere; the vehicles cost more to purchase and charging points may not be available in public spaces, while many cities have service stations on practically every corner.
The Successful Battle against Exhaust Gas
Electric two-wheelers are a promising option, but there is also room to improve the consumption and emissions of conventional internal combustion engines. Now, Continental has further optimized its engine control unit and mixture formation to reduce consumption and emissions while increasing performance.
Thanks to its minimized weight and small dimensions, the modular Air Module Engine Control Unit fits into many engine concepts from a range of manufacturers. This system will also meet the requirements of global markets in a range of configurations: For example, motorcycles with up to 250cc cylinder capacity already meet the requirements of emission standard Euro 5 expected for 2020 with the relevant version.
The fuel supply unit (FSU), currently used in four-stroke motorcycles and scooters with up to 150cc cylinder capacity, also shows its strengths: With constant pressure, the extremely light piston pump reduces fuel consumption and emissions while maintaining power output – and, thanks to its compact structure, can be integrated in almost any position. Such innovations for the internal combustion engine also help to improve air quality in urban areas.
More Safety, More Acceptance
The more people swap four wheels for two, the more cleaner technologies will reduce the burden on the roads and environment. Not only will emissions and consumption decrease overall, but the space saved on roads and in car parks will also reduce the burden on towns and cities. It is therefore important to increase acceptance of two-wheelers.
But how can that best be done? By making two-wheeled vehicles even safer and harnessing the potential for greater vehicle dynamics. Since January 2017, newly registered motorcycles throughout Europe must have ABS brake systems like those that Continental has been developing and producing for over ten years for motorcycle manufacturers worldwide. The top priority for developers is to retain freedom of choice for motorcyclists – they should be supported, not patronized.
This guiding principle applies to all Advanced Rider Assistance Systems (ARASTM) developed by Continental. In addition to the ABS, the family of “assistants” also includes Traffic Sign Assist, Blind Spot Detection, Forward Collision Warning, Head Light Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control. With more safety in every detail, there are plenty of reasons to leave the car at home and head out on two wheels.
The influence of two-wheeled vehicles is often underestimated, but for millions of people – particularly in Asia – they are one of the pillars of urban mobility. Whether electric drives or continuously optimized internal combustion engines, all these innovations and efforts help to protect the environment and keep our air clean.
Driving dynamics come with responsibility – two-wheel technologies from Continental have a lot to offer.
Continental Magazine Issue 1/2018