EU Court of Justice: speed pedelec is not a vehicle

220 days ago

3 minutes

At the request of the Belgian Court of Cassation, the European Court of Justice has finally given a clear answer to the question as to whether speed pedelecs and by extension EPACs should be considered “vehicles“. The answer is “no” and therefore both EPACs and speed pedelecs are definitively excluded from the insurance obligation for motorcycle vehicles.

In 2017, a Belgian speed pedelec rider was fatally injured in a collision with a car insured by KBC. Through his employer, the victim had employment insurance with P&V, which paid compensation. KBC and P&V then became embroiled in a legal battle. P&V argued that the victim was not regarded as having been the driver of a motor vehicle and was therefore entitled to a compensation as a vulnerable road user by the car insurance. KBC argued against this reasoning.

Point 1 of Article 1 of Directive 2009/103 relating to insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles, defines a motor vehicle as “any motor vehicle intended for travel on land and propelled by mechanical power, but not running on rails“. Following Article 3 of theis Directive, civil liability in respect of the use of vehicles must be covered by insurance.

The court has pointed out that article 3 refers to “motor insurance“, “an expression which traditionally refers, in everyday language, to insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of devices such as motorcycles, cars and trucks which, unless they are out of order, are propelled exclusively by means of mechanical power.” The court also noted that “Devices which are not propelled exclusively by mechanical power and which therefore cannot travel on land without the use of muscular power, such as the electric bicycle at issue (…), do not appear to be capable of causing bodily or material damage to third parties comparable, as regards gravity or scale, to the damage that may be caused by motorcycles, cars, trucks or other vehicles, travelling on land, propelled exclusively by mechanical power, which can reach speeds significantly higher than those that can be achieved by such devices, and which, at present, predominate on the road. The objective of protecting victims of road accidents caused by motor vehicles, pursued by Directive 2009/103, therefore does not require that such devices be covered by the concept of a ‘vehicle’, within the meaning of point 1 of Article 1 of that directive.

Interesting detail, the speed pedelec in question was equipped with a boost function which allowed for propelling the speed pedelec by the motor alone up to 20 km/h. Muscle strength was however required to activate that function. On this basis, the Court concluded that the speed pedelec, including the boost function was excluded from the insurance obligation.

It remains to be seen what the effect of this ruling will be in the Member States where speed pedelecs are subject to motor insurance. In Belgium, speed pedelecs have always been exempt from this insurance.

The judgment is here: https://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=speed%2Bpedelec&docid=278515&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=1038016#ctx1
The Motor Vehicle Insurance Directive is here: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32009L0103

Photo by IO & TEch on Unsplash

Annick Roetynck

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

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