Last week the European Parliament voted for a clear separation between active and passive transport. Under current EU legislation, e-bikes, known officially as electronically power assisted cycles (EPACs) or pedelecs, are limited to 250 watts. They must propel the rider at no more than 25kph. In a vote at the European Parliament, MEPs decided to keep the original European Commission proposal: Only pedelecs with a maximum speed of 25 km/h and 250 watts power will remain exempt from motorbike regulation. If MEPs had voted the other way, bicycle riders may have become subject to motorbike-style rules and may have been forced to wear helmets, pay vehicle license fees and have compulsory insurance.
Most European bicycle organisations welcomed the outcome of the vote, but the European Two Wheel Retailers' Association has now issued a statement saying the decision is a "black day" for e-bikes, will be "dangerous" for consumers, and leaves a "ticking time bomb of non type-approved fast pedelecs."
With 643 votes in favour, 16 against and 18 abstentions, MEPs voted overwhelmingly for the existing definitions of bicycles, e-bikes and motoribikes.
The European Cyclists' Federation welcomed the vote, seeing it as a clear separation between bicycles and motorbikes. The UK's Bicycle Association, and Brussels-based bicycle and accessories manufacturer associations COLIBI and COLIPED, also welcomed the MEP's decision. All had previously lobbied for legislation to remain the same.
A statment from COLIBI and COLIPED said:
"This positive vote will enhance further investments and developments in the industry and will support the European EPAC manufacturers in their continuous effort to bring high-end and above all safe products on the market."
However, ETRA has cried foul, calling "20th September a black day for the electric bicycle business."
ETRA meant 20th November.
"That day, the European Parliament has voted the Regulation on the approval and market surveillance of two- or three-wheel vehicles and quadricycles. On the one hand, the new type-approval legislation is an open invitation for manufacturers who are looking to skirt the type-approval. On the other hand, the legislation remains totally unadapted to electric bicycles and will therefore continue to obstruct their market development for at least another decade."
ETRA Secretary General Annick Roetynck said: “The fast pedelec category with assistance up to 45 km/h is becoming increasingly popular. Today the overall majority of these vehicles, which are already on the market, are not type-approved even though they must be under current legislation. We are not referring to some dubious products thrown on the market by shady manufacturers. It concerns well-established major brands. One accident with one of these illegal vehicles is likely to greatly damage the whole business.”
Roetynck claims the fast pedelecs are not type-approved because manufacturers find the procedure too complicated and too expensive.
"The new type-approval will be even more complicated and expensive, but with Article 2.2(g) the new law offers a way out," she said.
"The article is so vague that virtually any electric bike could qualify for this exemption. The fact that the technical requirements in the new type-approval are not adapted to electric bicycles, will make it all the more attractive for manufacturers to circumvent the procedure by invoking Article 2.2(g)."
Taking a dig at ECF, BAGB, COLIBI and COLIPED, Roetynck said:
"ETRA is really puzzled by the cheerful reactions of the other stakeholders. [They] have always claimed that ETRA’s proposals were all about getting faster and more powerful vehicles on the road. They consistently failed to understand that ETRA was working for regulations that are adapted to electric bicycles, adequate and effective regulations that ensure safe vehicles.
"They now cheer about the fact that pedal assisted bicycles remain at 25 km/h and 250W. Yet, they are blind for the fact that as a result of their lobby, Article 2.2(g) creates a dangerous no man’s land for vehicles with no speed and no power output limit.
"They cheer about 25 km/h and 250W but keep totally quiet about the ticking time bomb of non type-approved fast pedelecs. This is especially strange for COLIBI and COLIPED who call themselves official representatives of the European bicycle and EPAC industry."
She concludes: “We have no choice but to continue our fight for better electric bike regulations because the current situation is dangerous and therefore not in the interest of dealers in particular and of the electric bike sector in general. There is a huge lack of clarity and understanding of the rules, which in turn is the perfect breeding ground for abuse. One day the current situation will result in accidents which will badly affect the whole sector from dealers to manufacturers. ETRA’s proposals to improve the regulations for electric bicycles have been sacrificed by Parliament because they were wrongly considered to be unsafe."
The MEP's decision is "bound to result in dangerous vehicles that will affect road safety," claimed Roetynck.