European E-Bike Rules Evoke Lots of Questions

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany - Companies manufacturing, distributing or selling electric bikes in Europe may get lost in a maze of rules and regulations. These complicated regulations come with: type-approval, CE-standards, EMC, Machinery Directive, helmet obligation, insurance, traffic codes etcetera. It became obvious that e-bike companies still have a lot of questions on these regulations, taking into account all the questions asked during the Information Meeting at Eurobike organised by LEVA-EU and this trade journal.
LEVA-EU & Bike Europe meeting on e-bike rules and regulations evoked many questions. – Photo Bike Europe

The European branch of the Light Electric Vehicle Association (LEVA-EU) and Bike Europe teamed up to help e-bike companies find their way in the regulatory maze and to answer all their questions on electric bike rules in the EU. The need for information and clarification clearly appeared from the number of participants. Some 50 delegates attended, representing the full spectrum of the electric bike business as well as all continents.

Long list of questions

LEVA-EU Manager Annick Roetynck presented an exhaustive overview of rules and regulations relating to several types of electric bicycles. Should electric mountain bikes be type-approved? Can one produce electric cargo bikes with more than 250W? Must speed pedelec riders wear a moped helmet? Do they have to have insurance and a number plate for their speed pedelecs? What about kits, electric wheels and electric trailers?

Download Bike Europe’s Whitepaper on all EU regulations regarding e-bikes, pedelecs and speed pedelecs.

Expertise in e-bike legislation

Annick Roetynck answered these and many more questions. She has been working in the two-wheel business since 1987, focusses exclusively on light electric vehicles since 2013 and has an in-depth knowledge and expertise in electric bike legislation. She has been on the European Commission’s Working Group ‘Motorcycles’ since 1999. In this Working Group, the European Commission negotiates directly with the member states and with stakeholders on technical rules for two-, three- and four-wheel light vehicles, including electric bicycles.

Reviewing factor 4 for speed pedelecs

In a second presentation, Bram Rotthier of the Belgian University of Leuven, explained his findings on the requirement of factor 4 for speed pedelecs. Sometime soon the European Commission will be reviewing this requirement, which stipulates that the power of speed pedelecs should be no more than 4 times the power, which the cyclist puts into the bike him/herself. In anticipation of the Commission’s review and for his PhD-thesis at KU Leuven, Bram Rotthier has done scientific research into factor 4.

Legal obligations

At the meeting, he explained that factor 4 is not a legally binding requirement for speed pedelecs. They must be tested to establish their assistance factor but there is no legal obligation to comply with factor 4. From his research, he concluded that factor 4 is contested since this limitation is causing slower and more fickle speed pedelecs. It discriminates weaker riders. The official testing method is not guaranteeing to measure the real maximum assistance factor. The controllability is not taken into account and there is no scientific link between the assistance factor and safety.

Loopholes in e-MTB legislation

The two presentations raised many questions, which showed how complicated the matter is. From the meeting, there appeared to be a few hot issues. Like the legislation for electric mountain bikes which contains serious loopholes and which are cause for great concern.
Furthermore, the 250W power limit is a considerable obstruction for further innovation of electric cargo bikes.
What also came to light at the meeting  is that it is impossible to fit kits and electric wheels, aimed at turning conventional bikes into electric bikes, into the current legal framework.

Misinformed on type-approval

The Information Meeting at Eurobike clearly showed that the sector is not very well informed about type-approval, specifically for speed pedelecs. Some companies believe for instance that speed pedelecs must have a 45 km/h speed limit, whilst electric bikes with a speed limit in between 25 and 45 km/h would not be not categorized as speed pedelecs and therefore don’t need type-approval. This is totally incorrect. The replacement of type-approved component parts was yet another issue that raised a lot of questions.

LEVE-EU to answer questions

LEVA-EU is a newly established association, which is aimed at helping companies finding an answer to all the above questions. What’s more, LEVA-EU will address the European institutions directly with a view to improving existing rules and regulations. LEVA-EU has a very close cooperation agreement with LEVA in the USA. LEVA Chairman, Ed Benjamin, was at the Eurobike meeting.
LEVA-EU represents the strategic interests of light electric vehicle retailers, dealers, distributors, manufacturers and suppliers to promote the development, sale, and use of LEVs in the EU. LEVA-EU is the only trade association in Europe that works exclusively for light electric vehicles.

Continue reading on this subject in Bike Europe’s Whitepaper on all EU regulations regarding e-bikes, pedelecs and speed pedelecs.