In those member states that allow electric scooters on the road, they are clearly on the rise. With that, the offer of e-scooters with saddle is also growing. However, those vehicles are ticking time bombs since they are completely illegal if non type-approved. LEVA-EU, the trade association for businesses in the light, electric vehicle sector, explains why a saddle makes such a difference.
The growing popularity of the electric scooter is gradually becoming visible in traffic. It is a green means of transport that can contribute to making mobility more sustainable. A number of manufacturers have now added a saddle to that scooter, possibly in an attempt to improve comfort and to promote the vehicle to a wider audience.
In Belgium, which has introduced very favourable rules for e-scooter in its traffic code, the offer of electric scooters with saddle is growing noticeably. Bol.com has an electric scooter “for children” from € 117.99. Via Fruugo, Zipper scooters with saddle are advertised from € 269. MediaMarkt offers the Mpman as an electric balance bike for € 349. In the web shop of the weekly magazine Knack the Ecoscooter is at € 499 and Fnac promotes the Inmotion P1F at € 699.35.
All these vehicles have one thing in common: they are illegal. All distributors should cease sales immediately and recall all vehicles sold. Should one of these vehicles be involved in a serious accident, the consequences for the involved distributors and manufacturers of the scooters will be incalculable.
The warning comes from LEVA-EU, the European trade association for light, electric vehicle businesses. LEVA-EU negotiates directly with the European institutions on the technical legislation for these vehicles. As a result, the organization has first-hand correct and in-depth knowledge of the legislation.
Most vendors do not disclose the legal status of these e-scooters with saddle or suggest that they belong to the special category that Belgium has created in the traffic code for e-scooters without saddle. There is a chance that the distributors themselves are in the dark about the illegality of their merchandise. The legal status of the electric scooter with saddle is the result of 1,036 pages of European legislation that has not evolved with the market and has grown into a gigantic legal bottleneck.
In 2009, the European Commission had to rewrite the technical requirements for mopeds and motorcycles. It was already clear then that the internal combustion engine would have to make way for its electric counterpart and that classic mopeds and motorcycles would be supplemented or replaced by a series of light, electric vehicles with the electric bicycle in the lead. The Commission then, with the approval of the European Parliament and the Council, stubbornly refused to write future-proof legal texts. In 1,036 pages, Regulation 168/2013 and the 4 associated implementing regulations mainly describe the limitation of emissions and safety features, which are not relevant for light, electric vehicles.
Saddle = moped
The Commission was prepared to exclude the classic electric bicycle (25 km / h-250W) from Regulation 168/2013, along with a number of other vehicles, which they did not know how to handle in type-approval. This was the case for vehicles that “are not equipped with at least one seating position” (Article 2.2.j of Regulation 168/2013). Electric scooters that are not equipped with a seat are therefore excluded from the type-approval for mopeds and motorcycles. As a result, as far as the traffic codes are concerned, these scooters end up in a legal vacuum, which Member States can fill at their discretion.
To fill this vacuum, Belgium has devised the category “locomotive machines” (voortbewegingstoestel (NL) – engin de déplacement (F)). Belgium stipulated in the traffic code that these vehicles are allowed to drive up to 25 km / h. In addition, they get a similar position on the road as bicycles, they do not require a license plate and no insurance. The user must not wear a helmet and does not require a driver’s license.
Put a saddle on that scooter and the story is completely different. Then it is vehicle equipped with at least one seat. So, it is subject to type approval in the category L1e-B “moped” and in the Belgian traffic code it comes under “moped class A”. As a result, you must register it, apply for a license plate and pay insurance. You are also obliged to wear a motorcycle helmet and at least have an AM driving license. You must also be at least 16 years old to drive such a scooter. Bol.com’s scooter for children is therefore doubly illegal in a manner of speaking.
There is no (scientific) research that supports the decision to submit e-scooters with a saddle to type approval and without a saddle not. At the time, decision-makers just put a wet finger in the air, as they did when deciding on the 25 km/h and 250W limits for the electric bicycle.
However, it is impossible to have the Zipper scooters, Mpmen and Ecoscooters of this world comply with the European type-approval for mopeds and motorcycles. The technical requirements are totally inaccurate for these vehicles. Even if you manage to get a type of electric scooter with saddle approved, it still does not guarantee a safe vehicle. The same problem also occurs for example for speed pedelecs or electric cargo bikes with more than 250W. However, if you keep the saddle of all those vehicles under 54cm, you don’t have to meet type approval after all (exclusion from Article 2.2.k); legal nonsense pushed to an extreme.
Another, much bigger problem is that most Member States do not have a “moped class A”, like Belgium has, or the Netherlands with “snorfiets” or Germany with “Leichtmofa”. All mopeds in L1e-B mopeds are treated as one and the same vehicle in the traffic codes of those Member States. In most of these cases, mopeds are not allowed to use cycle paths. This is how the feather weight Zipper, Mpman or Ecoscooter, which often doesn’t even reach 25 km / h, ends up between cars and freight traffic that drive much faster. This creates life-threatening situations. This problem also occurs with speed pedelecs, the majority of which cannot reach 45 km / h but rather have a cruising speed of 30 to 35 km / h. This appeared from recent research commissioned by the Flemish Environment Department (see https://bit.ly/3cTQtnI)
4.2 million deaths a year
LEVA-EU has recently made an urgent request to the Presidents of the Commission, Council and Parliament for a rapid and fundamental revision of Regulation 168/2013. In addition, LEVA-EU has developed a concrete and practical proposal as to how to replace the legal bottlenecks with rules for light, electric vehicles that will enable the market to grow safely.
LEVA-EU Manager Annick Roetynck adds: “In the Green Deal and other European policyy instruments, several billion euros are earmarked for making mobility green and sustainable. Improving legislation for electric scooters and other light electric vehicles is a measure that is virtually cost-free, much needed and guaranteed to generate millions, if not billions, of euros. And yet Europe continues to systematically put that measure off. This is unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, the Commission has replied to the LEVA-EU request. They announce yet another study, the results of which will be published in the first quarter of 2021. Only then could a debate on a possible revision of Regulation 168/2013 be started. Should a proposal for review be made, it will need to be approved by the Council and Parliament.
Annick Roetynck: “This means that it could take at least another five years before our sector can have any hope of removing the legal bottlenecks. That is downright unacceptable. More than 400,000 people have died of Covid-19 so far. But meanwhile, 4.2 million people die from air pollution every year. Mobility is clearly a growing part of that problem. Why is Europe blocking the opening of the market for light electric vehicles? Why does Europe continue to ignore the potential of light electric vehicles to make mobility more sustainable? ” LEVA-EU does intend to keep knocking on the European door.
The Dutch version of this article is here: https://bit.ly/3fk5AZj