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Bike Europe’s Response to BAGB – MCIA Statement on E-MTBs

Laws & Regulations 1817

DOETINCHEM, the Netherlands – In a joint press release of 17 May, the BAGB and the MCIA state that Bike Europe’s recently published White Paper and the article on e-mtbs, published on the website on 11 May, could cause confusion among UK consumers and suppliers. The BAGB and the MCIA underline, quite rightly, that only electric-assist mountain bikes up to 25 km/h and 250W can have the status of a conventional bike. This is absolutely correct and this rule, as explained in the White Paper, applies not only in the UK but in all 28 member states. However, this is not the issue.

Bike Europe’s Response to BAGB – MCIA Statement on E-MTBs
The UK does not have the competence to categorize e-MTBs as motorbikes as defined in Regulation 168/2013. Therefore, the statement in the BAGB-MCIA press release “any electric mountain bike with power over 250 W and/or cut-off speed above 25 km/h is a motorbike in UK law”, is incorrect. – Photo Bike Europe

The issue is the following. All electric bikes exceeding the 25 km/h and/or the 250W limits are subject to European type-approval, except a few categories as listed in the White Paper. One of these categories is “vehicles primarily intended for off-road use and designed to travel on unpaved surfaces”. The problem lies in the word “primarily”. If the exclusion had stated “exclusively” then it probably would have left no room for discussion. The word “primarily” however leaves some room for using the vehicle on-road for instance as you are on your way to “unpaved surfaces”. 

This exclusion was originally not intended for electric mountain bikes but for off-road motorcycles. Unfortunately, for electric mountain bikes it creates the opportunity to circumvent type-approval. Any electric bicycle that more or less looks like a mountain bike, though designed for on-road use, may well be classified as “primarily intended for off-road us and designed to travel on unpaved surfaces” by malafide manufacturers. If that is the case, then the bike can be put on the market without type-approval or compliance with any other technical rules for that matter and without having to comply with any speed or motor output limitations by construction. Furthermore, it cannot be categorized as an L-category vehicle, for instance as a moped or a motorcycle.

All the above, concerns technical regulations and technical regulations only. As explained in the White Paper, next to technical vehicle regulations there are traffic code rules and other terms of use (insurance, helmets, age limits, …). Whereas the technical regulations are developed and implemented at European level, every member state still has the competence to design its own traffic code rules and terms of use. Consequently, the UK has the competence to design specific rules as to where and how “vehicles primarily intended for off-road use and designed to travel on unpaved surfaces” may be used. The UK however does not have the competence to categorize these vehicles as motorbikes as defined in Regulation 168/2013. Therefore, the statement in the BAGB-MCIA press release “any electric mountain bike with power over 250 W and/or cut-off speed above 25 km/h is a motorbike in UK law”, is incorrect.

When the European Commission was drafting the new type-approval Regulation, this loophole in the text was raised and Parliament and Council were presented with a draft amendment to solve the issue. The proposal was to formulate the exclusion as follows vehicles primarily intended for off-road use and designed to travel on unpaved surfaces except L1 and L3 vehicles”. This would have excluded electric bikes from the exclusion. However, the proposed amendment was disputed by (then) COLIBI/COLIPED (now CONEBI), the European trade association of which the BAGB is a member. They argued that the exclusion would not cause any problems.

Today, quite a few electric bikes exceeding 25 km/h assistance and 250W are on the road without having been type-approved. There are practices in use, whereby dealers sell these bikes whilst making their customers signing statements that they acknowledge that their vehicles may not be used on public roads. It will take the first court case to know with certainty whether the term “primarily” causes any problems.

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