The European standard for electric bicycles with pedal assistance up to a maximum of 25 km/h and a maximum continuous motor output of 250 W has finally been harmonized under the Machinery Directive. What does this mean?
Many years ago, electric bicycles 25 km/h – 250W became subject to the Machinery Directive. This EU law sets out essential health and safety requirements for machinery. Since the Directive was meant for a huge variety of machines, it was difficult, to say the least, for electric bicycle manufacturers to figure out which points of this Directive were relevant for their electric bicycles and how to comply.
To make things easier for manufacturers, CEN TC333 “Cycles” decided to review EN 15194 for harmonization under the Machinery Directive. This means that all the relevant elements of the Machinery Directive have been introduced into the EPAC-standard. As a result, if your e-bike complies with the standard, then you are sure it complies with the Machinery Directive. It took however no less than 11 years to complete this job! The revised standard was published in 2017.
With its publication, a transitional period started during which manufacturers could choose between the “old” standard or the new 2017-version. Since April this year, this transitional period has ended. the old standard has been definitely withdrawn and manufacturers may now only use EN 15194:2017.
At the CEN TC333 meeting early this year, there were still alarming messages about the harmonization of this standard under the Machinery Directive. Since the draft of the 2017-version, the European Commission had changed the harmonization procedure and the fear was that the new standard would not pass for harmonization. For your information, since last year, Annick Roetynck and Bram Rotthier are participating on behalf of LEVA-EU as experts in CEN TC333.
Seemingly, these problems have been solved after all since the reference to the harmonized standard for machinery was published in the Official Journal of 19 March 2019: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019D0436
From numerous contacts with electric bike companies it appears that there is huge confusion over the standard and its legal implications. This was also one of the main discussion topics at the Shanghai Show, early May.
A lot of companies appear to be under the impression that there is a legal obligation to comply with EN 15194:2017. This is NOT CORRECT. Since the harmonization of EN 15194:2017 under the Machinery Directive, the standard is now a tool to comply with ONE law governing electric bicycles, i.e. the Machinery Directive. However, there are plenty of other laws governing electric bicycles and EN 15194:2017 has not been harmonized under these other laws. Therefore, compliance with EN 15194:2017 does guarantee that an electric bicycle is in conformity with the Machinery Directive, but it does not garantuee conformity with any any other laws, such as for instance the EMC Directive.
We hear a lot of rumours about companies spending large sums of money on tests to ensure compliance with the EMC requirements in the EN 15194:2017. However EN 15194:2017 has not been harmonized under the EMC Directive, therefore this compliance does not provide for presumption of comformity with the EMC Directive.
The basic principle of harmonization of a standard under this or that Directive is that it provides for presumption of conformity. In other words, should there be an accident with the electric bicycle that results in a court case, the judge will presume that the electric bicycle was conforming with the Machinery Directive requirements and the burden of proof is upon the complainant. For all other laws governing the electric bicycle, the burden of proof will be on the manufacturer.
LEVA-EU is preparing an exhaustive briefing on EN 15194:2017. Please contact Annick Roetynck, email [email protected], tel. +32 9 233 60 05 for further details on how to obtain this briefing.