AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands – The controversy on the future regulations for electric bicycles between industry associations COLIBI/COLIPED and the one for cyclists ECF on the one hand and trade association ETRA on the other hand is growing. COLIBI/COLIPED and ECF plea for not changing the existing legislation; ETRA has proposed changes aimed at improving the type-approval for electric bikes and light electric vehicles. It leaves the members of the European Parliament (MEPs) confused.
MEPs are being lobbied by representatives of both the associations for bike and bike parts makers COLIBI/COLIPED and the European Cyclists Federation ECF who argue that more electric bicycles and light electric vehicles on the road will endanger the safety of ‘conventional’ cyclists.
They want to make sure that the market remains limited to bicycles with pedal assistance up to 25 km/h and a motor output limit of 0.25 kW. As a result, the 3 organisations are in favour of maintaining the current legislation, which only excludes pedelecs with the above-mentioned specifications.
On the other hand, the European TwoWheel Retailers’ Association (ETRA) supported by quite a number of companies in the electric bike sector, has proposed changes aimed at improving the type-approval for electric bikes and light electric vehicles.
For that purpose, ETRA has submitted a detailed proposal with some 15 amendments to the European Commission and Parliament. The trade association points out that current legislation limits the market to 25 km/h – 0.25 kW models. These are excluded from the type-approval and therefore categorised as bicycles. All other types of electric (bi)cycles and light electric vehicles are included in the type-approval. According to ETRA, that obstructs in 2 ways: the vehicles are categorised as mopeds and they have to comply with unsuitable requirements which have originally been made for motorcycles. This does not encourage manufacturers to develop and produce any other vehicles than 25 km/h – 0.25 kW.
ETRA believes that the current debate on sustainable mobility creates a huge potential for electric (bi)cycles and light electric vehicles, but, says the trade association, that potential cannot be unlocked unless the legislative barriers are removed. Therefore, ETRA proposes 3 main things:
- the exclusion from the type-approval of all electric pedal assisted cycles with assistance up to 25 km/h without specification of a motor output limit and inclusion in the regulatory framework of the Machinery Directive + EN 15194.
- the exclusion from the type-approval of all very light electric vehicles with a weight of < 25 kg and a maximum design speed up to 25 km/h and inclusion in the regulatory framework of the Machinery Directive + EN 15194.
- the development of appropriate requirements for those electrically assisted cycles and light electric vehicles which are not excluded from the type-approval.
COLIBI/COLIPED and ECF argue that no other electric cycles should be excluded from the type-approval than what is the case today, i.e. 25 km/h – 0.25 kW, for safety reasons. ECF states in its position: “There is clear evidence that the shared use of cycling infrastructure by ever more powerful electric vehicles and “normal” bicycles (i.e. without electric support) will worsen the comfort and safety of the latter, especially children and elderly people.”
However, ECF does not provide any further details on the “clear evidence” it refers to. The cyclists’ association also states: “Increasing the power of the auxiliary electric motor or even deleting the technical specifications as laid down in the Directive 2002/24/EC and proposed Regulation, could mean that the European market would be flooded with unsafe electric two-wheelers and a growing pressure on authorities to allow them on cycling infrastructure.”
COLIBI and COLIPED also use this argument in their position: “By increasing or even deleting the technical specifications of the current exemption in Directive 2002/24/EC, the European market would be flooded with unsafe electric two-wheelers.” The 3 associations fail to mention that all vehicles excluded from the type-approval become subject to the compulsory safety requirements of the Machinery Directive. This would also pave the way for either amending the existing EN 15194 or creating new European standards.
ETRA wants the 0.25 kW motor output limit to disappear for the following reason: “Pedal assisted cycles are now appealing to a much broader and more varied public throughout the EU. This development however shows that 0.25 kilowatts is not always sufficient to produce comfortable and safe electric cycles that perform at the required level. The current power limit of 0.25 kilowatts proves to be insufficient, for instance in hilly and mountainous areas, for people suffering from obesity, for three-wheelers developed for physically impaired people, for vehicles developed to transport cargo, …”
ETRA argues that in all these cases the limit of 0.25 kW is an obstruction because any vehicle above that limit needs type-approval and is categorised a moped. ETRA labels type-approval for pedelecs with a speed limit of 25 km/h and more than 0.25 kW “an inappropriate, unnecessary, overprotective and expensive legislative framework”.
Today, member states still have the option to limit the power of motorcycles to 74 kW. France is the only country that uses the option. In the review of the type-approval, the Commission proposes to abandon this option for lack of evidence for the correlation between safety and power limit. ETRA points out that it is illogical to abolish the 74 kW limit whilst at the same time insisting on keeping a 0.25 kW limit on vehicles which are also subject to a speed limit of 25 km/h.
According to the trade association, COLIBI, COLIPED and ECF in their plea for not changing the existing legislation, seem to be overlooking a few facts. The European Commission proposes to exclude “vehicles primarily intended for off-road use and designed to travel on unpaved surfaces”. ETRA: “None of the 3 associations protests against this plan even though it will result in pedal assisted mountain bikes with assistance up to 45 km/h and a motor output up to 4 kW to be excluded from the type-approval. Who will stop the riders of these vehicles to use cycle paths on their way to off-road terrain?”
ETRA on the other hand does protest against this proposed exclusion, stating: “This is inconsistent and potentially dangerous for the consumer. As argued before, speed is a determining factor in the risk of injury to self and others.”
Type-approval also for parts
The trade association further notes that it is rather peculiar for COLIPED to lobby in favour of legislation that will not exactly work for the benefit of the bike component industry. “Type-approval does not only involve the vehicle as a whole, but also most of its components. For electric (bi)cycles this is doomed to confusion. A 0.5 kW pedal assisted bicycle may well have to a large extent exactly the same components as its 0.25kW counterpart. As a result of the type-approval, the majority of the components on the 0.5 kW must be type-approved.
If, throughout the life of the vehicle, these components need changing, they must be replaced by type-approved components. So, the owner of the 0.25 kW bike can freely replace his gears, brakes, suspension fork, saddle, light, tyres … with whatever he likes. The owner of the 0.5 kW must replace all that by type-approved components. Consequently, he may well have for instance exactly the same Shimano group, Magura brakes, RockShox fork, Selle Royal saddle, B&M light and Schwalbe tyres as his 0.25 kW colleague, but he will have to pay considerably more because of the type-approval. How will manufacturers explain this to dealers and dealers to consumers?”
COLIPED’s position today is a U-turn compared with 1999. Then, COLIPED and ETRA had set up a coalition to lobby for the exclusion of pedelecs from the type-approval without any specifications whatsoever. We quote from their joint 1999 EPAC Position Paper: “EPAC’s – electric power assisted cycles – should be generally exempted, without technical specifications, fro, the Framework Directive on motorized two- and three-wheelers.”
ETRA stresses that opposing changes to the Commission’s proposal also comes down to preventing the improvement of requirements for those electric (bi)cycles and light electric vehicles that will remain in the type-approval. According to the trade association, that is against the interest of any bicycle manufacturer who is already producing vehicles in this category or who is interested in developing such vehicles.
The type-approval legislation has been designed for traditional combustion engine mopeds and motorcycles. These requirements do not automatically fit electric bicycles. That is why, ETRA is asking specific requirements for among other things brakes, tyres, anti-tampering measures, locks, fuel storage, etc. Failing these adaptations, electric bikes in the type-approval will for instance also have to have on-board diagnostics and wheels that can rotate at different speeds at all times to allow safe cornering.
The final decision on the European Commission’s proposal has to be taken by European Parliament and Council. In Parliament, the issue is being dealt with by the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO). In a draft report, published on 5 May, Rapporteur van de Camp is proposing a first set of amendments. These do not yet include any amendments aimed at improving legislation for electric (bi)cycles and light electric vehicles.
Van de Camp has stated on several occasions and in public that he acknowledges the need for adapted provisions. However, he is still considering the safety issue. In the meantime, ETRA has launched through its website and a though a direct mail campaign an appeal to support their proposal. In view of the complexity of the subject matter it is impossible to predict the final outcome of the legislative procedure.