The Rapporteur for the new Machinery Regulation, Mr Ivan Štefanec, has proposed compromise amendments, some of which concern the (non)exclusion of vehicles. If these amendments are adopted, they will seriously harm the ongoing standardization work for e-cargocycles in CEN, and worse, they will cause utter chaos and legal uncertainty for the whole LEV-business. LEVA-EU therefore calls on both members and non-members to support the action to have all vehicles excluded from the Machinery Regulation.
On 21 April 2021, the European Commission published a proposal for a new Machinery Regulation. The text held one crucial point for the LEV-sector: the exclusion of all vehicles for the transport of goods and persons. Further details about the relevance of the exclusion of all LEVs from the Machinery Regulation are in these articles:
Machinery vs GPSD
The Commission’s proposal to exclude all vehicles from the Machinery Directive was a major push forward in the direction of specific harmonized technical legislation for LEVs. Unfortunately, inspired by CONEBI, the trade association for the bicycle industry, the European Parliament decided to put a spanner in the works. The relevant parliamentary committee, IMCO, came up with amendments to undo the Commission’s proposal and to keep vehicles in the Machinery Regulation. CONEBI argued in their position paper that moving vehicles from the Machinery Directive to the General Product Safety Directive, in anticipation of specific LEV-legislation would “lead to uncertainty in the industry”. The trade association for the bicycle industry also argued that the current Machinery Directive is “a key legislation for the EU Bicycle Industry” and the harmonisation of EN 15194:2017 has “consistently ensured that a safe product is being placed on the European market.” CONEBI also intimated that exclusion of vehicles from the new Machinery Regulation may “undo years of standardisation work of the industry”.
Potentially disastrous amendments
All these assertions and predictions are unfounded and factually incorrect. EN 15194:2017 is much too flawed to have “consistently ensured that a safe product is placed on the EU market.” The common sense and sense of responsibility of the producers in this sector has consistently ensured those safe products. That is why LEVA-EU believes that using the GPSD in expectation of specific LEV-legislation will have no adverse effects on the safety of the vehicles.
LEVA-EU is working for the benefit of all light electric vehicles currently under the Machinery Directive, i.e. EPACs, e-cargocycles, e-scooters and self-balancing vehicles. CONEBI’s interest is solely in the bicycle business. They choose to ignore that their position, which is aimed at protecting electric bicycles with pedal assistance up to 25 km/h and 250W, will adversely affect many different types of vehicles if they are to stay under the Machinery Regulation. Alos, from October on, the EN 15194:2017 will be up for a fundamental review. It is extremely doubtful whether a revised EN 15194 will obtain harmonization under the new Machinery Regulation.
Meanwhile, the situation has further deteriorated since the Rapporteur has proposed compromise amendments that will result in utter chaos and great legal uncertainty. It appears that these amendments are an attempt to make the ongoing standardization work for e-cargocycles easier by keeping them out of the Machinery Regulation. However, this attempt may well cause havoc.
In the amendment to Recital 15, the Parliament argues that all vehicles are to be excluded from the Machinery Regulation because “the purpose of this Regulation is to address the risks stemming from machinery function and not the transport of goods, persons or animals, it should not apply to vehicles of which the only objective is the mere transport of goods or animals by road, by air, on water or on rail networks, (…)”. So, in the first half of the sentence the Parliament proclaims the basic principle that the Machinery Regulation is for machines, not for means of transport of goods, persons or animals. In the second half of the sentence, the Parliament goes against the very principle it proclaimed in the first half of the sentence, by stating that vehicles of which the only objective is the mere transport of persons should remain in the Machinery Regulation!
This amendment is bound to create legal uncertainty of the worst kind. What is “the mere transport of goods or animals”? The majority of e-cargocycles that allow for transport of children, also allow for the transport of goods. So, if you only transport children, your vehicle is in the Machinery Regulation, if you transport children and cargo as well. But, if you transport mere goods, your vehicle will be out of the Machinery Regulation and come under GPSD. We don’t understand why different use-cases of one and the same vehicle warrant the so-called protection from the Machinery Regulation, whilst for that same vehicle in another use-case the GPSD is good enough after all.
These amendments will cause utter chaos in the LEV-business, starting in WG9 of TC333, where currently European standards for several groups of e-cargocycles are being developed. Until now, the key question in that standardization work was: will the vehicles still come under the Machinery Regulation and should we therefore develop a standard for the purpose of harmonization under that Regulation? The compromise amendments have now changed that question completely. We will now have to draft standards for vehicles, which depending on their use, will in one case come under the Machinery Directive, and in another case under GPSD. All this also raises the question as to what criteria the European Parliament uses to decide that one means of transport requires the “protection” of the Machinery Regulation and another identical means of transport not?
It gets worse further on in the amendment to Recital 15, where the Parliament states: “Nevertheless, non-type-approved, off-road vehicles, as well as e-bikes, e-scooters and similar means of transport should be covered by this Regulation, as regards their machinery function and with the exception of road circulation risks provided that such means of transport are not yet the subject of Union legislation.”
What is the definition of an e-bike? What is the definition of an e-scooter? What are “similar means of transport”? What are the “machinery functions” of these vehicles and how are we supposed to work with this utterly unclear wording in WG9? Also, only the part of the standard dealing with machinery functions will qualify for harmonization under the Machinery Regulation. What does that mean? What about the requirements to cover road circulation risks?
It is absolutely essential for LEV-businesses to oppose these compromise amendments and to make clear the IMCO-MEPS that the only well-founded and unambiguous solution for LEVs is to simply exclude all vehicles for the transport of goods, animals and persons by road from the Machinery Regulation. If we don’t act against these amendments, the life of e-cargocycle companies and many other LEV-companies will soon become even more complicated than what is already the case today. We can also use this opportunity to appeal for an initiative to remove the power limit of 250W, yet another huge obstacle in EU legislation.
LEVA-EU is preparing a draft letter for the IMCO-MEPs. We call on all LEV companies to send this letter to the MEPs of their country. Get in touch with us to join the action and we will provide you with the letter and the details of your MEPs in IMCO: firstname.lastname@example.org, +32 475 500 588.