Home » This Is The World’s First Production Compressed Natural Gas Motorcycle And It Makes Total Sense

This Is The World’s First Production Compressed Natural Gas Motorcycle And It Makes Total Sense

Natural Gas Motorcycle Ts
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The world of vehicle manufacturers are trying to find ways to cut down on emissions and some are even trying to keep your wallet a little heavier. Many cars and motorcycles are going electric, but some manufacturers are still experimenting with other technologies. India’s Bajaj has done something different and it has just launched the world’s first production motorcycle powered by compressed natural gas. The company’s new Freedom 125 promises cleaner skies and cheaper running costs, plus a backup system allowing the motorcycle to run on gasoline, too. I have to pick my jaw off of the floor.

We love exploring the weird ends of the motorcycle world. History is chock-full of individuals and companies experimenting with different ways to change the motorcycling game. Some motorcycles have been powered by car bumper-melting turbine engines while others get fitted with radials. The military once rode fuel-sipping off-road motorcycles that ran on just about anything that burned.

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In the present day, electric motorcycles have been experiencing an explosive rise in popularity. Not only do they help cut down on noise, running costs, and emissions, but flagship models can wheelie their way right into your heart. I mean, EV motorcycles certainly parked their way into my heart. Electricity hasn’t been the only way companies have trimming emissions and running costs. Other efforts include hydrogen-powered machines and even a weird hydraulic water propulsion affair.

Passing Gas

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Indian companies have been focused on making riders’ lives better for decades. Back in the 1980s or 1990s, Royal Enfield introduced a motorcycle that fed on then dirt-cheap diesel fuel and scored an alleged 200 mpg. The Royal Enfield Diesel was one of the only mass-produced diesel motorcycles in the world, in part because it made sense in the Indian market. The Diesel never made it to the modern day, but India didn’t give up on the fuel. In the mid-2010s, Hero MotoCorp experimented with a wild diesel-electric scooter.

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Making motorcycles cheaper and cleaner is a big deal for India because out there, the motorcycle is pretty much the family car. In 2023, more than 17.6 million motorcycles were sold in the nation. That is close to the number of new passenger vehicles sold in America each year, but it’s all motorcycles.

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Hero MotoCorp

These motorcycles then find their way into heavily congested cities, where they add to the emissions and noise pollution problems. Back in 2018, India Today reported that 5,500,000 motorcycles traversed Delhi roads every day compared to 2,700,000 cars. According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), those motorcycles were responsible for 32 percent of air pollutants compared to 28 percent for commercial trucks and 22 percent for private cars.

India is working on curbing these emissions and some of the nation’s companies want to lead the charge. However, India’s situation appears to be a complex one where companies want to offer up different types of tech. Bajaj Auto already has a line of electric two wheelers, but now it also wants to reduce emissions and save riders on operating costs by taking advantage of the nation’s cheap supply of compressed natural gas. The company already builds up to 70,000 CNG-powered three-wheelers a month and it’s ready to introduce the tech to vehicles with one less wheel.

The concept of a CNG motorcycle is not a new one. You can already buy aftermarket kits to convert a motorcycle to CNG. However, Bajaj says that there hasn’t been a production CNG motorcycle until now.

While Bajaj is hardly a household name in America, Bajaj vehicles used to be available to Americans. For example, Americans were able to buy imported Bajaj Chetaks, which were vintage Vespas license-built in India. But the company says it’s been around for over 75 years.

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I haven’t been able to determine for how long Bajaj has been developing a CNG motorcycle, but rumors were published last year with Bajaj confirming them earlier this year. Bajaj’s patents have also been made public, too. Finally, on July 5, the new motorcycle made its official debut.

The Freedom 125

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Bajaj is marketing this motorcycle as a game-changer for India’s motorcyclists.

The motorcycle starts off as a trellis frame. Bajaj says that this is not only stylish but also provides protection for the CNG tank. You’ll find the CNG tank nestled between the frame rails and under the motorcycle’s seat. Bajaj says the tank is certified by the India Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization. Additional safety measures come from a protective plate for the tank.

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Bajaj says that this tank, which holds 2 kg/12.5-l of CNG, is the first of its kind. Other manufacturers have offered CNG conversions, but Bajaj says this is the first motorcycle to be built from the ground up to house a CNG tank and to run on CNG. The company says consumption is 100km/kg, or about 124 miles on CNG alone.

While CNG is relatively plentiful in India, Bajaj realizes that there will be situations where the rider will not be able to refill the tank. Thus, the rider can flick a switch and the engine will drink from the 2-liter gas tank, which is situated in the normal spot for a motorcycle. The auxiliary fuel tank is said to be good for 80 miles of range.

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Both of these sources feed a 125cc single-cylinder engine good for 9.3 HP. It gets the motorcycle up to 56 mph on CNG power or 58 mph on gasoline. The base model motorcycle comes with drum brakes and halogen lighting, but customers will be able to upgrade to LEDs and disc brakes. The instrument cluster also has Bluetooth capability for calling.

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For Bajaj, the benefit of buying the Freedom 125 is two-fold. The company says that thanks to the cheap cost of CNG, the rider of a Freedom 125 can save 50 percent on running costs compared to an equivalent gasoline motorcycle. Bajaj also claims that when running on CNG, the motorcycle will emit 25 percent less CO2 than an equivalent gasoline motorcycle.

Will It Change The Game?

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This is offset somewhat by the downsides introduced with the Freedom 125.

The starting price of the Freedom 125 is Rs 95,000, or about $1,136. This makes the Freedom 125 more expensive than Bajaj’s own 125cc gas motorcycles. For example, the Bajaj CT 125X is just $923. The Freedom 125 will also occasionally need maintenance of that CNG tank and system. The CNG bike also knocks on the door of Bajaj’s electric scooters, which start at the equivalent of $1,148. However, the cheapest electric scoot has a top speed of just 39 mph and a range of 76 miles.

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Still, Bajaj thinks riders in India will want to pay more upfront to get access to cheaper fuel and lower emissions than running straight gasoline. As of now, Bajaj also hasn’t announced if the motorcycle is going to other markets.

Time will tell if this will change the game. The technology is really cool, but will the Indian motorcycle rider want to complicate things when a 125cc motorcycle is cheap and simple? As we found out with the Tata Nano, sometimes novel ideas don’t always land. One thing’s for sure, I’d love to swing a leg over one and see what riding with CNG under my seat would be like.

(Images: Manufacturers.)

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Yanky Mate
Yanky Mate
10 days ago

“Our initial focus will be India, which is a massive market in itself,” said Rakesh Sharma, Executive Director at Bajaj Auto, acknowledging the limited global reach of CNG refuelling networks. “A few stand out: Egypt, Tanzania, Peru, Colombia, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.”
“Once we’ve established a strong presence in India, we’ll begin exploring these markets,” Sharma said.

they will be exported, but not to the US
https://www.autocarindia.com/bike-news/bajaj-freedom-125-cng-bike-to-be-exported-to-6-countries-432164

Last edited 10 days ago by Yanky Mate
MrLM002
MrLM002
11 days ago

This doesn’t really make sense for the US, but I have thought of something similar.

Take a Honda Navi, take the storage cubby out, put a propane tank where it went, get rid of the Gas fuel tank and put storage there.

Sure Propane doesn’t have the range of CNG but propane tanks are cheap and readily available, and I’d argue safer due to the more rugged construction and lower pressures.

Also while I appreciate the ability to run gasoline through this bike in case of emergency, from my research engines designed to run on CNG and Gasoline or Propane and Gasoline usually results in worsening the efficiency of the engines by a good deal, and with the already low range of CNG and Propane vehicles the efficiency hit is very noticeable.

Last edited 11 days ago by MrLM002
John Patson
John Patson
11 days ago

Italians love liquified gas cars, but the idea never took off in France, mainly due to “we are all going to die” stories about whole towns being flattened as gas tanks exploded one after the other.
Gas cars still banned from some car parks as a result, even after the govt said such bans were illegal….
Imagine if Indian bureaucracy and Italian bureaucracy could get their act sorted — highly unlikely — the bikes will sell like a bomb (could not resist) in Italy.

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
11 days ago

Bajaj says that this tank, which holds 2 kg/12.5-l of CNG

The company says consumption is 100km/kg, or about 124 miles on CNG alone

2kg of natural gas is 0.11GJ
Cost of NG near me is $5/GJ

So this would get 200km on $0.50?

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
11 days ago

so I know there are propane converted vehicles, any idea if there is a propane powered Motorcycle?

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
11 days ago

Something about this set up makes me uncomfortable.
Not a big fan of possible explosives directly under my crotch.
I recognize that’s unreasonable and the odds against a catastrophe are in my favor but still.
“The boys” and I aren’t saddling up over any explosives anytime soon.

Everyone has heard the stories of engines throwing a rod right through the hood right?
That type of tale used to worry me every time I drove a forklift, where the engine is directly below your seat.

Not the best mental image, I know.

Call me crazy, but there is no way I will ever be comfortable riding anything that can easily be labeled a “crotch rocket”.

Nope. It’s a what? Hard pass on the pressurized tank of gas directly beneath my ass!

Last edited 11 days ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
11 days ago

I had the same thought. Given that I buy cars 10-20 years old from the 3rd or 5th owner, that tank would definitely be a bit sus

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
11 days ago

“one fewer wheel”
Seems like that should be
one less wheel or one fewer wheels.

Livinglavidadidas
Livinglavidadidas
11 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

I think “less” is used for non counting meanings, something that can’t be quantified with a low integer. I’d go with “one fewer wheels” like you said or “one wheel fewer” maybe?

MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
11 days ago

I had to look up the difference between the 2 types of gas vehicles. CNG is Compressed Natural Gas (mainly Methane), and LPG is Liquid Petroleum Gas (mainly Propane). Honda used to make a CNG Civic (GX?). If I recall correctly GE made a home compressor fed from a residential natural gas line to refill your tank and it was very similar to a clothes dryer. I remember when I worked for a local government agency there was an old dual fuel vehicle in the fleet, a mid-90’s Chevy S-10 with a large fiberglass cylinder in the covered bed. No one knew how to refuel it and everyone called it the “propane bomb”. One of my coworkers told us a horror story about riding in a LPG powered Morgan in the late 1970’s and running out of gas on a bridge in SF.

Last edited 11 days ago by MAX FRESH OFF
Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
11 days ago
Reply to  MAX FRESH OFF

That was one of the Morgans imported and modified by Bill Fink’s Isis Motors.
He died a couple of years ago, good article here.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/people/bill-fink-savior-of-morgan-in-us-passes-away-in-tragic-house-fire/

MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
11 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

She was terrified of being rear ended when it stalled, she said the fuel tank was basically a BBQ cylinder located in the trunk!

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
10 days ago
Reply to  MAX FRESH OFF

Probably actually made it safer.

Bkp
Bkp
11 days ago

CNG vehicles are a bit of a thing in the USA, they’re nearly all fleet cars and shuttle busses and garbage trucks though. But Honda would sell regular folks a CNG Honda Civic GX, model years ~1998-2015. I’m on my third one as I can get a California HOV lane sticker for clean air vehicles, but the stickers only last a set amount of time, so you have to get a new-to-you vehicle to get fresh stickers every few years. But they’ve all been somewhat inexpensive ($2K-$8.5K) and run with few problems. Two of the three were ex fleet cars. Fueling up is not super convenient if you’re not in a big metro area and only in some states, luckily there are enough stations near my home and work so it’s not a big deal for me. Pricing varies widely, from ~ $3.50/gallon equivalent to ~$5.60/gallon. Obviously I go for the cheapest ones near SFO. But currently that’s better than the average price of gasoline by ~$1/gallon. The Civic also doesn’t have a huge tank, we’re talking 250-300 miles per fill up depending on how much stop and go I’m stuck with. The older model years (pre-2012) were closer to 200-225 miles on a tank. MPG equivalent is usually mid to upper 30s.

If it went a little faster, I’d be interested in this CNG motorcycle, but it’s not quite fast enough for me to feel comfortable in SF Bay Area traffic.

Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
11 days ago
Reply to  Bkp

I actually saw a Civic GX on the Interstate in Illinois of all places, and I was blown away and so excited that I pointed it out to my wife, who was entirely underwhelmed. Car geekism is so poorly understood by outsiders.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
11 days ago

Incidentally, we got Bajaj 3-wheel auto rickshaws for awhile, too. Back in college, I bought a used Honda CM450 from a Bajaj dealer who, alongside the assortment of faster-selling scooters, had also taken the gamble of ordering a 3-wheeled pickup which he had predominantly displayed in the showroom and with lots of sales literature detailing the options for both the pickup and passenger versions. He was pretty enthusiastic about the chances, but the thing never sold and he ended up selling it to a local university to use on their campus at a pretty significant loss. Don’t think he ever took any orders for them from customers, either.

Aside from Bajaj and used motorcycles, he was also carrying Hyosung and Genuine, so the whole business wasn’t sinking or swimming on the ability to offload that one tuk-tuk, but, still.

PresterJohn
PresterJohn
11 days ago

I know CNG vehicles are a thing in the UK too. EDIT: I may be thinking of LPG. I’m curious about the economic factors that led to its popularity and why that never caught on in the US given how much natural gas we produce. I’m assuming gas prices never got high enough here for alternatives to be seriously considered.

Last edited 11 days ago by PresterJohn
Nathan
Nathan
11 days ago
Reply to  PresterJohn

Honda made a Civic that ran on natural gas and sold it in the US about 10 years ago. The range was bad which made the lack of refueling stations even worse. Home refueling stations were supposed to fix this issue but no one could figure out how to build one that could sell for $500 and not break after 6 months.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
11 days ago

“One thing’s for sure, I’d love to swing a leg over one and see what riding with CNG under my seat would be like.”

Its just another ride after lunch at Taco Bell.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
11 days ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Grip it and rip it, amirite?

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