In a press release of 17 May, the UK trade associations BAGB and MCIA express their concerns about information on electric mountain bikes published by Bike Europe. The associations state: “This (information) notes that electric bikes intended for off-road use can avoid the requirement to be type approved before sale, even if they fall outside the strict limits on continuous rated power (250 W) and motor cutout speed (25 km/h) for an electric bike in the UK to be treated in law as a bicycle, not a motorbike.”
Unfortunately, the BAGB and MCIA have it wrong, whilst the information published by Bike Europe is correct.
Electric bikes intended for off-road use can most certainly “avoid to be type-approved before sale”. As a matter of fact, they are explicitly excluded from European type-approval. This doesn’t mean that they can be categorized as a bicycle, but they cannot be categorized as a moped or a motorcycle either. They fall into a legal void and that is exactly the root of the problem.
Article 2(g) of Regulation 168/2013 states the exclusion from type-approval of “(g) vehicles primarily intended for off-road use and designed to travel on unpaved surfaces”. If you are using your vehicle on-road, claiming to be on your way for use off-road, who is going to contest the fact that you are using your vehicle primarily “on unpaved surfaces”? The lack of any further technical specifications creates the opportunity to easily categorize an electric bike as intended for off-road use, thus avoiding compliance with the expensive type-approval or any other technical rules for that matter.
In 2012, as the European Commission was still drafting Regulation 168/2013, the European Twowheel Retailers’ Association (ETRA) officially pointed out the loophole to the European Commission, Parliament and Council. ETRA proposed to amend the exclusion, by adding that the exclusion did not apply to L1 and L3 vehicles. Remarkably enough, this proposal was opposed by a few organisations among which CONEBI, still COLIBI and COLIPED at the time, of which BAGB is a member. They did not agree with the conclusion that the draft created a loophole.
In the meantime, we have been notified of dealers who sell electric bikes that are not type-approved and who make their customers sign a paper, which states that the vehicle is not for use on public roads. This shows that the loophole is being used.
LEVA-EU believes that Article 2(g) does create a problem and therefore needs amending either by replacing the word “primarily” by “exclusively” or by specifying that the exclusion does not apply to L1 and L3-category vehicles.
If you require any further information or clarification on European rules and regulations on electric bicycles or other light electric vehicles, do get in touch with us. We have all the necessary expertise and the relevant networks to answer any question you may have.
LEVA-EU Manager, Annick Roetynck, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +32 9 233 60 05.