Friday, June 28, 2013

Two or three wheeled Motorcycles are a major issue for congestion, pollution and road safety in most Asia’s cities

Figure 1 : A family riding a motorcycle in Cambodia 

Two and three wheeled motorcycles are mostly located in Asia and used for private household mobility or public transport

In 2010, the current worldwide motorcycle populaton was around 450mil, on which 77% was located in Asia Pacific, 8% in both Europe and America, 4% in Middle East & Central Asia and only 3% in Africa. 

During the past period 2002-2010, the worldwide fleet increased annually by 9.5%. As we can see in Figure 2, the biggest increases of the motorcycle stock by region were South America, Asia Pacific, while Africa, Middle East, North America and  West Europe were lagging behind.

Figure 2: Evolution of 2-3 wheeler stocks over worldwide regions 

In emerging and developing countries, 2-3 wheelers are mostly cheap mode of transport used for household mobility with low or medium power mopeds, motorcycles and scooters (<150cc).

For developed countries –especially in North America-  it is more a recreational vehicle with higher power capacity (500cc and more).

In 2010, the 10 highest worldwide 2-3 wheelers rate ownership were located mainly in Asian countries (see Figure 3): Taiwan (642 units for 1,000 people), Vietnam (362), Malaysia (332) and Indonesia/Thailand (251), the others being Uruguay, Italy, Dominican Republic and Lao (130-280).

China (77) and India (68) were ranking only the 22nd and 26th with Japan 27th (65) together with 4 European countries, Brazil and Colombia. 

Figure 3: The first 2-3 wheeler stocks and ownership rates over worldwide regions (2010 figures from WHO road safety 2013)

But due to their higher populations among the 10 biggest worldwide motorcycle stocks in 2010 we find 8 Asian Pacific countries.

Among the first 5 biggest, 3 countries China, Indonesia and Vietnam have registered very high stock increases over the last 8 years around 15-30% annually ( see Figure 4).

Figure 4 : Evolution of the biggest 2-3 wheelers stocks in 2010 over worldwide regions (2002 figures from Worldmapper)

Why are 2 & 3 wheeled motorcycles so prevalent inside Asian Pacific mobility modes ?

Motor vehicles due to their low initial cost overwhelmingly dominate the market for ground mobility of passengers and freight in developing countries. Bus lines, trains and rapid transit systems in urban areas are less frequent than what exists in developed countries.

Moreover inside the developing countries’ motor vehicle market: mopeds, 2-3 wheelers or scooters have the lion's share as compared to 4 wheelers passenger cars, light and heavy trucks or bus.

There is a strong upfront advantage in term of cost....:

The basic advantage is cost efficiency and lower weight especially with two-stroke engines delivering high torque and greater power output at a very low cost.

In India during 2011, the range of prices of motorcycles of 75-125 cc category – the highest selling category – was around 48,500 Rs (850$) and for 125-250 cc around 81,500 Rs(1,300$) (see Narayan V. Iyer, August,2012).

As concerns congestion, two or three wheelers offer high maneuverability at a low speed, in narrow lanes & crowded urbazined areas, not to mention the need of smaller parking areas. 

Moreover in Taiwan, Europe and Malaysia - as we can see today in congested Penang Island- there is a surge of two wheelers among car owners as an additionally mode of mobility.

Concerning the issue of 3-wheelers reducing urban congestion maybe is it questionable. For instance in Bangkok the traffic at peak hour could really become chaotic. There is a need to rationalize organization of road and intersection designs with the ban of three wheelers from highways!

....But afterwards there are huge recurrent pollution externalities:

There are higher pollutions by excessive hydrocarbons (HC) and  particulate matter (PM)) emissions from two-stroke engines as compared to four-stroke. Why?

The two-stroke exhaust gas is forced from the cylinder by the pressure of the incoming charge. A significant part –around 20-30%- of the fresh charge escapes unburned. This coupled with the tendency to misfire at low load results with high HC emissions.

Oil lubricant in two- stroke engines needs to be mixed in the fuel to lubricate bearing and piston and this is thus a major source of smoke and PM. Many drivers add more lubricant than necessary to protect the engine. But the pollution effect of much higher emissions far outweighs the benefit to the vehicle owner! 

The drawbacks of the two-stroke engines are even made worse when used on a 3 wheelers. Such vehicles are underpowered so the engine usually operates near wide open throttle producing huge fuel consumptions and high emissions.

As a result, motorcycle emissions from a single two stroke can exceed those of a 3 passenger cars or those from a heavy duty diesel truck! Emissions from 2 & 3 wheelers represent the most serious problems for developing cities.

Three wheelers taxis are perceived as less compliant with traffic regulations and more accident prone than 4-wheels passenger vehicles. Such motorcycle’s dependency might lead to the exclusion or more adapted public transports such as bus.  In Delhi (India), Denpasar (Bali) and Hanoi (Vietnam) less than 5% of public transport are operated by bus.

Today, the general consensus is that the limits of 2-stroke technology have largely been reached in all classes, and therefore 2012 was the dawn of a technically relevant new era, with four stroke motorcycles filling all fields of the motorcycle market.

For the two wheelers, the shift from two-stroke to four-stroke engines begun around 2000 and gained further momentum in 2005- 2010. The private user’s shift was not only to meet the emission standards but also to change to more fuel efficient 4-stroke. But in India the relative share of 2-stroke engines is still around 6% of the total powered two-wheelers sales in the country (see Narayan V. Iyer, August, 2012).

For its three-wheelers, Bajaj developed a four-stroke engine with a program to stop production of the two-stroke. Unfortunately, the four-stroke rickshaw did not receive a favorable response from the market. Bajaj, therefore, had to restart the production of the popular 2-stroke. The poor market acceptance was attributed to the profiles of three-wheeler customers who need to earn a living from the vehicle and would not take the risk of investing in a new type of vehicle, with which they are not familiar, and at a higher price too (see ibid.).

Further on, as far as the vehicle stock is concerned, the low cost of repairs and the huge cost of the renewal in developing countries leads to a very low turnover of the 2-3 wheels population which means that the  two-stroke engines recurring pollution externalities might remain still present for a long time.

2010 registered vehicles breakdown over countries

If we want to assess the motorcycle’s dependency throughout the various Asian Pacific countries, it is fascinating to look at the rate of 2-3 wheelers in relation to the passenger 4-wheeled cars.

The Figure 5 below shows ( logarithmic vertical scale) that Vietnam is far ahead of all other countries and that the cars are almost completely driven out of the country!

Malaysia is the hinging point between developing and developed countries.There is an automotive car industry with Proton and Perodua and 3-wheelers are banned for public transport. 

All countries on the left hand side from Malaysia have 3-wheelers taxis, except China and Taiwan.

Figure 5: Rate of 2-3 wheelers as compared to passenger cars in Asia Pacifiic decreasing from left to right

Figure 6: Total vehicle breakdown in 2010 by countries, decreasing income from left to right (fromWHO road safety status 2013)

Figure 7 : Vehicle breakdown per 1,000 people in 2010 by countries, decreasing income from left to right (fromWHO road safety status 2013)

Unlike the pattern for passenger cars, the ownership growth pattern for motorcycles varies greatly in different countries.

The growth of motorcycles could be influenced by three sets of factors (see "Vehicle China pollution by 2050"  Huo, Hong and al.):

(a) Economical factors: in China motorcycle ownership in household with per capita income below 2,500$ rises as per capita income increases. However, when per capita income reaches 3,000 to 3,500$, the growth rate appears to slow, reaching a saturation level. Also at this income level, car purchases begin to increase rapidly, suggesting that a switch from two wheelers to passenger cars occurs in urban families as income rises.

(b) Geographical factors: ownership tends to increase as per capita GDP grows, except in several geographically unique countries and areas, such as the Philippines, which is archipelagic, and Singapore, which is a city state. In China, because geographical features vary dramatically throughout the country, two wheelers ownership in southern regions is higher than in the northern regions because the warmer southern climate makes riding motorcycles more comfortable. 

(c) Policies: Major Chinese cities thrive to limit, and even ban, the registration and use of motorcycles in urban areas. 

Figure 8 tends to show that the motorcycle ownership's relationship against per capiat GDP is more or less hyperbolic, due to the shift from two-wheelers to passenger cars when per capita income reaches 3,500$, with the notable exception of Taiwan which is in a unique position.

Figure 8: Relation of motorcycles' ownership against per capita GDP growth (all 2-3 wheelers figures from WHO road safety report 2013, except Taiwan)  

Road safety fatalities

The overall global road traffic fatality rate worldwide is 18 per 100,000 people. However, low and middle-income countries have the highest annual road traffic fatality rates, at 18.3-20.1 per 100,000, while the rate in high-income countries is the lowest, at 8.7 per 100 000.

But in Asia Pacific countries the safety achievements are better with respectively 7.1 and 8.2 rates per 100,000 people for low & middle income or high income countries.

However the worse performing countries are Malaysia and Thailand (see Figure above). 

In low and middle Asian Pacific countries 33% of the fatalities are made to motorcyclists.

The associated cost of the DGP  lost from these fatalities is estimated to be around 3%.

Figure 9: Traffic death fatalities over Asia Pacific countries ( from WHO Road Safety 2013report)

Figure 10: Traffic death fatalities over main Asia Pacific regions (from WHO Road Safety 2013report)