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How Green Is Your Motorcycle or Scooter? Myth Busted?

We take for granted the fact that, by virtue of their lower fuel consumption, motorcycles are “greener” than cars, but it seems it all depends on how – or where – you look at it.

Scooter-piloting townies will be appalled as they sip their half-caff lattes now that a  study conducted for a recent episode of Mythbusters, the Discovery Channel program from the guys who have the best jobs in the world, found that cars were greener than motorcycles.

Sort of…

The episode, which aired Wednesday and featured a segment titled “Bike vs. Car,” saw Adam and Jamie test three cars and three motorcycles, each from the 1980s, ’90s or ’2000s. The machines were fitted with tailpipe monitoring probes which measured the carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide output of each vehicle during a spin around a closed course in Alameda County, Calif.

The collected tailpipe data from monitors mounted to the vehicles’ was ultimately interpreted by Professor Kent Johnson, a research engineer at the University of California at Riverside. Johnson analyzed the emissions of hydrocarbons and nitric oxide as well.

For the most recent model year vehicles tested the motorcycle used 28% less fuel than the comparable decade car and emitted 30% fewer carbon dioxide emissions, but bieks emitted 416% more hydrocarbons, 3,220% more oxides of nitrogen and 8,065% more carbon monoxide.

Sadly, the show’s hosts, Savage and Hyneman, failed to name the makes and models of the vehicles, but they looked like pretty standard stuff in the Buick, Ford, Mercury and Honda vein.

According to Johnson, the motorcycles did burn fuel more efficiently and produced lower levels of carbon dioxide than the cars, but here’s the catch; the noxious pollutants generated by the bikes were higher than the output generated by the cars.
So did the the hosts and their Mr. Science pal determine the greenest mode of transport?

Probably not, but I love that show anyway, and any show which features motorcycle-related segments is all right by me.


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