Rapid economic development around the world in recent years has seen the bicycle increase its lead as the most prolific form of transport, with the motorcycle quickly catching the automobile for second place. Interestingly, only one country (China) has so far seen the wisdom of the electric two-wheeler, with more than 25 million electric two-wheelers produced in 2011.
Honda still dominates motorcycle sales in the remainder of the globe, and appears to be concentrating on continuing to develop the internal combustion engine as the primary motive force for its scooters and commuter machinery.
Today the Japanese giant has announced new SH125i and SH150i scooter models to go on sale in Europe later this year. To be produced in Italy, the new models feature a new internal combustion engine architecture dubbed eSP (enhanced Smart Power), which uses a stop-start micro hybrid system and a range of low friction technologies to offer quite remarkable fuel economy: 47.4km/litre for the 125cc and 43.8km/litre for 150cc (based on the Worldwide harmonized Motorcycle emission Test Cycle).
If you need that translated into a more familiar measure, the new SH125i's 47.4 km/liter equates to an imperial 133.9 miles per gallon or 111.5 miles per gallon in the United States, while the SH150i's 43.8 km/liter is 123.7 mpg (UK) or 103.0 mpg (US).
Details of the new SH-series scooters are thin at this stage, but they will be lighter than previous models with a new frame, a flat floor, 16-inch wheels, and ABS (anti-lock braking makes a huge difference for inexperienced riders on wet roads).
One other significant first is that the under seat storage area on the new SH models has been increased to accept a full-face helmet - a major drawback with most scooters currently in the marketplace is that the underseat storage area has been designed to accept only open-face helmets.
Though the internal combustion engine of the Honda SH models will never be as cheap to run as an electric scooter, the rest of the world is yet to vote with its wallet for two-wheeled electric power and Honda is likely to continue to develop the internal combustion engine for the massive Asian scooter market for the forseeable future.
In particular, Honda is now finally beginning to get some traction in the Indian market where its former partner, Hero, sells more than five million scooters a year.