TRL advocates New Regulatory Space for Light Electric Vehicles

14 days ago

4 minutes

End of April, the “Smarter regulation” consultation on proposed changes to the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (EAPCs) legislation (called EPACs in the EU) from the UK’s Department for Transport closed.

LEVA-EU submitted a response to the consultation in support of the proposals. These include the increase of the maximum continuous rated power from 250 to 500W and the legalization of throttles on pedal assisted cycles.

The proposed changes are not optimal, but would provide some temporary relief, for instance for electric cargocycles and especially for the millions of people who are unable to pedal continuously due to physical problems. The full LEVA-EU answer to the survey is here: https://rb.gy/4mvwy0.

TRL has also submitted its position: https://rb.gy/gvgxlw. TRL is a UK consultancy “working together with their clients and partners to create the future of transport”. TRL is an important voice in this debate because the organization is currently conducting a study, ordered by the European Commission, into exactly this problem: the legislation, in this case the European one, for lighter electric vehicles and how it can be optimized.

In 2021, TRL already conducted this exercise for the European Commission and found that LEVs would be better served with their own legislation outside Regulation 168/2013. Their 2021 report is here: https://shorturl.at/ABEIP.

Although TRL supports DfT’s underlying objectives, they oppose the proposed changes as they do not view them as the best way to achieve the objectives. They label the proposals as “addressing specific issues in a piecemeal fashion” and instead prefer “a thorough overhaul a new regulatory framework (i.e. LZEV) that can be developed as fit-for-purpose from the ground up.

Regarding the increase in the maximum continuous rated power, TRL states: “While we support the overall aim of making EAPCs more useable by permitting them to have higher powered motors, particularly when used to carry cargo or passengers, we feel that resolving the regulatory confusion that exists in UK law should be a higher priority. To change the continuous rated power limit without resolving the existing issues in the regulation can only possibly create greater confusion.

This argumentation is fully in line with what LEVA-EU has been advocating for years: abolish the useless restriction of maximum continuous rated power and instead provide rules that guarantee safe acceleration. In the consultation, LEVA-EU only advocated 500W as a temporary solution. The consultation did not indicate that there were any other options.

TRL also speaks out against allowing a throttle for reasons that seem to us to be much less well substantiated. “Removing the requirement to pedal at speeds above about 4mph (6km/h) takes away the act of pedaling as a useful visual indicator. This could ultimately make it more difficult in future for the police to distinguish between legitimate EAPCs (which may have throttle assistance up to 15.5mph and that would be allowed to be used in cycle lanes, for example) and mopeds or motorbikes (which are also throttle controlled but are subject to motor vehicle regulations and not allowed in cycle lanes).” That seems to us to be anything but a well-founded reason to continue to deny millions of people access to electric bicycles.

However, we believe that the final TRL conclusive proposal is particularly valid and deserves the necessary attention. We therefore publish it in its entirety: “TRL strongly advocates for pressing forward with the previously proposed Low-speed Zero Emission Vehicle (LZEV) category, such that it creates a new regulatory space that is fit-for-purpose for a range of innovative micromobility devices. Our vision is for a flexible and proportionate approach to technical regulations that is performance-based by focusing on safety critical functions, and encourages innovation by enabling use of a range of low speed electric powered devices with two, three, four (or more) wheels, with and without seats, and without a need for pedals. Arguably, this could lead to a similar enforcement challenge to that we have set out above – however, we believe it is far more efficient and effective to develop a clear and comprehensive set of regulations which consider such enforcement challenges (and other things) from the outset so that appropriate solutions can be developed, rather than ‘retrofitting’ individual changes into existing regulations in a piecemeal fashion.

That new regulatory space that is fit-for-purpose for a range of innovative micromobility device is what LEVA-EU has been working for for years. So let’s hope that the UK sets a good example and that TRL keeps this conclusion in mind when writing recommendations for the European Commission.

Annick Roetynck

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

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