EU Strongly Recognise the Potential for 2-Wheeled Transport
In the last few weeks we have seen encouraging news that EU bodies strongly recognise the potential for two wheeled transport, and they are willing to put research funds behind the development of a next generation of electrical vehicles in Europe.
However two initiatives have stressed that there are significant regulatory problems about where such machines can be used and how they might be licensed and regulated if they are not bicycles.
“Emerging technology trends and innovation processes for the low carbon economy” is an important report for Commission’s DG Climate on which available technologies could be deployed across the world to reduce carbon emissions. The authors of the study, environmental consultancy Ricardo-AEA, were free to choose which technology to study.
It could have been electric cars – but they still struggle to gain significant market share, and their future remains uncertain. Pedelecs, on the other hand, are a mature technology and have much bigger potential to be widely used. The report confirms that electric bikes are an excellent zero-emission transport choice and an opportunity for the European bike industry to broaden their customer base.
ECF contributed to the study and we believe the results are an excellent policy endorsement of pedelecs.
Horizon 2020 is the EU’s new research program with an €80 billion budget aimed to make Europe a more competitive economy. ECF is very encouraged to see that the former “Green Cars Initiative” has now become the “Green Vehicles Initiative” and within it €5-8million is identified for projects under the heading “Electric two-wheelers and new light vehicle concepts”. The Commission invites consortia to bid for funds to research efficiency improvements to existing vehicles or even to propose exotic new vehicle types for research and prototyping.
The emerging technology report helpfully identifies some barriers that the EU and national authorities need to address to expand the pedelec market including standardisation, road safety and price. But strikingly they warn “In many countries, comprehensive legislation and regulation is not yet in place governing the sale and use of ETWs.
Equally unclear or inappropriate regulation and lack of enforcement can result in manufacturers and consumers deliberately exploiting loopholes. This can potentially lead to safety concerns.” They specifically quote growing accident risks due increased speed. It looks like the EU policy makers got this message already, because uniquely among all the transport research programs the funding for two-wheelers says development of new vehicle concepts “taking into account their integration with infrastructure and, where appropriate, considering any necessary changes to homologation requirements and regulations to allow their use.”
ECF thinks this matches growing concerns with speed pedelecs. Yes, they may be a valuable resource moving people to the two wheeled sector but the risks are far from understood and the industry is apparently not prepared for the public backlash if the speed pedelec damages the safe reputation of the bicycle.
The fact that the EU recognises the risk and builds it into its research and policy advice is a welcome move that we support.