SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher
I see no reason to run out and sell your beloved Harley or Indian just yet
I chuckled the first time I saw a T-shirt proclaiming “Harley-Davidson, turning gas into noise since 1903!” Life sure has changed over the years. While excessive motorcycle exhaust noise can still be an issue, we are more likely these days to read about zero-emission vehicles, self-driving cars, hybrid power, and smaller carbon footprints.
These aren’t topics you often read about in motorcycle magazines, but these are pressing issues with imminent impact on the future of traditional motorcycling. By traditional, I mean gas-burning internal combustion motorcycles, the way Harley and the Davidsons, as well as their Indian competitors Hendee and Hedstrom, intended.
So, is the internal combustion engine doomed? I expect it will be around, in one form or another, for many years to come. I’d bet on it. In fact, I recently read a Wall Street Journal article titled Combustion Engines Catch New Spark. It was about how some big oil companies and auto makers are partnering up to support the internal combustion engine. Rather than saddle us with self-driving electric cars, their goal is to create technology with a longer lifespan for traditional combustion engines.
I am no expert in petroleum-based products or their applications, but I do know the oils we use in motorcycles sure have changed over the years. For example, I run straight-weight 60W mineral oil in my old Harley Knucklehead and Indian Scout. Yet I use 20W-50 synthetic in my XR1200X Sportster. And our Ford pick-up truck uses even thinner 5W-20 synthetic.
All of this could soon be yesterday’s news as companies like ExxonMobil, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell spend millions of dollars on newer, thinner “super lubes.” As stricter rules emerge for combustion engines around the world, the Journal article states the goal is now to create a new class of slicker and thinner engine lubricants. These super lubes will allow greater efficiency in combustion engines, delaying the onslaught of electric-powered, zero-emission machines. And this is not fake news. Several countries, including China, France, India, and the UK, are seriously considering outright banning vehicles with internal combustion power in coming years.
The Journal article stated the European Union (EU) recently “unveiled an aggressive proposal to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from cars and vans by 30 percent by 2030. Bejing wants 20 percent of China’s total vehicle production and sales to be electric and hybrid vehicles by 2025.”
There are no doubts that electric and hybrid cars, and eventually motorcycles, are on their way. But I see no reason to run out and sell your beloved Harley or Indian just yet. Big oil has partnered with the car companies to develop better engine and transmission oils. If they are willing to invest millions of dollars in the future of internal combustion engines, that’s good enough for me.
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