The of mopeds and scooters have been the subject of multiple studies. Studies have found that 50 cc mopeds, with and without catalytic converters, emit ten to thirty times more hydrocarbons and particulate emissions than the outdated automobile standards. In the same study, mopeds, with and without catalytic converters, emitted three to eight times the hydrocarbons and particulate emissions than the automobile standards. Approximate parity with automobiles was achieved with NOx emissions in these studies. Emissions performance was tested on a g/km basis and was unaffected by fuel economy. Currently in the United States, the EPA allows motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds with engine displacements less than 280 cc to emit ten times the NOx and six times the CO than the median Tier II bin 5 automobile regulations. An additional air quality challenge can also arise from the use of moped and scooter transportation over automobiles, as a higher density of motorized vehicles can be supported by existing transportation infrastructure.
Scooter-like traits began to develop in motorcycle designs around the 1900s. In 1894, produced the first motorcycle that was available for purchase. Their motorcycle had a step-through frame, with its fuel tank mounted on the down tube, its parallel two-cylinder engine mounted low on the frame, and its cylinders mounted in line with the frame. It was water-cooled and had a built into the top of the rear fender. It became the first mass-produced and publicly sold powered two-wheel vehicle, and among the first powered mainly by its engine rather than foot pedals. Maximum speed was 40 km/h (25 mph). The rear wheel was driven directly by rods from the pistons in a manner similar to the drive wheels of . Only a few hundred such bikes were built, and the high price and technical difficulties made the venture a financial failure for both Wolfmüller and his financial backer, Hildebrand.
Most jurisdictions do not differentiate between scooters and motorcycles. For all legal purposes in the United States of America, the (NHTSA) recommends using the term motorcycle for all of these vehicles. However, while NHTSA excludes the term motor scooter from legal definition, it proceeds, in the same document, to give detailed instructions on how to import a small motor scooter.
Traditionally, scooter wheels are smaller than conventional motorcycle wheels and are made of pressed steel or cast aluminum alloy, bolt on easily, and often are interchangeable between front and rear. Some scooters carry a . Many recent scooters use conventional with the front axle fastened at both ends.
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