TRL-study: LEVA-EU pleased but not fully satisfied

1086 days ago

10 minutes

LEVA-EU has fully analysed the TRL-study on Personal Mobility Devices for the European Commission. The trade association is extremely pleased with TRL’s conclusion that dedicated legislation for LEVs is the best way forward. However, LEVA-EU is not as pleased with some of the finer details of the study.

Regulation 168/2013 on the approval and market surveillance of 2- or 3-wheel vehicles and quadricycles is the core of technical legislation and categorization of light electric vehicles (LEVs).

These are either included in the scope of the legislation. That is for instance the case for electric cargocycles with more than 250W or for speed pedelecs. Or, they come under one of the exclusions listed in Article 2.2 of the Regulation. That is for instance the case for EPACs, i.e. electric bikes with pedal assistance up to 250W and 25 km/h, but also for e-scooters, self-balancing vehicles, etc.

If they are excluded from Regulation 168/2013, the vehicles come under the Machinery Directive. This opens the possibility of developing harmonized standards, which offer presumption of conformity. If your vehicle complies with the standard, it is presumed to be in conformity with the Machinery Directive.

So far, there is only one harmonized standard for LEVs, i.e. EN 15194:2017. The EN 17128:2020 for vehicles without a seat and self-balancing vehicles has not been harmonized.

Two major legal problems

Current legislation for LEVs poses two major problems. First, the legislation has not been specifically written for LEVs and is therefore not adequate. This results in very serious legal bottlenecks, which obstruct market development. One of the worst affected vehicle categories is L1e-A “Powered Cycles”, i.e. electric cycles with a maximum speed of 25 km/h and maximum 1 kW. As a result, virtually no vehicles have been type-approved in L1e-A

Second major problem is that inclusion in Regulation 168/2013 results in national rules that are particularly restrictive and hindering, since they have been developed for vehicle concepts, which are quite different from LEVs. The worst example is the categorization of speed pedelecs as mopeds. Consequently, in most member states they are subject to moped terms of use that seriously hinder the use of speed pedelecs, thus the market development.

Commission acknowledges problems

Vehicles excluded from Regulation 168/2013 are for their use completely dependant on national rules. Some member states for instance do not allow the use of e-scooters on public roads. On the other hand, all member states have granted EPACs the same status as conventional bicycles, which allowed the market to prosper.

As the market is growing, the European Commission is beginning to acknowledge that there are problems. In April, the Commission has proposed to exclude all vehicles from the Machinery Directive. With that however, the Commission has not yet made any statements as to where these excluded vehicles should be housed instead. It appears this decision is left to the Commission department responsible for Regulation 168/2013.  

5 regulatory options

Last year, that department has commissioned TRL to conduct a study into so-called “Personal Mobility Devices” (PMDs). This term covers standing and seated e-scooters, EPACs, L1e-A Powered Cycles, cycles designed to pedal in L1e-B (speed pedelecs), electric cargocycles, self-balancing vehicles, e-hoverboards, e-monowheels and e-skateboards.

The study had 5 objectives:
1) to provide a PMD-inventory
2) to provide a detailed analysis of the market and of the influence of existing legislation at EU and national level
3) to collect and evaluate data on PMD-accidents
4) to assess current use and safety aspects of PMDs not covered by Regulation 168/2013
5) to provide recommendations on technical requirements and traffic rules

The most important element of the study consisted of the 5 regulatory options, which TRL formulated:

  1. Include all PMDs within the scope of Regulation (EU) No 168/2013,
  2. Exclude from the scope of Regulation (EU) No 168/2013 any PMD with a maximum speed less than 25km/h,
  3. Exclude from the scope of Regulation (EU) No 168/2013 any PMD with a maximum speed less than 30km/h,
  4. Exclude from the scope of Regulation (EU) No 168/2013 any PMD with a maximum motor power less than 1,000W, and
  5. Devise a dedicated system for the harmonised approval of PMDs that is separate from both Regulation (EU) No 168/2013 and the Machinery Directive.

Preferred option

TRL added a judgment to these options. Option 1 should be dismissed. Options 2, 3 and 4 would simplify the criteria for exclusion from Regulation 168/2013. This would open up possibilities for creating new types of PMDs. However, TRL points out that these options do not resolve the issue of harmonizing the rules for PMDs across Europe. Option 5 provides for technical regulation outside the Machinery Directive and Regulation 168/2013 and would, according to TRL, be tailored to the needs of the PMD industry. The system could include a variety of assessment methods, ranging from self-certification to independent testing. TRL concludes on option 5: “In our view this new system for the regulation and approval of PMDs would provide the flexibility necessary to support innovation in this rapidly evolving sector, while maintaining technical standards and road safety.

Option 5 itself does not hold any criteria for exclusion from Regulation 168/2013. TRL suggests that for this purpose, option 5 could be combined with option 2, 3 or 4. In their recommendations they take the matter a step further: they propose to exclude all vehicles up to 30 km/h from Regulation 168/2013. The proposal to increase the limit to 30 km/h is “to bring the speed of these vehicles in line with the speed limits now being used in many urban areas”.

In line with LEVA-EU position

TRL’s preferred option, i.e. dedicated LEV-legislation, is fully in line with LEVA-EU’s position as explained in our position paper. Such dedicated legislation offers many advantages that are essential to the development of the LEV-market. Just like Regulation 168/2013 does for conventional mopeds and motorcycles, a horizontal regulation with essential requirements for all LEVs can provide for an automatic right for vehicles to be placed on the market. This would prevent Member States from denying vehicles that comply with the Regulation access to public roads.

Second important advantage is that such a horizontal Regulation will force Member States to think carefully about categorization of vehicles. It will no longer be possible to bury them in unadapted categories, as is the case now, for example with L1e-A vehicles and speed pedelecs in the moped category.

The Member States will also be forced to think about the terms of use for LEVs. LEVA-EU believes that the Commission must play a proactive role in this by encouraging the Member States to exchange experience and of best practice. In this framework, the Commission could for instance initiate an LEV observatory. This observatory could monitor market developments and analyse how regulations in the Member States influence that development.

And last but not least, dedicated legislation will curb the growing tendency of Member States to develop their own, national, technical requirements. This will allow the LEV-sector to return to the basic principle of the single market in which manufacturers can supply the whole of the EU with one and the same vehicle. This, in turn, creates the possibility to organize structural consultation with the LEV-sector on that technical legislation. Today, the national requirements developed by Member States are too often resulting from guesswork.

Repurpose L1e-A

Whilst LEVA-EU fully supports TRL’s preferred option for dedicated legislation, we find their additional proposals unacceptable and illogical. In their recommendations, they propose to only exclude vehicles up to 30 km/h from Regulation 168/2013. For vehicles with a higher speed limit, such as speed pedelecs, TRL suggests to repurpose category L1e-A. In this category the speed limit should be raised to 45 km/h, whilst the power limit of 1,000 W could be retained.

TRL adds: “The revision of this category would provide for mechanism by which cycles designed to pedal could be regulated separately from mopeds. This would allow special consideration to be given to the standards and tests that need to be applied to these vehicles without inadvertently interfering with the arrangements in place for mopeds. Moving cycles designed to pedal into L1e-A would also permit manufacturers to design three and four wheeled cycles designed to pedal, which are currently not permitted under L1e-B, thus creating a sub-category that would be highly suitable for pedal assisted cargo tricycles and quadricycles.

Under the heading “Important findings and recommendations”, TRL states the following on type-approval: “It should be noted that for pedal cycle derived vehicles different frame sizes of the same model and men’s and ladies’ versions of the same model are treated as separate types for type approval purposes. Thus, the overall cost of getting one model of bicycle approved may be some multiple of that figure. However, the costs of type approval do not add significantly to the overall purchase price to the consumer – one manufacturer estimated that type approval added only €8 per vehicle sold. More important than the economic cost of the process was the incompatibility of the business model of many PMD manufacturers and importers who have a short design cycle, often releasing new models every year and a diversified supply chain that has been developed to ensure resilience and redundancy so that component availability never stops production. This approach is fundamentally at odds with the type-approval system which requires design-freeze at the point of assessment and robust conformity of production throughout the product’s lifecycle. Clearly some middle ground needs to be found that ensures the safety and environmental sustainability of PMDs while acknowledging the differences in business approach between the PMD and automotive industries. An approach that is proportional to the level of risk resulting from potential technical failures should be devised.

The issue of type-approval

We find it utterly illogical for TRL to conclude one thing for EPACs and something completely different for current L1e-A vehicles and cycles designed to pedal up to 45 km/h, such as speed pedelecs. All the above is equally valid for all those “pedal cycle derived vehicles”, which are now in type-approval.

The issue of the type-approval system is mainly to do with the fact that conventional mopeds and motorcycles are made up of components that are specifically designed for these vehicles and “pedal cycle derived vehicles” not. These are assemblies for components that may be used in different types of vehicles both in and out of type-approval. This shows that the TRL-study fails to meet one of the 5 predefined objectives: to provide a detailed analysis of the of the influence of existing legislation at EU level. The report does not say a word about the technical inappropriateness and inaccuracy of type-approval for light, electric vehicles. The proposal for repurposing L1e-A is therefore fundamentally unfounded. All arguments to set up dedicated legislation for LEVs up to 30 km/h are equally as valid for LEVs up to 50 km/h. LEVA-EU will continue to work for this.

Factor 4

One last important footnote: TRL proposes to get rid of assistance factor 4, should L1e-A be repurposed for vehicles up to 45 km/h and 1,000 W. That power limit “would provide sufficient differentiation from L1e-B.” To LEVA-EU this means exchanging one superfluous obstacle for another. The fact that TRL fails to acknowledge the huge damage caused to the LEV-sector by clinging to maximum continuous rated power limits is further proof of the fact that their analysis of the influence of existing legislation is failing.

Finally, we hope that the European Commission will read the latest edition of “Science for Environment Policy”. A study on material efficiency strategies concludes: “the current demand level of personal motorized transport is compatible with ambitious climate targets only under two major conditions: (1) consumers must switch to more energy- and material-efficient vehicles, for example, smaller or shared electrified vehicles, and (2) the energy used to charge these vehicles must be highly decarbonized.” They add that policy incentives will be required in order to nudge consumers toward more efficient behaviour. Specific LEV-legislation that allows the market to develop is one of those required policy incentives.

Photo by Aaron Burden 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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