Last Chance to Help Pushing for Inclusive E-Bike Regulations in the UK

42 days ago

6 minutes

In the UK, an online consultation organized by the governement, to gauge opinions on improving technical rules for electric bicycles, will be closing next Thursday 25 April at 23.59. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to significantly improve the rules and make the electric bicycle market accessible to millions of British people. The consultation is here: https://rb.gy/a8guw3.

LEVA-EU calls on all parties with a real interest in growing the light electric vehicle market, and electric bikes in particular, to respond in a positive way to the proposals. It will give millions of people access to electric bikes, it will boost electric cargobike use and it will make mobility in the UK more sustainable.

The two main proposals are:

1) increasing the maximum continuous rated power from 250 to 500W
2) allowing electric pedal assisted bikes to be equipped with a throttle without the vehicles having to be type approved (as is the case today).

In the EU, and until further notice also still in the UK, an electric bicycle with pedal assistance up to 25 km/h, a maximum continuous rated power of 500 W and a throttle, is categorised as an L1e-A powered cycle, and must be type-approved.

EPACs 250W without throttle and EPACs 500 W with a throttle, of the same weight, have exactly the same kinetic energy. Consequently, the result of an impact will be identical for both vehicles. So you would expect these identical vehicles to be subject to identical technical requirements. And yet they are subject to two completely different legal frameworks: the Machinery Directive for the 250W as opposed to Regulation 168/2013 for the 500 W. The result of the latter damming legislation, originally designed for mopeds and motorcycles, thus totally inadequate and inaccurate for any type of electric bike, is that not one powered cycle has been approved. No manufacturer wants/is able to risk type-approval. Moreover, most Member States wouldn’t even know how to deal with such a vehicle in their traffic code. Belgium, one of the few member states to acknowledge the difference between mopeds and electric bicycles in the traffic code, has given L1e-A vehicles the same status as conventional bikes. However, this is to no avail since there are no such vehicles on the market.

LEVA-EU has been advocating for years for the abolition of the maximum continuous rated power requirement, which plays no role in the safety of electric bicycles. Instead, technical regulations must be developed to ensure that vehicles accelerate safely. The proposed increase from 250 to 500W is not ideal but would provide some breathing space for cargo bicycles in particular.

The proposal to give electric bicycles with pedal assistance and a throttle the same legal status as bicycles with pedal assistance only sounds like music to LEVA-EU’s ears.

The UK has 16 million people with a physical disability. For several millions of them this means that they are unable to pedal consistently. The combination of pedal assistance and throttle is therefore a solution that can get millions of people in the saddle. Moreover, it will also make the lives of, for example, cargo bike riders and bicycle couriers considerably easier.

But guess what? The entire British cycling community is loudly calling for the proposals to be turned down!!!!

The Bicycle Association (BA), the professional organization of (electric) bicycle manufacturers and importers and the dealer organization ACT call the proposed measures “unnecessary” and “risky”. They even claim: “There’s no evidence these changes would significantly boost demand.” That’s really making a fool of the truth. Until 2016, electric bicycles with a throttle were allowed as regular EPACS in the UK. They know all too well that the so-called twist and go bicycles were more popular than bicycles with pedal assistance only. It took the UK until 2016 to align its legislation with European legislation as a result of which e-bikes with a throttle were banished to the L1e-A category.

The BA and ACT warn that 500W could pose a fire risk! Such absolute nonsense, provided without any proof, undermines the credibility of their argumentation completely. They further argue that e-bikes, on which you no longer have to pedal, could lead to “moped-style regulation on the whole e-bike category“. They have clearly erased from their collective memory the long episode in British law during which e-bikes with throttles enjoyed the same status as conventional electric bicycles, without that resulting in moped-style regulation on the whole e-bike category. The British government now voluntarily offers once again equalization for equal vehicles. Why would they suddenly turn around and change the law into moped-style regulations after all?

The sheer nonsense that electric bicycles with throttle could jeopardize the bicycle status of the current EPACs is a song that has been sung by CONEBI for 25 years. The only reason for that position is protectionism. The major companies behind CONEBI do everything they can to protect their cash cow, the EPAC with pedal assistance only, against any competition and at any price. And as a member of CONEBI, the BA naturally sings from the same hymn sheet. It is not clear why the ACT also finds it necessary to deny their members, the (electric) bicycle dealers, a much better future.

Cyclists’ organisation, Cycling UK, is also firmly against the proposals. In a comment, the director of external affairs showed a complete lack of knowledge of the matter as she stated: “These proposals present a huge safety risk to pedestrians and others who cycle. The dramatically increased power would mean faster acceleration and much heavier bikes, which we’re really concerned about.” The Cycling UK director is clearly not familiar with the concept of maximum continuous rated power, ignorance which does not prevent her from taking a firm stance.

The British government is voluntarily offering a unique opportunity to remove legal barriers to electric bicycles, making them accessible to millions more people. The BA and ACT challenge that proposal with nothing but intellectual dishonesty, Cycling UK even with stupidity. How dare they deny millions of people access to sustainable mobility, whilst claiming they are defending the interests of their industry?

The consultation is here, https://rb.gy/a8guw3, and will remain online until 25 April, midnight.

We welcome the challenging of the LEVA-EU position on this issue, but we will only engage in evidence-based discussions.

Annick Roetynck,
LEVA-EU Manager

Annick Roetynck

Annick is the Manager of LEVA-EU, with decades of experience in two-wheeled and light electric mobility.

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