News Article

‘Off-Road’ Legal Loophole Plugged; No Non-Type-Approved E-MTBs

Laws & Regulations

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Current EU Regulations on e-bikes offer a serious loophole. It makes it possible for companies to put over 250W and over 25 km/h e-MTBs on the market that skirt complicated and expensive type approval procedures. That’s possible due to this exemption in the type-approval regulation wording: “vehicles primarily intended for off-road use”. However, this ‘primarily off-road exemption’ can be countered by national laws, argues the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry (CONEBI).

‘Off-Road’ Legal Loophole Plugged; No Non-Type-Approved E-MTBs
‘The UK (and several other EU countries) requires that over 250W/25kmh e-MTBs obtain (national) (type) approval before they can be registered and used legally on public roads,’ states CONEBI. – Photo Bosch

On May 11, 2017 Bike Europe presented its free of charge Whitepaper “Rules and regulations on electric cycles in the EU.” Since, some 3,500 industry peers downloaded this Whitepaper which offers a manageable overview on all you need to know on e-bike regulations.

Over 250W and over 25 km/h e-MTBs highlighted

One of the striking facts highlighted in this Whitepaper is that over 250W and over 25 km/h e-MTBs are excluded from type approval. Soon after its publication the Bicycle Association of Great Britain (BAGB) as well as the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) issued a press release that noted that Bike Europe incorrectly concluded that such e-MTBs are excluded from type approval; even when they are fitted with knobby tyres as well as stickers stating that the vehicle is for off-road use.

Terms of use

Bike Europe counter argued with “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.”

Comments from CONEBI

Recently the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry (CONEBI) contacted Bike Europe with further comments on the May 2017 discussion. CONEBI states “The UK has the competence to categorize over 250W and over 25 km/h e-MTBs as motor vehicles or ‘special’ motorbikes in UK law, but not as motorbikes as defined in Regulation 168/2013.

“The UK (and several other EU countries) requires that such vehicles obtain (national) (type) approval before they can be registered and used legally on the public highway (which includes all areas open to the public, paved or unpaved, including e.g. open moorland).

“Because they are excluded from EU type approval, in the UK this approval can only be in the form of the UK national individual vehicle test known as Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval. This approval is not valid in other EU countries, and it does not imply any categorization under Regulation 168/2013. It is purely a national requirement.

“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 correct but only because UK national requirements happen to ‘fill the gap’ in the EU type approval requirements for e-MTBs,” says CONEBI.

Interpretation and implications

To summarize the CONEBI comments and to interpret the implications of the legalities brought forward, the situation for e-MTBs with over 250W motors which are capable of speeds of over 25km/h is now as follows: bringing non-type-approved e-MTBs to the market could lead to legal consequences in the UK “and several other EU countries”. The authorities in these (non-specified) EU countries could order these e-MTBs to be removed from public roads and to undergo the “national individual vehicle test known (in the UK) as Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval. This approval is not valid in other EU countries, and it does not imply any categorization under Regulation 168/2013. It is purely a national requirement.”

This implies that it does not involve EU wide type-approval. For obtaining that such e-MTBs must be legally categorized according to Regulation 168/2013. In effect it means that the off-road legal loophole has been plugged.

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