BERLIN, Germany – The ADAC/Stiftung Warentest publication on e-bikes last week incited a witch-hunt on Europe’s largest market for e-bikes. E-bikes in fifteen shops in the cities Aachen, Cologne and Jülich were checked. According to the regional authorities serious so called life-threatening shortcomings were found.
Two folding e-bikes showed grave defects when tested by the authorities. After only five kilometers on a test machine the front wheel collapsed. The braking performance for the front wheels was designed for a gross weight of 60 kilograms while the manufacturer claimed a maximum of 105 kilograms.
Lacking CE marking
Another retailer in the city of Aachen sold e-bikes imported from China which lacked the required CE markings. The e-bikes also lacked any information on the name of the manufacturer. Research by the government officials revealed that the CE conformity declaration was not valid.
A certification issued by TÜV for this e-bike in 2010 was already terminated in 2011. For cost reasons it was not renewed by the Chinese manufacturer. Nevertheless for this specific type of e-bike the manufacturer confirmed compliance with the Machine Directive in the official documentation for 2013.
In an official statement the health and safety authorities of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony say that: "these and other tests in the past months have shown alarming results." The North Rhine-Westphalia Minister of Labor Guntram Schneider who is also responsible for product safety stated that: "Technically deficient e-bikes are a risk for people and must be removed from the market and taken out of circulation."
To prevent further safety risks the regional authorities have started to develop a quality checklist for e-bikes. The aim is to prevent future deficiencies, as they increasingly occurred since 2012, and to create a better safety for consumer. This checklist is criticized by Hannes Neupert of ExtraEnergy. "It already exists as the GS mark for the e-bike as a whole and the BATSO mark for the battery."
The e-bike consumers' organization ExtraEnergy accuses ADAC/Stiftung Warentest of spreading false information on the quality of e-bikes. "Why haven't they published their testing methodology?" says Neupert. "With regard to the relevance and scope of this test, the publication of the test methodology would be very important. The ADAC's first e-bike test was conducted in cooperation with ExtraEnergy and the information is still freely available."
Sidewall dynamos and German law
Neupert furthers: "We absolutely agree that it is fundamentally important to check if manufacturers comply with legal standards. Nevertheless, not all standards make sense. Several test results criticize the use of old styled sidewall dynamos. These are only specified because it is required by the German law. So, manufacturers are criticized to obey the law. Hence, ExtraEnergy decided in 2012 to stop to control legal compliance but to deal exclusively with customer wish-fulfillment in the tests. Something Stiftung Warentest and ADAC have neglected in their test."
Neupert: "Whether we need new and more stringent norms and laws I think that if e-bike manufacturers would comply with the CE marking, there would not have been so many poorly rated e-bikes in the test. Instead, Stiftung Warentest could have saved the hassle of testing by immediately pointing out that vehicles without CE marking are illegal."
One million e-bike users
Neupert comments further of the ADAC test: "Various authorities are responsible for monitoring the CE conformity. Until now, these authorities largely ignored the e-bike. The test of Stiftung Warentest and ADAC will certainly accelerate this process that puts the e-bike in the focus of the authorities like what is happening right now in North Rhine-Westphalia."
"Currently, the approximately 1 million e-bike users in Germany are concerned on the safety of their e-bike or maybe is even an illegal interfering transmitter. Also the dealers are worried if they can still justify to sell e-bikes. We must even ask ourselves whether 500,000 e-bike will be confiscated by the authorities because of their harmful electromagnetic interference? The ADAC and Stiftung Warentest have to be more transparent and give answers instead of creating more uncertainty."