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MRF Update: Transportation Funding Unlocked

By General Posts

This week the House and Senate are tackling a self-imposed deadline to pass funding legislation before government departments and agencies run out of money. To avoid a government shutdown, a large omnibus spending bill is being voted on that will fund government operations through the end of September. Importantly for transportation related projects and programs, the omnibus bill unlocks billions of dollars in funding that Washington red tape has delayed.

Lawmakers and transportation officials have been warning for months that full implementation of the $1.5 trillion infrastructure law, which was enacted in November, isn’t possible because government funding is constrained at 2021 levels. So, while the money is actually in the accounts and ready to be spent, transportation agencies are locked out of using a large percentage of the money until this second piece of legislation is enacted.

Only in Washington, D.C. does it take two bills, five months apart, to achieve your policy objectives!

Lawmakers Focus on Tesla
Recently Tesla has come under criticism for its Autopilot and Full-Self Driving (FSD) features, which critics say give the impression to drivers that the vehicles are capable of hands-off operation. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened two investigations into Tesla’s autopilot system and the automaker has launched nearly a dozen recalls in the U.S. Many of those recalls are related to over-the-air updates which allows Tesla to tweak and change its software remotely.

Last month, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to Tesla seeking answers to a series of questions regarding its technology. Included in the letter were questions regarding safety programming, issues related to phantom braking and driver monitoring capabilities.

Tesla responded to the letter last week saying in part, “Tesla’s Autopilot and FSD Capability features enhance the ability of our customers to drive safer than the average driver in the U.S.,”

Senators Blumenthal and Markey seemed less than impressed with Tesla’s response to their questions. In a joint statement they said Tesla’s response was “just more evasion and deflection from Tesla. Despite its troubling safety track record and deadly crashes, the company seemingly wants to carry on with business as usual.”

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation has long been concerned that safety standards for self-driving and autonomous vehicle technology are inadequate. All motorcyclists should remember that these vehicles are on our roadways right now. Remain vigilant while riding, as the operators and perhaps even the manufacturers are not fully aware of what this technology can and cannot do.

To read the initial letter sent to Tesla click here.

About Motorcycle Riders Foundation
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) provides leadership at the federal level for states’ motorcyclists’ rights organizations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders.
Visit Website at: http://mrf.org

Proposed new regulations for Autocycles in Massachusetts

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Proposed new regulations for 3-wheel autocycles

from https://www.bostonherald.com by Boston Herald Wire Services

Proposed regulations of autocycles will be on the schedule when Massachusetts lawmakers hold a virtual public hearing Tuesday.

An autocycle is a three-wheeled motor vehicle that meets federal safety standards for a motorcycle. Unlike motorcycles, however, autocycles typically include a steering wheel, a seat for the driver and occasionally seats for passengers. The driver and passengers are not required to straddle the vehicle like a motorcycle.

One of the bills under consideration would create new safety measures for autocycles including requiring the driver and passengers to wear helmets, requiring autocycle manufacturers to equip the vehicles with safety belts which must be worn by drivers and passengers, and barring children under eight from riding in one.

Anyone who operates an autocycle without wearing a safety helmet or safety belts would face a fine of no less than $25 under the bill.

Massachusetts Lawmakers Weigh New Regulations for Autocycles

from https://www.nbcboston.com by The Associated Press

An autocycle is a motor vehicle with three wheels on the ground that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards for a motorcycle

Proposed regulations of autocycles will be on the schedule when Massachusetts state lawmakers hold a virtual public hearing Tuesday.

An autocycle is a motor vehicle with three wheels on the ground that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards for a motorcycle. Unlike motorcycles, however, autocycles typically include a steering wheel, a seat for the driver and occasionally seats for passenger.

One of the bills under consideration would create new safety measures for autocycles. Those include requiring the driver and passengers wear helmets, requiring autocycle manufacturers to equip the vehicles with safety belts and barring children under eight from riding in an autocycle.

MRF update: Highway Bill Passes – a Year Late

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November 5, 2021

Highway Bill Passes… a Year Late

After a 13-month delay and enactment of three separate extensions, Congress finally passed a surface transportation reauthorization bill. This bill, sometimes called the highway bill or the infrastructure bill, has been a hotly debated topic in D.C. for several years. Once signed by the President, the bill will reauthorize many highway programs, provide funding for road and bridge construction and replace the previous highway bill passed in 2015, known as the FAST Act.

Just a week ago, Congress gave itself a third extension running into December. Yet election victories by Republican candidates, especially a win by the GOP in the Virginia governor’s race, seems to have spooked Democrats, and motivated passage of a bill that has been awaiting a vote since the summer.

For the last two years, the House of Representatives and Senate have battled over transportation priorities and funding levels. In both 2020 and 2021, the House of Representatives passed versions of their highway bill, only to be rebuffed by the Senate. Under pressure from President Biden, the Senate finally acted, passing in August a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. This action by the Senate, effectively forced the House to accept the Senate version of the bill or continue to pass short term extensions of current law.

However, pressure from the left wing of the Democratic party delayed a vote on the Senate’s infrastructure bill until an unconnected piece of legislation, referred to as the “human infrastructure bill,” was agreed to. That bill, called “Build Back Better,” had an original price tag of $3.5 trillion and effectively held the infrastructure bill hostage. After months of debate, and Tuesday’s election results, House Democrats agreed to vote on a smaller Build Back Better bill later in the month, opening the door to a final vote on the infrastructure bill.

At 11:27pm Friday night, the House agreed to the Senate’s bill and passed a $1.2 trillion 5-year highway bill, known as the INVEST ACT. The final vote in the House was 228 to 206, with 13 Republicans voting in favor and 6 Democrats voting against.

BENEFITS TO BIKERS

About Motorcycle Riders Foundation
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) provides leadership at the federal level for states’ motorcyclists’ rights organizations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders.

Visit MRF Website at: https://mrf.org/

Congress passes extension of Highway Bill

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Congress Kicks the Can…
30 day Highway Bill Extension Passes

With the failure of Congress to pass a new highway bill, by the September 30th deadline, nearly 3,700 United States Department of Transportation staffers were furloughed on Friday. Most of these workers belong to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Without dedicated funding to operate, those agency workers were forbidden from coming into work on October 1st. Operations in these agencies, related to safety and construction projects, were halted as a result.

On Friday evening, in an effort to end the closure of these agencies, Congress passed an extension of the recently expired FAST Act. The 30-day extension releases federal funds so workers at the FHWA and FTA can return to work for the month of October.

An interparty fight between progressive and moderate Democrats created a stalemate on infrastructure legislation and produced the need for an extension.

This is the second time the FAST Act has been extended in just over a year. The original 2015 bill, expired on September 30, 2020, but was given a full 1-year extension, creating the recently passed September 30, 2021, deadline.

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) remains engaged with lawmakers on this important bill. The MRF continues to stress the need for action on the transportation policy priorities of the nearly 10 million bikers across the country. We will keep you updated as events warrant.

Visit Motorcycle Riders Foundation website at http://mrf.org

Highway Bill Unveiled for 2021

By General Posts

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure unveiled its 2021 highway bill, titled the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in American Act. As you may remember, every five years Congress is required to reauthorize many of the highway related spending bills it passes. The current highway bill, known as the FAST Act, was given a one-year extension last year and is set to expire in September of 2021. The bill introduced Friday is a key component of the major infrastructure spending push the Biden Administration has made a top priority.

For the last two years, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation and its members have diligently educated and lobbied lawmakers about the need to include motorcyclist specific priorities in a new highway bill. These grassroots efforts were given a boost with the inclusion of three major motorcyclist specific items in the bill. The Democrat lead bill includes the following provisions in its nearly 1,300 pages of text:

  1. Expanded prohibition on motorcycle only check points, including prohibiting using the clothing or apparel of riders or their passengers to profile or target bikers.
  2. Reestablishment of the Motorcyclist Advisory Council, which gives bikers a voice within the Federal Highway Administration. Included in the bill, a seat on the council is specifically designated for a “representative of a national motorcycle foundation.”
  3. Inclusion of motorcycles as a specific category that autonomous vehicle studies must account for during the testing of this new technology. Additionally, a motorcyclist rights organization is assigned a seat on an autonomous vehicle working group at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The road ahead for a massive infrastructure plan remains uncertain. Negotiations between the House, Senate and White House will be contentious and as always political. However, what is certain is that the work of MRF members has ensured that motorcyclists are being heard in Washington, D.C. and as this newly released legislation shows they are being prioritized.

Why shortages of a $1 chip sparked crisis in the global economy

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by Bloomberg from https://auto.economictimes.indiatimes.com

The chip crunch was born out of an understandable miscalculation as the coronavirus pandemic hit last year. When Covid-19 began spreading from China to the rest of the world, many companies anticipated people would cut back as times got tough.

To understand why the $450 billion semiconductor industry has lurched into crisis, a helpful place to start is a one-dollar part called a display driver.

Hundreds of different kinds of chips make up the global silicon industry, with the flashiest ones from Qualcomm Inc. and Intel Corp. going for $100 apiece to more than $1,000. Those run powerful computers or the shiny smartphone in your pocket. A display driver is mundane by contrast: Its sole purpose is to convey basic instructions for illuminating the screen on your phone, monitor or navigation system.

The trouble for the chip industry — and increasingly companies beyond tech, like automakers — is that there aren’t enough display drivers to go around. Firms that make them can’t keep up with surging demand so prices are spiking. That’s contributing to short supplies and increasing costs for liquid crystal display panels, essential components for making televisions and laptops, as well as cars, airplanes and high-end refrigerators.

“It’s not like you can just make do. If you have everything else, but you don’t have a display driver, then you can’t build your product,” says Stacy Rasgon, who covers the semiconductor industry for Sanford C. Bernstein.

Now the crunch in a handful of such seemingly insignificant parts — power management chips are also in short supply, for example — is cascading through the global economy. Automakers like Ford Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG have already scaled back production, leading to estimates for more than $60 billion in lost revenue for the industry this year.

The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. A rare winter storm in Texas knocked out swaths of U.S. production. A fire at a key Japan factory will shut the facility for a month. Samsung Electronics Co. warned of a “serious imbalance” in the industry, while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. said it can’t keep up with demand despite running factories at more than 100% of capacity.

“I have never seen anything like this in the past 20 years since our company’s founding,” said Jordan Wu, co-founder and chief executive officer of Himax Technologies Co., a leading supplier of display drivers. “Every application is short of chips.”

2021-semiconductors-chips-shortage-inline
The chip crunch was born out of an understandable miscalculation as the coronavirus pandemic hit last year. When Covid-19 began spreading from China to the rest of the world, many companies anticipated people would cut back as times got tough.

“I slashed all my projections. I was using the financial crisis as the model,” says Rasgon. “But demand was just really resilient.”

People stuck at home started buying technology — and then kept buying. They purchased better computers and bigger displays so they could work remotely. They got their kids new laptops for distance learning. They scooped up 4K televisions, game consoles, milk frothers, air fryers and immersion blenders to make life under quarantine more palatable. The pandemic turned into an extended Black Friday onlinepalooza.

Automakers were blindsided. They shut factories during the lockdown while demand crashed because no one could get to showrooms. They told suppliers to stop shipping components, including the chips that are increasingly essential for cars.

Then late last year, demand began to pick up. People wanted to get out and they didn’t want to use public transportation. Automakers reopened factories and went hat in hand to chipmakers like TSMC and Samsung. Their response? Back of the line. They couldn’t make chips fast enough for their still-loyal customers.

A year of poor planning led to carmakers’ massive chip shortage
Himax’s Jordan Wu is in the middle of the tech industry’s tempest. On a recent March morning, the bespectacled 61-year-old agreed to meet at his Taipei office to discuss the shortages and why they are so challenging to resolve. He was eager enough to talk that interview was scheduled for the same morning Bloomberg News requested it, with two of his staff joining in person and another two dialing in by phone. He wore a mask throughout the interview, speaking carefully and articulately.

Wu founded Himax in 2001 with his brother Biing-seng, now the company’s chairman. They started out making driver ICs (for integrated circuits), as they’re known in the industry, for notebook computers and monitors. They went public in 2006 and grew with the computer industry, expanding into smartphones, tablets and touch screens. Their chips are now used in scores of products, from phones and televisions to automobiles.

Wu explained that he can’t make more display drivers by pushing his workforce harder. Himax designs display drivers and then has them manufactured at a foundry like TSMC or United Microelectronics Corp. His chips are made on what’s artfully called “mature node” technology, equipment at least a couple generations behind the cutting-edge processes. These machines etch lines in silicon at a width of 16 nanometers or more, compared with 5 nanometers for high-end chips.?

The chip’s makers have seen their shares soar with strong demand
The bottleneck is that these mature chip-making lines are running flat out. Wu says the pandemic drove such strong demand that manufacturing partners can’t make enough display drivers for all the panels that go into computers, televisions and game consoles — plus all the new products that companies are putting screens into, like refrigerators, smart thermometers and car-entertainment systems.

There’s been a particular squeeze in driver ICs for automotive systems because they’re usually made on 8-inch silicon wafers, rather than more advanced 12-inch wafers. Sumco Corp., one of the leading wafer manufacturers, reported production capacity for 8-inch equipment lines was about 5,000 wafers a month in 2020 — less than it was in 2017.

No one is building more mature-node manufacturing lines because it doesn’t make economic sense. The existing lines are fully depreciated and fine-tuned for almost perfect yields, meaning basic display drivers can be made for less than a dollar and more advanced versions for not much more. Buying new equipment and starting off at lower yields would mean much higher expenses.

“Building new capacity is too expensive,” Wu says. Peers like Novatek Microelectronics Corp., also based in Taiwan, have the same constraints.

That shortfall is showing up in a spike in LCD prices. A 50-inch LCD panel for televisions doubled in price between January 2020 and this March. Bloomberg Intelligence’s Matthew Kanterman projects that LCD prices will keep rising at least until the third quarter. There is a “a dire shortage” of display driver chips, he said.

LCD Prices Are Surging
Aggravating the situation is a lack of glass. Major glass makers reported accidents at their production sites, including a blackout at a Nippon Electric Glass Co.’s factory in December and an explosion at AGC Fine Techno Korea’s factory in January. Production will likely remain constrained at least through summer this year, display consultancy DSCC Co-founder Yoshio Tamura said.

On April 1, I-O Data Device Inc., a major Japanese computer peripherals maker, raised the price of their 26 LCD monitors by 5,000 yen on average, the biggest increase since they began selling the monitors two decades ago. A spokeswoman said the company can’t make any profit without the increases due to rising costs for components.

All of this has been a boon to Himax’s business. Sales are surging and its stock price has tripled since November.

But the CEO isn’t celebrating. His whole business is built around giving customers what they want, so his inability to meet their requests at such a critical time is frustrating. He doesn’t expect the crunch, especially for automotive components, to end any time soon.

“We have not reached a position where we can see the light at the end of tunnel yet,” Wu said.

Car and Motorcycle Companies Now Making Electric Bikes

By General Posts

Lee Iacocca with his electric bike in 1998. It had a lead-acid battery with a 15-mile range and a top speed of 15 miles an hour.

by Roy Furchgott from https://www.nytimes.com

They see branding opportunities as the pandemic and a desire by cities to curb traffic propel e-bike sales to new heights.

The transportation industry has seen the future, and the future is 1895.

That was the year Ogden Bolton Jr. of Canton, Ohio, was awarded U.S. Patent 552,271 for an “electrical bicycle.” A century and change later, electric bikes have gained new currency as car and motorcycle companies like Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Yamaha have horned into the market with their own designs.

While the pandemic has accelerated bike sales, the overriding attraction is that cities worldwide are beginning to restrict motor traffic. These companies are betting that e-bikes are the urban vehicles of tomorrow — or at least vehicles for good publicity today.

“In the past 12 to 18 months, you have seen a lot of new brands come into the market,” said Andrew Engelmann, an e-bike sales and marketing manager at Yamaha, which has been in the electric bike business since 1993 and claims sales of two million worldwide. “We in the U.S. have not seen this new energy toward cycling since Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France.”

Credit the coronavirus pandemic, which has ignited bike sales of all stripes, but none so much as e-bikes. While retail unit sales of bicycles from January to October last year were up 46 percent from a year earlier, electric bikes were up 140 percent. Measured in dollars, regular bikes were up 67 percent and e-bikes 158 percent — so don’t expect a discount. Those numbers, from the market researchers at NPD, do not include online-only retailers such as Rad Power Bikes, so sales may actually be higher still.

Ogden Bolton aside, there is a historical connection between bicycles and motorcycles. Many early motorcycles came from bicycle makers that simply clapped a motor on a bike, often retaining the pedals in the style of a moped.

The automotive industry’s bicycle connection is more recent, with the likes of Malcolm Bricklin and Lee Iacocca introducing electric bikes in the ’90s. Both flopped. Mr. Iacocca’s design, typical for the time, was hampered by a lead-acid battery with a 15-mile range and a top speed of 15 miles an hour. Many car companies, including Ford, Audi, Maserati and BMW, have gotten into and out of e-bikes since.

“No car company has had any success selling an electric bicycle,” said Don DiCostanzo, chief executive of Pedego Electric Bikes, who in 2014 licensed a bike design to Ford. “It’s fool’s gold. It can never replace the profit on a car.”

Yet car and motorcycle makers are being drawn in. “I think they are seeing a lot of the same opportunity we see,” said Ian Kenny, who leads the e-bike effort at the bicycle company Specialized. “But I think there is a very big difference between demonstrating you can do something and doing something very well at scale.”

However, changes in the way people get about, especially in Europe and Asia, are enticing motor vehicle companies that operate internationally. Overseas, in cities that manage pollution and overcrowded streets by restricting motor traffic, e-bikes often fill a gap.

“In Europe, the e-bike is more of a fundamental transportation tool,” said Dirk Sorenson, an analyst for NPD. London, Madrid, Oslo and Paris are among the growing number of cities restricting downtown traffic.

The pandemic has American cities testing similar restrictions. Boston, Minneapolis and a number of California cities have instituted Slow Streets programs, restricting motor traffic on side streets in favor of cycling and walking. It even has UPS, Amazon and DHL trying out e-cargo bikes in New York.

“There is a huge opportunity for e-bikes in the U.S., which is a huge untapped market,” said Rasheq Zarif, a mobility technology expert for the consulting firm Deloitte.

Some companies are preparing now for the possibility that “micromobility,” as the buzzword has it, will catch on here.

“Let’s imagine Harley-Davison is not a motorcycle company but a mobility company,” said Aaron Frank, brand director for Serial 1, which builds an e-bike in partnership with Harley. “There is a strong argument we can do for urban commuters what Harley-Davison did for motorcycles.”

Other companies see e-bikes as a gateway to sell their primary products. Though best known for its motorcycles, Ducati North America wants e-bikes to “potentially turn people on to Ducati,” its chief executive, Jason Chinnock, said. “And we’ve seen that with people at some events and with the media reaching out.”

E-bikes may be more expensive than bicycles, but are cheaper than cars or motorcycles. And improved motor and battery technology is bringing prices down. Low-priced e-bikes with a motor in the wheel hub — similar to that 1895 design — can be had for about $1,000. Prices for versions with more complex, geared motors at the pedals can reach more than $10,000.

“Spending $1,000 on a bike seems out there,” Mr. Kenny said, “but when you don’t look at it as a toy — when it becomes transportation — it becomes a very different conversation.”

Price isn’t the only hurdle. E-bikes confront a crippling hodgepodge of laws. Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission deemed “low speed” e-bikes (with a motor equivalent to 1 horsepower or less) a bicycle, states still decide where that bike can be ridden.

“It’s up to 50 states to define the use, and that’s been a big problem in the past,” said Claudia Wasko, general manager of Bosch eBike, a prominent manufacturer of drive systems.

The PeopleForBikes coalition drafted model state legislation to allow most e-bikes in bike lanes and parks. It suggests three classes of e-bike, with a top speed between 20 and 28 m.p.h. Twenty-eight states have adopted some version of the legislation.

Some companies may be less concerned with the future of mobility and more interested in getting some attention now.

“I think it’s a halo thing,” said Mr. DiCostanzo, whose company has produced e-bikes for Tommy Bahama, Ford and others. Halo vehicles represent a brand’s aspirations, like concept cars.

“I think that’s what it is for Ford,” he added. “They wanted it for window dressing, and that’s what they got. I think they sold 500 in the five years it ran.”

Mercedes, which is taking orders for its top-of-the-line Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team V11 e-bike at $12,000, said it was a chance to showcase its ability with high-tech materials from carbon fiber to paint.

“High-performance road bikes and e-bikes provide a great way to showcase such technologies into a range of consumer products,” said Damian Cook, a spokesman.

For some in the bicycle industry this all smacks of déjà vu. In the 1970s, a bike boom was thought to presage a new future for transportation in which cycling was central. But it failed. Though there were many contributing factors, roads weren’t made more bicycle-friendly and people didn’t want to arrive at work sweaty.

With the combination of Slow Streets programs, which address the first problem, electric bikes, which address the second, and a pandemic that has given people a chance to adjust to both, experts like Mr. Zarif find hope.

“When you give people a chance to try something, it reduces resistance to change,” he said. “As a society, the reality is we go forward — we don’t go backward.”

E-bikes that look like motorcycles take another hit in Canada

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by Maryse Zeidler from https://www.cbc.ca

Appellant’s lawyer says his client relied on Motorino XMr for affordable transportation

The British Columbia Court of Appeal has upheld a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that e-bikes designed to look and function more like mopeds or scooters do not meet the province’s definition of a motor-assisted cycle and therefore require a driver’s licence, registration and insurance.

The case was brought forward by Ali Ghadban, who was issued a ticket in Surrey, B.C., in 2018 for riding his Motorino XMr without a driver’s licence and insurance. He said he wasn’t able to obtain them from the provincial insurer, ICBC.

Two of the three Appeal Court justices assigned to the case agreed with the B.C. Supreme Court judge’s decision from May 2020 that found although the Motorino XMr is outfitted with pedals, limited power and a maximum speed of 32 km/h, it doesn’t qualify as a motor-assisted cycle because it’s not designed to be operated primarily by human power.

At the heart of the issue are the XMr’s small pedals, which Court of Appeal Justice Harvey M. Groberman agreed would do little to propel the nearly 115-kilogram bike. Groberman said the XMr is designed to almost exclusively operate as a low-powered electric motorcycle, or as “a very heavy, impractical bicycle.”

Although the XMr meets many of the technical requirements of a motor-assisted cycle as defined in B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act, Groberman wrote, it doesn’t do so in practice.

“If a piece of legislation defines ‘cat’ as ‘a small four-legged furry mammal that purrs,’ we would not expect that definition to include a dog fitted with a loudspeaker that plays a purring sound,” he said.

Affordable, environmentally friendly

Lawyer Dan Griffiths, who represented Ghadban in the case, said his client is a man of modest financial means who relied on the bike to get around.

“He was excited to find a transportation option which was affordable and which also had the added benefit of being environmentally friendly as well,” Griffiths said.

Ghadban, 35, does building maintenance for homeless shelters on the Downtown Eastside, Griffiths said, and has never had a driver’s licence. His client intends to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

But Erin O’Mellin, executive director of cycling advocacy group HUB, said the decision is a step in the right direction.

O’Mellin said there’s a lot more danger associated with electric scooters than actual bicycles, regular or electric — especially if they’re sharing infrastructure such as bike lanes.

“[Electric scooters] are much heavier and they move at a much faster speed, so the consequence of a collision with this kind of scooter and someone on a regular bicycle would be much more dramatic,” she said.

Outdated laws

B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act hasn’t been updated in 50 years, O’Mellin said, and it doesn’t deal with all of the the new electric mobility devices that have come onto the consumer market in that time, including electric standup scooters and skateboards.

She said it’s important that devices such as e-scooters be included so that drivers are aware of their responsibilities.

“If you have a larger, faster-moving vehicle, there’s more onus on you to have training to make sure that those roads are safe for all users,” O’Mellin said.

In a written statement, the Ministry of Public Safety said the province and the provincial insurer, ICBC, “are examining impacts with respect to products now confirmed by the courts to be non-compliant to operate on public highways, such as the Motorino XMr.”

After the B.C. Supreme Court decision in May, ICBC made a few subtle changes to its webpage on motor-assisted cycles.

The latest version no longer includes an image of what looks like an electric scooter alongside an e-bike under the subheadings “electric bikes” and “motor assisted cycles.”

Thousands of customers

Steve Miloshev, owner of the Motorino store in Vancouver, said the decision is disappointing because so many of his clients rely on e-scooters for transportation — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people want to avoid public transit.

“I am upset for the thousands of our customers who have invested thousands of dollars in their clean transportation,” he said in an email to CBC News.

Miloshev said he believes his scooters and the customers who use them have been unfairly targeted, compared with devices such as electric standup scooters.

However, those scooters were never legal on B.C. roads.

Miloshev said he intends to focus his business on the “countless” new technologies that are available.

“As a company that pioneered light electric transportation in Canada, we are very optimistic in the evolution of environmental and practical solutions for transportation,” he said.

Harley Davidson’s plan to take iconic motorcycle brand into transportation’s future

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by Joe D’Allegro from https://www.cnbc.com

  • Harley-Davidson unveiled a new 2021 lineup featuring several advances in engineering, electronics and styling, and its first rival to BMW and Honda “adventure” bikes.
  • Hog motorcycle sales peaked 15 years ago and have dropped 40% since.
  • But as it cuts costs, total number of models and geographies under a new CEO, and looks to electric motorcycles and e-bikes, Harley could be in for a smoother stock market ride.

As a tradition-minded 118-year-old motorcycle manufacturer, Harley-Davidson may not seem ideally situated to prosper in a rapidly changing world where vehicles are increasingly electrified, self-driving, and shared. But the iconic company could be better positioned than many stock market investors betting on transportation suspect.

The company’s U.S. bike sales peaked at more than 260,000 way back in 2006, and have since dropped about 40%. Demographics are part of the story, and it is a well-charted one, in the stock price and broader narrative about Harley’s consumer market. In 1985, the year before Harley went public, the median motorcycle owner was only 27, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. By 2018, the median age had risen to 50. But the iconic “HOG” brand is turning itself around under the leadership of president and CEO Jochen Zeitz, who took the helm last year after drawing praise for a turnaround engineered at European consumer brand Puma.

Zeitz, and other new executives pushed the “Rewire” initiative, which has driven the manufacturer to exit international markets with low potential to focus on 36 high-growth-potential areas in North America, Europe and Asia. The company also laid off 700 employees to trim costs. It closed out 2020 by entering into a distribution agreement with Indian motorcycle maker Hero and spinning off its electric bicycle operations to a new firm where it holds a minority stake.

“We think they are on the right track,” noted Garrett Nelson, senior equity analyst at CFRA Research. He praised Harley’s late-October agreement with Hero as beneficial to both parties. “Harley gets access to Hero’s existing distribution network in India and Hero benefits from the sale of additional motorcycles at its dealerships,” he said. “It’s a trade-off. Harley surrenders some of the margin for access to the distribution network in the fast-growing market.”

He added that Harley should pursue similar opportunities with other established players to widen its exposure in faster-growing Asian markets.

Harley in a Tesla world

With the new financial strategy in place, Harley’s is now looking ahead. On February 2, it will introduce its plan for 2021 to 2025. Called Hardwire, the new plan is “grounded in desirability,” according to the company, though it has not released details.

Next month Harley also is unveiling the Pan America, a large adventure-style motorcycle meant to be at home both on- and off-road. It is the company’s first foray into the adventure bike market in which competitors like BMW and Honda already have a large presence. The recreational market has become a more intense focus for consumer brands as a result of shifts driven by the pandemic.

Nelson also was cautiously optimistic about the manufacturer’s prospects in an increasingly electrified future. The LiveWire, Harley’s sole current electric motorcycle, shows promise, but the company has been somewhat slow bringing it to market since its release in late 2019, he said.

“More of a concrete strategy on the electric bike, the Livewire, will be necessary,” Citi analyst Shawn Collins said, but he added that EVs remain a longer-term rather than immediate financial priority. “EV cycles are a rounding error at the moment,” he said of the sales.

The LiveWire retails for nearly $30,000, making it one of Harley’s more expensive motorcycle offerings for the 2021 model year, which range from $9,500 to $49,000.

“Over time, we are bullish on the opportunity, given that we think lithium-ion battery costs are going to continue falling in the coming years and electric vehicles are going to be heavily subsidized by the new administration,” Nelson said. “We expect the cost of electric vehicles to reach parity with internal combustion engine vehicles by the middle of this decade, as battery costs continue to decline.”

Harley-Davidson’s share price is at a 52-week high — like many companies in this extended bull market — but remains well below its all-time peak.

The company’s iconic brand remains attractive, even as its financial fortunes have fluctuated.

“Harley-Davidson is the most valuable motorcycle brand on the planet,” wrote Craig Kennison, a senior research analyst and director of research operations at Baird, in a recent research note. Harley’s strong brand, scale, and loyal customers give it an advantage over competitors, in his view. Meanwhile, Harley’s new leadership has put in place operational changes that should drive growth in 2021, Kennison said, including streamlining its product portfolio, reducing dealer inventory 30%, and instituting ongoing annual costs savings of $115 million. “We increasingly like the investment case for Harley-Davidson,” he wrote.

There may be more cost-cutting to come, according to Nelson. He said Harley should look to further shrink its global footprint to focus on markets that are the most profitable with the greatest long-term growth potential. But shrinking the overall footprint does not mean less focus on overseas consumers.

Revving up profits

“Right now, they are spread too wide,” Nelson said. “Between 2006-2019, the company grew its non-U.S. exposure from 22% of total unit sales volumes to 42%. We think they need to continue growing this percentage out of necessity because we believe its North American market is in secular decline.”

Harley’s issue is about the top line, or revenue from motorcycle sales, and Citi’s Collins said into its earnings and February investor day how management talks about increasing the top line will be a key to continued investor confidence. “Lots of people have faith in Zeitz, but he has a high bar,” Collins said. “There is no simple answer. … The top line has been horrible.”

The biggest problem for Harley is well known: the brand has had trouble appealing to younger riders.

Younger consumers have shown an aversion to purchasing motorcycles for safety reasons, and vehicles in general due to the rise of ridesharing, as well as financial and urbanization trends, according to Nelson, and Harley’s domestic demand has been waning for well over a decade.

“Harley at one point was unstoppable, in the 80s and 90s and even through most of the 2000s,” Collins said.

The Citi analyst noted Harley competitor Indian Motorcycle, owned by Polaris, has had success bringing in a new audience, and Zeitz has shown his ability to work “marketing magic” when he oversaw the turnaround at Puma, which had lost consumers to Nike and Adidas. “His job is to try and insert the magic back into Harley so a younger person wants to buy one. That’s what he has his eye focused on for the next three year to five years,” Collins said.

“Harley-Davidson has known for a while that it needs to reach younger customers,” said Dennis Chung, the production editor at Motorcycle.com. “The problem is that demographic doesn’t necessarily want the same things in a motorcycle that Harley-Davidson’s older base values.”

A lot will hinge on the next generation of Harley-Davidson’s popular Sportster lineup of mid-sized cruisers, according to Chung. “There is definitely value in the classic Harley styling, but it needs to be balanced with modern design and modern technology,” he said.

The Sportster lineup has been in continuous production since 1957, and is one of Harley’s oldest model lines.

One way Harley-Davidson is responding to a more tricky consumer market is by shifting its focus from growing market share on an absolute basis to increasing brand exclusivity. The Rewire plan was an acknowledgment from management that blanketing the globe in a search for new sales wasn’t the way to go.

“Instead of trying to increase its sales volume, Harley-Davidson is now trying to earn more profit from each sale, even if it means selling fewer bikes,” Chung said.

Harley-Davidson recently reported a 39% increase in net income in the third quarter of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019, even though its global retail motorcycle sales in the third quarter of 2020 were down 8% compared to the prior year.

North American sales did grow in the third quarter for the first time in a long time, Collins noted, and there are broader trends in place that could benefit Harley. Sports and recreational vehicles sales are growing as a result of Covid and that tailwind could cross over to the motorcycle market as well.

“They do have the No. 1 brand in the market with 40% market share and the brand is unlike any other,” Collins said.

The European market, meanwhile, is growing and the new adventure bike Pan America should do well in that region.

The decision to reduce its product line by roughly 30% seems like a smart and necessary move because of overlap.

“A lot of Harley’s products are very similar. Eliminating some of the lower-performing products creates a more streamlined product portfolio, which helps reduce costs,” Chung said.

The company dropped a handful of models from its 2021 U.S. lineup – the FXDR 114, Low Rider, Breakout, Street Bob 107, Deluxe, Street 750, Street Rod, and Roadster.

As the company offers fewer models, it sells a range of accessories and customization options. This way, buyers can individualize their bikes in details such as paint, luggage, seats, stereo systems, brake upgrades, and other areas.

Collins said Zeitz understands the opportunity in bike parts and Harley lifestyle accessories, and while these are not strategies that can turn the business around at the top line level, they are important pieces in a more comprehensive plan to maximize revenue while keeping costs down and generating higher profits. He recently pegged as much as 15% upside in Harley’s stock ahead of next month’s earnings and investor day, writing in a note to investors that he continues to be encouraged by new management’s decision-making.

Even with a trimmed portfolio, the manufacturer still offers two dozen different motorcycles, mostly concentrated in the cruiser and touring market segments, as well as a trio of three-wheeled bikes.

“We believe Covid-19 has given Harley the opportunity to press the reset button on its strategy and refocus effort back on its core consumer, one which we believe holds the key to higher profit margins,” stated Morningstar senior equity analyst Jaime Katz in a November report. She praised the Rewire initiative as a means of balancing restoration of the firm’s core business and entry into new markets. Prioritizing profitability over scale should also refocus Harley on the success of high-margin parts and accessories and general merchandise segments.

“It’s okay to be in a shrinking market, if you’re improving the profitability of the products you sell,” Katz told CNBC.

China’s Ninebot unveils scooters that drive themselves to charging stations

By General Posts

Ninebot said Uber and Lyft, the ride-hailing giants that are expanding into scooter-sharing, would be among the customers for the new semi-autonomous vehicles that are expected to hit roads early next year.

BEIJING/HONG KONG – Segway-Ninebot Group, a Beijing-based electric scooter maker, on Friday unveiled a scooter that can return itself to charging stations without a driver, a potential boon for the burgeoning scooter-sharing industry.

Ninebot said Uber and Lyft, the ride-hailing giants that are expanding into scooter-sharing, would be among the customers for the new semi-autonomous vehicles that are expected to hit roads early next year.

Gao Lufeng, Ninebot chairman and chief executive, told Reuters in an interview that AI-driven scooters, controlled remotely from the cloud, could radically improve the economics of scooter-sharing.

“The pain point for scooter operators is to better maintain the scooters at a lower cost,” he said. Currently, operators of scooter sharing fleets have to collect the machines manually for re-charging.

Formed by the 2015 combination of China’s Ninebot and U.S. transportation pioneer Segway, the company has quietly become the largest supplier for scooter-sharing companies such as Bird and Lime

“I believe scooters will replace bicycles as the prime solution for micro-mobility,” Gao said. “It’s human nature to save energy when commuting.”

The scooter-sharing fad was triggered two years ago with the launch of Bird in California. Venture-capital investors have since poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the sector, and fleets of electric-powered scooters now operate in cities across the U.S. and Europe.

Segway-Ninebot Group has applied to list its shares on the China’s new Nasdaq-style board for homegrown tech firms, the STAR Market. The company sold 1.6 million scooters in 2018, according to a prospectus filed in April.

Lyft and Uber did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

The new scooters will be priced at close to 10,000 yuan ($1,420), more than the company’s traditional scooters, which it sells to scooter companies for $100-$300.

The new machines will start road testing next month and will be largely commercialized in the first quarter of 2020.

The company also launched two self-driving delivery robots — one for outdoor delivery, the other for indoor services.

Ninebot said the unmanned delivery robots will initially serve the food delivery industry in China.

The company is in talks with food delivery operators, including Meituan Dianping and Alibaba Group’s Ele.me, to begin service by the first half of next year.