E-bike debate: ETRA's view

Carlton Reid
E-bike debate: ETRA's view

ETRA is currently lobbying the European Parliament for better technical regulations for electric bikes and light electric vehicles. It believes there's a  "cyclists versus electric cyclists confrontation."

The Brussels-based organisation – which used to have UK trade association membership but has not had this for some years – said it wants the "market to grow to its full potential" and this will only happen if EU legislation is changed to allow "different types of electric (bi)cycles and light electric vehicles, i.e. city pedelecs, speed pedelecs, electric tricycles, electric mountain bikes, electric cargo bikes, pedicabs, electric recumbents, velomobiles, to become widely and easily available."

ETRA wants support convincing the European Parliament and Commission that a considerable part of the e-bike business is behind its proposal for law changes.

ETRA said:

"Today, there are two different European regulatory frameworks for electric cycles and light electric vehicles:

"1. The Machinery Directive[1] in combination with the EN 15194 standard applies to cycles with an electric motor that assists up to 25 km/h and has a maximum continuous rated power of 250 W.

"2. The type-approval procedure for motorcycles[2] applies to (bi)cycles with an electric motor that assists above 25 km/h and/or has a maximum continous rated power of more than 250W, as well as to all bicycles that can be propelled by the motor itself.

"The differences between the two regulatory frameworks are very important:

"1. Classification under the Machinery Directive + EN 15194 means: .

a. that the manufacturer can self-certify. He has no legal obligation to use an accredited lab to test his vehicle;
b. that his vehicle as a whole needs to comply with the rules, not the separate components;
c. that components can be freely replaced, provided the whole vehicle continues to comply with the rules;
d. that components do not need to be type-approved if used as spare parts;
e. that the vehicle is classified in such a way that the rider can use it with no further obligations;

"2. Classification under the type-approval for motorcycles means:

a. that the manufacturer can only obtain certification through an accredited lab;
b. that not only the vehicle needs to be type-approved but also most of its components;
c. that components can only be replaced by type-approved components;
d. that changing a component means going back to type-approval;
e. coping with type-approval requirements that are designed for motorcycles, thus technically not adapted for electric bicycles and light electric vehicles;
f. classification of the vehicle as a moped as a result of which riders can only use it with a helmet, drivers’ licence, insurance, number plate."

At the end of last year, the European Commission developed a proposal aimed at updating the type-approval procedure but it omitted to introduce any changes to the regulations for electric bicycles and light electric vehicles.

On the contrary, the European Commission proposed what ETRA describes as "inappropriate requirements" such as On Board Diagnostics, anti-tampering measures for the powertrain, and wheels that should be able to rotate at different speeds at all times for safe cornering. This proposal is now in the European Parliament that is expected to amend the Commission's proposal.

ETRA has been lobbying the European Parliament over threee main issues:

1. as for bicycles with a motor that assists up to 25 km/h irrespective of their motor output limit: exclusion from the type-approval for motorcycles and inclusion in the regulatory framework of Machinery Directive + EN 15194

2. as for bicycles and light electric vehicles with an electric motor that can propel the vehicle itself which do not weigh more than 25 kg: exlusion from the type-approval for motorcycles and inclusion in the regulatory framework of Machinery Directive + EN 15194

3. as for all other electric bicycles and light electric vehicles that will be included in the type-approval for motorcycles: requirements that are adapted and appropriate to these vehicles.

ETRA said that "members of the European Parliament are confused. They are being lobbied by representatives of cyclists and of the bicycle industry who argue that more electric cycles 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 (bi)cycles with pedal assistance up to 25 km/h and a motor output limit of 250W."

ETRA believes that its proposal will have "no negative effects on road safety."

ETRA believes a more favourable legal framework for electric bikes and EVs will lead to more people switching from cars to electric cycles for certain trips.

ETRA claims "more electric cycles on the road will mean less cars thus improved road safety for all vulnerable road users. However, this potential cannot be unlocked if manufacturers are confronted with a regulatory framework that is not appropriate."

Annick Roetynck, secretary general of ETRA, said her organisation is not lobbying for faster, more powerful e-bikes but "better regulations for electric bikes."

She said: "We are not asking for speed increases. Nor is our proposal about power boosts or 'twist and go' moped-style bicycles. We are asking for European regulations that do not obstruct the market as they do today.

"We are asking for European regulations that will allow electric bikes and light electric vehicles to thrive and to make transport more sustainable.

"We are asking for European regulations that will encourage people to leave their car aside for trips under 15 km and swap to electric cycles and light electric vehicles. Who cares whether these are bikes, speed pedelecs, open throttle e-bikes, twist and go or moped-style bicycles?"

Roetynck said the European Commission proposes to exclude all e-vehicles that are primarily meant for off-road use.

"This is a safe-conduct for any malicious producer to put a little sticker on his vehicle stating "primarily for off-road use". These excluded vehicles can go up to 45 km/h with a motor output of 4 kW. They will be categorised as bicycles and therefore allowed on bicycle paths.

"ECF, COLIBI and COLIPED do not want a 25 km/h – 300 W pedal assisted bike on those paths for safety reason, but they see no harm in 45 km/h – 4 kW. ETRA is lobbying against this."

She added there is much confusion from some quarters on what EU regulations actually say.

"On the one hand there is the type-approval scooters/mopeds and motorcycles. This is a set of technical rules designed to ensure that manufacturers develop technically safe products, nothing more, nothing less. These rules have no implication whatsoever for the classification of vehicles. On the other hand there are the national traffic codes. This set of rules is designed to determine where vehicles should ride and under which conditions.

"The problem is that there are all kind of new vehicles appearing for instance pedal assisted bicycles, selfbalancing vehicles, very light electric vehicles, .... that do not fit in these rules, not in the type-approval and not in the traffic code. One example: for 10 years now, Segway has been trying to get an answer to their question as to whether they are in the type-approval and where on the road they are allowed to go. The result is that today they are confronted with 27 European member states subjecting them to different rules.

"ETRA is saying that the EU should adapt its type-approval so that produceres of these new vehicles have meaningful technical rules to comply with and member states should adapt their traffic code to determine where vehicles should ride and under which conditions. Is that not sensible?"

Tags: Electric bikes

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