Writing about bikes for 20 years. Published in dozens of titles on five continents. Mildly obsessed with discovering how things work.
From 1st January 2021 every new bike sold in the European Union is meant to comply with the next-generation ‘Euro 5’ emissions rules but it’s looking increasingly like manufacturers will struggle to bring their ranges into line with the new rules in time as the Coronavirus lockdown hamstrings both sales and development.
The impending Euro 5 rules aren’t coming as a surprise to anyone; they were pencilled out, along with their introduction timescale, nearly a decade ago and the European regulation laying out their implementation was put on the books in its final form in 2013. But despite plenty of warning, it’s increasingly apparent that a huge majority of modern bikes have yet to be approved to Euro 5 standards.
Some will sail through the tests with minimal modifications but many are likely to need extensive updates to meet the new rules, and under current plans it’s going to be tough to sell Euro 4 models after December 31st this year.
With the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on motorcycle manufacturing and development all over the world and inevitably having a serious impact on sales, there are growing calls from the bike industry to postpone the introduction of Euro 5 until 2022.
We did a deep dive into the technical implications of Euro 5 rules back in February 2019, and you can read that here, but in short the rules – laid out in Regulation (EU) No 168/2013 on the approval and market surveillance of two- or three-wheel vehicles and quadricycles – take existing Euro 4 emissions standards and high the bar up by a couple of pegs.
Compared to Euro 4, Euro 5 rules demand less carbon monoxide emissions – down from 1140mg/km to 1000mg/km – and even more signification reductions in hydrocarbon and NOx (nitrogen oxide) output. The former goes from 170mg/km to 100mg/km, the latter from 90mg/km to 60mg/km. An additional rule, added as part of Euro 5, means that ‘non-methane hydrocarbons’ that weren’t separately measured under Euro 4 will be limited to 68mg/km.
For newly type-approved bikes, Euro 5 rules came into force at the start of 2020. That means any model that has been type-approved since the start of this year must already comply. But from the start of 2021 every new bike is meant to be Euro 5 compliant in order to be sold in the EU.
We’ve already seen some manufacturers dodging Euro 5 limits for new-for-2020 models by sliding them through European type-approval before the end of 2019. Notable examples include Ducati’s headline-making Superleggera V4, a bike that wasn’t officially unveiled until February 2020 but which the firm pushed through Euro 4 type-approval back in November 2019, while the new model was still a secret. Thus it’s perfectly legally on sale as a new model but with Euro 4 approval rather than Euro 5.
As with all Euro emissions laws, the rules are applied to new, unregistered bikes, so Euro 5 isn’t a concern for existing owners. However, the regulations could leave manufacturers with no option but to discontinue certain models if they’re unable to get them to comply with the new limits.
Although firms are already working hard to make their ranges compliant, inevitably the focus falls initially on the most popular and most profitable models. Niche bikes that sell in smaller numbers and make less of an impression on the firms’ bottom lines are likely to be the models that fall by the wayside when Euro 5 is enforced.
You might think that since the UK is currently in a transition period and, unless there’s an extension will leave the EU at the same time as Euro 5 officially comes into force, that we’ll be exempt. However, the government has already confirmed that UK and EU technical standards won’t diverge, saying:
UK and EU technical standards will be aligned immediately after 31 December 2020. As such, the UK will issue provisional UK type-approvals, upon application, to manufacturers that can prove they hold valid EC type-approvals. This will be an administrative conversion of EC type-approvals into UK type-approvals. This streamlined approach avoids costly re-testing and re-design for manufacturers. It will also ensure that products can continue to be sold and registered in the UK.
The provisional UK type-approval will be valid for 2 years from the date of issue. It will need to be converted into a full UK type-approval during this period or it will become invalid. Legislation to allow the VCA to convert provisional type-approvals into full type-approvals is expected to be in place during 2021.
In simple terms, the UK intends to adopt Euro 5 across the board for motorcycles from the start of 2021, although as with the rest of Europe there will be a chance for manufacturers to get permission to sell a number of non-compliant bikes after that date to clear stocks.
As we’ll see, there’s also growing pressure to postpone the introduction of Euro 5 in both the UK and the rest of Europe as bike sales are grinding to a halt during the Coronavirus crisis.
It might be the latest and greatest superbike, but Ducati’s Superleggera V4 isn’t Euro 5 certified
When we started to look into this feature, the initial thought was that there might be a handful of motorcycles that don’t yet have Euro 5 compliance and that therefore need updating, recertifying, replacing or simply to be discontinued before the rules come into force.
The reality isn’t that simple. It turns out that the vast majority of current models have yet to attain their Euro 5 certification.
For some, passing the new tests will be simple. In general, bikes developed since the Euro 5 rules were laid out in 2013 are likely to have been designed with compliance in mind. That means it should be relatively straightforward to make them compliant with small technical tweaks. However, for older designs or bikes that use older engines there may be bigger hurdles.
From a quick poll of the major manufacturers’ ranges, here’s how each are doing when it comes to Euro 5:
Honda wasn’t able to provide us with a definitive list bikes that already meet Euro 5 rules, but the only ones that we know for certain comply are the CMX500 Rebel, CBR1000RR-R Fireblade and Fireblade SP, CRF1100L Africa Twin and Africa Twin Sports, and the SH125i scooter. The rest of the bikes appear to still be Euro 4-certified, including:
Of course, some of those bikes are due for an upgrade for 2020 anyway. We wouldn’t be surprised to see tweaks to the NC750-based models – the S, X and Integra – and it’s already clear that since the CMX500 Rebel has been made Euro 5 compliant, other bikes using the same basic engine design – the CB500F, CB500X and CBR500R – will be simple to bring into line.
There’s a similar story over at Yamaha. The firm says that it’s whole current range is Euro 4 compliant apart from the latest R1, R1M, Tracer 700 and TMAX models, which all meet Euro 5. That means even the updated-for-2020 MT-125 is still only at Euro 4 emissions standards.
The full list of Euro 4 Yamahas is:
Since the Tracer 700 meets Euro 5, it’s clear that other bikes using the same engine – the MT-07 and Tenere 700 – will be easy to bring into line. The same is likely to apply to other strong sellers like the MT-09 and its derivatives. However, other bikes might not make the cut for 2021. The very existence of the FJR1300 ‘Ultimate Edition’ suggests this old timer is reaching the end of its tour, for instance. Can the R6 – the only Japanese 600 supersports bike to achieve Euro 4 approval – be further tweaked to manage Euro 5, or is it sayonara to that class at last in 2021?
Currently just one Suzuki – the new-for-2020 V-Strom 1050 – achieves Euro 5 certification. That means the entire European range needs revision, recertification or removal for 2021.
Those at risk include:
Of those, the V-Strom models are all likely to be massaged to meet the new rules, while the GSX-R1000 – a modern design developed since Euro 5 targets were established – was surely created with the 2021 emissions limits in mind, perhaps with minor tweaks. Which of the others will be updated and which face the chopping block remains to be seen.
According to BMW’s official specs, the vast majority of its range is still Euro 4-approved, but it’s worth bearing in mind that several of its more recent bikes were developed with Euro 5 in mind even if they haven’t been certified to that standard just yet.
At the moment, the only models that are listed as Euro 5-spec are the F900XR and F900R.
The list of Euro 4-complient bikes that need to be Euro 5-certified includes:
Of those, several were clearly made with Euro 5 in mind. The R1250 models, for instance, with their ShiftCam engines, are clearly created to be Euro 5 compliant, as is the S1000RR, even if they’re still listed as Euro 4 bikes.
There’s also the notable oddity of the C evolution in the list; it’s classed as ‘Euro 4’ but as a pure electric bike it’s clearly going to have no problem meeting tougher Euro 5 limits.
With the F900XR and F900R already meeting Euro 5, perhaps we should expect the F850 models to be updated to the F900’s 895cc engine in 2021.
The story is the same again at Ducati, with even some of the latest models only certified at Euro 4 level. We’ve already mentioned the 2020 Superleggera V4, which slid into the old Euro 4 class by getting type-approved before the end of 2019. In fact, the only Euro 5 bikes in the firm’s range are the Panigale V2 and the Scrambler 1100 Pro and Sport Pro.
The rest are all Euro 4, including:
Like BMW, Ducati has got a very modern model range so the fact that most are still Euro 4-approved isn’t likely to be a big concern. Chances are that most of the bikes will achieve Euro 5 limits with minimal tweaks.
Compared to many of its rivals, Triumph’s Euro 5 preparations are well ahead. The firm’s most recent models, including the Rocket 3, Tiger 900 range, Street Triple line-up and the Thruxton RS are all Euro 5-compliant already.
However, there are still some Euro 4 models in the range that will need to be recertified and perhaps reworked to meet the Euro 5 rules. The Euro 4 models include:
Clearly most of the Euro 4 models are the Bonneville-based machines. Fortunately, the Euro 5-legal Thruxton RS shows that the engine used in those bikes can be easily made to meet Euro 5 limits, so that won’t a big problem. Meanwhile the Tiger 1200 is set to be replaced with an all-new model, featuring a completely new 1160cc triple that’s also likely to appear in a replacement for the Speed Triple.
While Kawasaki’s range is short on Euro 5-certified bikes, the firm has described many of its recently-launched models as ‘Euro 5 ready’ or ‘Euro 5 compliant’. That means, like many other firms, the firm has been developing its bikes with the new rules in mind even if it hasn’t put them all through the final testing process needed to gain certification.
Models like the latest Ninja 1000SX, Z H2, Z900, W800 and Z650 are ready for certification, while the firm has also revealed that the ZZR1400 will be discontinued by the end of the year as it doesn’t meet the new rules.
Other bikes in the range are likely to be tweaked or revamped to meet the Euro 5 limits.
A Kawasaki spokesman said: “Kawasaki is preparing for Euro5 legislation and already we sell the current model year Versys 1000 model which is Type approved under Euro5 providing certification of conformity.
“Many other models in the Kawasaki range are what we call “Euro5 ready” – this means that they simply need to go through the testing process for Euro 5 type approval to determine the final specification.
“For the 2021 model year we will have a comprehensive range of machines across diverse style types and we will continue to add new segment leading machines as part of a continual process to deliver the most cutting edge machinery for Kawasaki fans.”
It’s clear from the list of Euro 4 models that the bike industry faces a huge challenge to get its machines type approved before the Euro 5 limits come into force on 1st January next year. Now there’s the additional concern of the COVID-19 Coronavirus to contend with.
The problem is that even if all these bikes can be tweaked and updated to create Euro 5-complient versions by the start of 2021, the rules as they stand still mean that it will be impossible to register new Euro 4-spec bikes next year.
The Italian motorcycle industry has already raised concerns. With Italy facing the worst outbreak of coronavirus in Europe and under the strictest limits (so far) on movement and trade, bike sales have effectively come to a halt in the country. Following the introduction of rules closing shops in Italy, Paolo Magri, boss of Brembo and the head of Italy’s motorcycle industry association, ANCMA, said: “The effect of this provision – that the industry welcomed with a sense of responsibility to contain the effects of an emergency unprecedented healthcare – is the total block of sales over a period of time which, at this stage, it is not possible to determine.
“The damage to the sector is aggravated by the unhappy concomitance with the transition between Euro 4 and Euro 5 engines, governed by European Regulation 168/2013: starting from 1 January 2021 it will no longer be possible to register Euro 4 mopeds and motorcycles, except for those allowed by the end of series waivers normally provided by the
EU directives to help builders dispose of stocks.
“The closure of the shops, however, will prevent the sale of all Euro 4 approved vehicles, with consequent increase in the stock held in the warehouse: the risk is real that at the end of the year, manufacturers and dealers will find themselves at home with a mass of vehicles that, by law, can no longer be marketed.
“It is therefore necessary to immediately think of emergency solutions to respond to the exceptional situation, which could translate into significant damage in the coming months for companies in the sector: in particular, we believe it is necessary to think of a postponement of at least six months of the registration deadline Euro 4 and we therefore ask the Italian government to promote this request at the competent European offices.”
While Italy’s closures might be the most severe so far in Europe, others countries are starting to follow suit, with Spain, France and Germany – all large motorcycle markets – also closing most non-essential shops.
In the UK, the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) has said: “We have raised our serious concerns to the DfT about the planned introduction of Euro 5 for whole vehicles, advising them that a sizable drop in the 2020 new vehicle market will not only impact on our ability to timely phase out E4 stock, but also the knock-on effect this will have on the introduction of Euro 5 products.”
The MCIA has written to Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, to request a 12 month postponement for the end of Euro 4, pushing it back to the end of 2021.
We spoke to the European motorcycle industry association, ACEM, which told us that it is aware of the problem and working on possible solutions.
In a statement, ACEM said:
“The ongoing pandemic has severely disrupted supply chains, manufacturing operations and the development of new Euro 5 models. This disruption, in addition to virus containment measures taken in factories, has led to a near complete standstill of the industry in many countries.
“The recent lock-down and stringent measures to contain the pandemic have also paralyzed motorcycle retail business activity. This is progressively affecting all European markets, creating unsettling uncertainties for the motorcycle sector. The COVID-19 crisis is placing dealerships, most of which are small family-run operations, under extreme financial hardship. Immediate cashflow concerns will need to be addressed through support measures in every impacted country.
“Against this background, the motorcycle industry urgently calls on the European Commission and national administrations to swiftly adopt all necessary measures to help the sector come through this unprecedented crisis. The motorcycle sector is ready to work with all policy makers to achieve this aim, protecting the 300,000 jobs linked to this industry.”
We understand that ACEM has started pushing the EU to postpone the final adoption date of Euro 5 by a full 12 months, giving manufacturers another year to clear stocks of Euro 4 models and prepare their Euro 5-compliant successors. It has sent a letter to the European Commissioner for the Internal Market asking for the end date for Euro 4 approval to be postponed for 12 months, moving the deadline to the end of 2021.
As Paolo Magri suggests, even if the date for Euro 5’s introduction isn’t altered, some Euro 4-legal bikes will be allowed to stay on sale even after 1st January 2021 under ‘end of series’ – or ‘derogation’ – rules.
The situation implemented when Euro 4 was introduced on 1st January 2017 was that manufacturers could apply for special permissions in individual European countries to be allowed to keep non-compliant bikes on sale for up to two more years. But these rules were designed really to allow small numbers of machines, effectively leftover stock, to be cleared rather than as a general period of grace. Limits were set on the total number of non-compliant bikes that could be sold, with manufacturers allowed to sell:
1: Up to 10% of the number of vehicles of the same type registered in the two preceding years, or
2: Up to 100 vehicles per type per Member State, whichever is higher.
The end of series rules applied for two years, allowing some Euro 3 bikes to be sold right up until the end of 2018.
We checked with ACEM, which confirmed that end-of-series derogation will be an option for manufactures, allowing small numbers of Euro 4 bikes to be sold until the end of 2022. If the introduction of Euro 5 is delayed, then the final date for Euro 4 bikes sold under end-of-series rules will also slide back further.
At the moment it’s a little too early to use a lack of Euro 5 compliance as leverage to squeeze a discount out of dealers, but it’s clear that once the Coronavirus crisis has been overcome there will be a scrabble to get back on track. At the moment the pandemic and its ever-increasing impact on industry, as well as the constantly changing response from governments around the world, means it’s impossible to know either when motorcycling will return to ‘business as usual’ or what the repercussions will be for customers.
A lot will depend on how the European Union reacts to pressure to delay the introduction of Euro 5 rules. If there is a delay then it takes some pressure off and reduces the likelihood of deep discounting.