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Whether for emissions- or money-related purposes, burning less fuel is a worthwhile endeavor for many motorists. And better fuel economy is a common reason why some people start riding motorcycles. Datum point of one, but it was a significant factor for me. However, while you can see a car’s fuel efficiency ratings on its Monroney sticker, for bikes, it’s not so simple.

The EPA tests are more about motorcycle emissions than fuel economy

A silver Toyota Camry undergoing emissions tests at an EPA facility
A Toyota Camry undergoing emissions tests at an EPA facility | Cole Wilson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Although it doesn’t always test vehicles itself, the EPA sets both the standards and test procedures required to measure fuel economy. But not every kind of vehicle has to go through them. Heavy-duty trucks, for example, are exempt from these tests. And so are motorcycles, reports.

However, just because motorcycles aren’t required to take fuel economy tests doesn’t mean they don’t. Some manufacturers do release fuel-efficiency claims for their bikes, Motorcyclist reports. But the ones that don’t aren’t penalized for it.

Two laboratory workers measure a 1933 motorcycle's emissions
A German laboratory measures motorcycle emissions in 1933 | A. & E. Frankl/ullstein bild via Getty Images

That being said, there are EPA tests that motorcycles are required to pass. Specifically, just like passenger cars, bikes have emissions standards. And while they’re different than the ones for cars, motorcycle emissions tests use similar equipment and procedures. Namely, putting the bike on a dynamometer and capturing the tailpipe emissions. And since these EPA emissions tests also measure fuel economy, some manufacturers take advantage of that to release official ratings, the LA Times reports.

So, while the EPA doesn’t directly test motorcycle fuel economy, its emissions tests can deliver fuel-efficiency ratings. And, much like the standards for cars, bike emission standards have tightened up over the years. The last change came in 2010 when the EPA introduced the Tier 2 standards, Cycle World reports.

Still, the EPA is only responsible for the US market. What about elsewhere?

Overseas, motorcycle emissions also take priority over fuel economy

The motorcycle industry’s seen some significant changes in the last year outside of the US.

2020 saw the introduction of the Euro 5 emissions standards to replace the less-stringent Euro 4 regulations, Bennetts reports. And while bike companies had a grace period to sell some older models, new motorcycles have to be Euro 5-compliant. That’s why the outgoing Suzuki Hayabusa was only sold in the US for the last few years: it didn’t meet Euro 5 or 4 standards.

Euro 5 emissions standards cover the same chemicals—NOx, CO, and unburned hydrocarbons—as the EPA tests. However, the European standards include an extra chemical category: non-methane hydrocarbons, which are a significant portion of the hydrocarbon emissions, reports. And while the European test procedures are different than the EPA ones, Euro 5 limits are more stringent than the EPA’s limits. Even the CARB standards aren’t quite as stringent, reports.

However, you might’ve noticed that while the Euro 5 standards discuss motorcycle emissions, they don’t mention fuel economy. That’s because, as with the EPA, although the EU’s tests can calculate fuel economy, manufacturers don’t have to report it. That doesn’t mean they can’t, though; several Japanese motorcycle companies started voluntarily publishing the results in 2013, JAMA reports.

Could this change in the future?

To summarize, neither the EPA nor the EU requires motorcycle manufacturers to publish fuel economy figures. However, that doesn’t mean other countries can’t set their own regulations.

For example, Vietnam began requiring fuel economy labels on new motorcycles in 2020, reports. It joins China and Taiwan as one of the few nations with such laws, reports.

But does that mean the EPA itself could introduce fuel economy labeling laws for motorcycles sold in the US? Admittedly, it’s not an impossibility. However, the chances of that happening are fairly low. Compared to places like China and Vietnam, motorcycles make up a far smaller percentage of vehicles on the road here, the LAT reports. There’s little reason to go after such a small piece of the pie, so to speak.

Plus, tightening up emissions standards typically leads to more fuel-efficient bikes, MCN reports. So, in a way, regulating emissions also regulates fuel economy.

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