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Older Motorbikes and Singapore’s Emissions Regulations

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In 2018, the National Environment Agency (NEA) introduced a scheme to encourage owners of older motorcycles to deregister their bikes before 5 April 2023.

At the time, around 27,000 motorcycles were eligible for up to $3,500 in incentives, and by the end of 2020 nearly 16,000 of those had been deregistered.

The scheme was established in order to get older, more polluting, motorcycles that were registered before 1 July 2003, off the roads.

For owners of older motorcycles who are not interested in this carrot approach, there is also the stick: From 6 April 2023, all registered motorcycles face tightened emissions standards, and they can only be used until 30 June 2028.

While collectors can currently take advantage of the Classic Vehicle Scheme for motorcycles over 35 years old, this new regulation effective in 2028 will leave a cohort between 25 and 35 in limbo, for which the only hope is outlined in NEA’s 7 April 2021, announcement:

“For owners who wish to keep their older motorcycles as a classic vehicle, NEA is exploring a temporary scheme which would allow local motorcycles that were first registered between 2 July 1993 and 30 June 2003 to be retained after 30 June 2028, until such time when they are eligible for the Classic Vehicle Scheme.”

If you want to keep your classic motorcycle past 2028, that “exploring” may not provide a lot of comfort. Also, be aware that under the Classic Vehicle Scheme you are only permitted to use your motorcycle for 45 days per calendar year. More information is available here.

What should owners of older motorcycles do?

First, weigh your options: Is it worth up to $3,500 to you to keep your motorcycle on the road? And if so, does it meet the stricter emissions regulations from April 2023?

While the answer to the former is entirely a judgement call (though subject to conditions – see below), the latter is more clearly defined.

Conditions to qualify for an incentive payout

You should have received a letter from NEA explaining that your motorcycle qualifies for the scheme. If not, you can check its first registration date here.

If you wish to deregister your motorcycle and take advantage of the cash incentives, there are a few conditions regarding your motorcycle:

  • It was registered before 1 July 2003
  • It had a 10-year COE as at 6 April 2018
  • It is deregistered before 6 April 2023

It should be noted there are two levels of payout: Owners who renewed their COE after 6 April 2018, and deregister their bikes before 6 April 2023, are entitled to $2,000; Owners who have not renewed their COE after 6 April 2018, and deregister their bikes before 6 April 2023, are entitled to $3,500.

Does your motorcycle meet the tightened standards?

The new exhaust emissions standards that apply from 6 April 2023, are a limit of 4.5% carbon monoxide (CO) by volume; and 7,800 ppm hydrocarbons (for 2-stroke engines) or 2,000 ppm hydrocarbons (for 4-stroke engines). The current standards are 6% CO for bikes registered before 1 October 1986, and 4% Co for the remainder. There are currently no hydrocarbon limits.

NEA says: “With proper maintenance, most motorcycles will be able to meet the tightened in-use emission standards.” That may or may not provide any comfort for owners of older motorcycles.

The good news is that you can get the hydrocarbon emissions tested during your annual inspection for a nominal fee – currently $1 plus GST.

What to look out for

If you can see smoke from your bike’s exhaust, you possibly should be concerned. Depending on your motorcycle, there may be an easy fix, or it may mean an expensive rebuild.

Owners of two-stroke machines are more likely to see smoke from the exhaust, because by design two-strokes burn oil. If yours is over the hydrocarbon limit:

  • Try quality synthetic oil, often advertised as ‘smokeless’
  • Renew the air filter
  • If your motorcycle requires premixed fuel, ensure the oil/petrol ratio is correct. Too much oil may produce smoke, too little will damage the engine
  • If your motorcycle has an oil injection system, ensure it is working correctly
  • Ensure the carburetors are adjusted properly and not running too ‘rich’ (too much petrol in the air/fuel mix)

Smoke from the exhaust of an older four stroke motorcycle could be the result of wear and tear, and may indicate the engine requires an overhaul. Check with a trusted mechanic.

If your tested hydrocarbon levels are too high:

  • Use good quality oil, and ensure the filter is renewed regularly
  • Renew the air filter
  • If both hydrocarbon and CO levels are high, your motorcycle is probably running rich. Check the choke is operating properly – and not stuck –and the carburetors are adjusted or the injection system is functioning properly
  • Motorcycles with carburetors, particularly multi-cylinder machines, are notoriously difficult to adjust. Find an expert to do it
  • Fuel-injection is generally more accurate at delivering fuel than carburetors, but can still have problems. Ensure the fuel filter is clear, the fuel pump is working properly, and the sensors are connected and functioning properly. An expert should be able to see to it

While there are incentives to deregister your older motorcycle, there are also potentially compelling reasons to keep it on the road. For the most part keeping it going beyond April 2023 should be possible – until 30 June 2028, anyway. What happens after then is up to the authorities to determine.

By motorcycling correspondent Tony Tan





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