How does the emergence of electric motorcycles create implications for tires?

A new Smithers Rapra global study tracks how battery-powered two-wheeled vehicles and other emergent trends will pose challenges and opportunities for tire manufacturers across the next five years.

Smithers Rapra’s study The Future of Motorcycle Tires to 2023 covers the global market of motorcycle tires and the future technology that may influence it.

Demand, especially from China, India and other developing markets will drive global demand for motorcycle tires to $19.4 billion in 2023, up from $14.2 billion in 2018, representing a compound annual growth rate of 6.5%.

Since motorcycle tires are developed for specific applications or specific motorcycles, changes to motorcycle technology will have direct effects on tire design, role, usage and wear.

Electrification and autonomy seem to be the long-term future of motorcycle transportation. Thus a key development in this sector is how to develop tires for two-wheeled electric vehicles. This emerging platform is creating an intriguing market opportunity for tire manufacturers – especially in developed markets where volume growth is more limited. 

Electric

Electric motorcycles have been in discussion and development for several years but have not yet gained broad acceptance in the marketplace. This is beginning to change. In 2019, the market is limited, but is characterised by rapid technological innovations. Some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are making investments in the lighter high-performance electric motorcycles with greater driving range; and start-ups are emerging where larger companies have been slower to move.

With the declining prices of lithium ion batteries and powertrain components, the overall cost of high-performance electric motorcycles will decrease through to 2023. Some national governments have passed stringent vehicular emission standards that are encouraging adoption of electric vehicles. This leads to growing demand for high-performance electric motorcycles among environmentally aware riders. Over the next five years, there will be six factors driving electric motorcycle adoption .

  • Performance

The key performance developments include the handling and range of electric motorcycles. There will also be continuous increases in power requiring upgrades to brakes, tires and rims; as well as weight reduction.

  • Reliability

The suspension, frame and braking components are relatively similar to conventional motorcycles, but motors have a far fewer moving parts. Therefore, the constant vibration will be eliminated which will lead to increased comfort of electric motorcycles.

  • Ease of use

Electric motorcycles are easier to learn due to the fact that they have no clutch. This means that they will attract new riders, including from newer demographics. The battery range of electric motorcycles and charging infrastructure are improving, with companies working on swappable batteries.

  • Long-term savings

Despite a higher upfront cost, it can be mitigated by operational savings depending on the amount of use.

  • Novelty

The newness of electric motorcycles may appeal to many riders, much as other electronic devices do. From this, the pace of upgrades is likely to accelerate.

  • Improving availability

Electric motorcycles are becoming much more widely available. Many renowned brands of conventional motorcycles are manufacturing electric models.

Tire attributes

In order to keep up with the emergence of electronic motorcycles, technology of tires needs to develop. In order to continue to improve motorcycle tire characteristics and performance, manufacturers continue to work at incremental but meaningful improvements, with grip being the most critical attribute, followed by durability, with is an issue due to the frequent replacement need.

Below is a summary of recent and current technological innovations that are believed to continue to characterise the technology sphere of motorcycle tires through 2023, from the perspective of market participants.

Tire attribute

Raw material suppliers

Tire suppliers

Original equipment manufacturers/users

Traction/wet grip

Compounds most important contributor to grip

Going beyond maximising grip to include features such as grip limit feedback feature

Continuing primary concern.

Durability

More complexity as tire makers raise requirements outside of grip

Multiple compounds used in different tire zones

Increasing concern of users

Rolling resistance

Silica technologies already well established in pursuit of other properties

Emissions regulations in the EU may make this more important

Will become more important as electric motorcycles emerge

Comfort/noise

 

 

Ride comfort and noise will be increasingly addressed by electronic motorcycles, but then this may make tire contribution more noticeable

Sustainability

Greater use of natural rubber and encouragement of its supply

High priority for leading manufacturers in manufacturing processes and materials used

Longer tire life can be economical for users and minimise end-of-life issues

Advanced features

Sensors and RFID technologies more important

Need to design tires appropriate to electric and intelligent transport systems.

 

The Future of Motorcycle Tires to 2023 gives an exclusive insight into the trends, developments and implications set to face motorcycle tires to 2023.