The Department for Transport has released the findings from its Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle (EAPC) Consultation.
This consulation started in January 2010 and sought views on whether to amend the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle (EAPC) Regulations 1983 to simplify the legislation and provide closer alignment with European provisions.
The DfT said there is wide support to align with the European power limit from 200 watts to 250 watts. This would make for a sensible change, bringing the UK into line with current EU standards. However, ETRA has been lobbying the EU to increase this wattage ceiling and in the next month or two the EU is expected to vote through higher wattage ceilings for e-bikes, despite opposition from CTC, Sustrans, and trade associations the Bicycle Association of GB, Colibi and Coliped.
Any wattage increase to 250W in the UK would not raise the maximum speed, which will remain at 15mph.
UK regulations limit the maximum weight for electrically assisted bicycles to 40kg and for tandems and tricycles to 60 kg. There is no weight limit applied to electric cycles used elsewhere in Europe or to pedal cycles used in the UK. Comments received during the consultation included concerns that removing the weight limit would permit electric mopeds, heavier cargo cycles and electric pedicabs to be used on cycle tracks raising safety issues for those sharing the same space.
On "twist and go" e-bikes – ie throttle-controlled – the DfT will wait for further decisions from the EU.
The DfT said:
"Twist-and-go EAPCs EU rules require twist-and-go variants to comply with the same “construction standards” applied to low power mopeds. However, we do not apply the same “Registration or Use” rules that are commonplace for twist-and-go types in many other Member States (meaning they are not subject to registration, road tax [the DfT means ‘vehicle excise duty], insurance, etc) and allow them to be used in GB as cycles. Some respondents raised concerns about removing "twist and go" products from the EAPC rules – and treating them as motor vehicles. There were comments about the advantages this type of cycle offered – for example to the elderly who may have difficulty pedalling. There were suggestions to retain a limited twist and go function (e.g. up to 4 or 5 mph) to help riders get going, particularly for a hill start.
"There were also concerns that sales of EAPCs would fall if "twist and go" was prohibited, with people returning to more polluting forms of powered transport. Others felt that fully harmonising with EU rules and in effect classifying a twist and go cycle as a moped was essential in order to ensure EAPCs were genuine pedal cycles and not simply electric mopeds fitted with pedals."
Here are the DfT’s on-the-fence decisions:
"The Department for Transport has considered the responses to this consultation and supports recommendations to harmonise power limits (from 200 Watts to 250 Watts).
"Regulatory proposals will be developed to update the GB power limit for electric cycles once EU discussions on a much wider group of 2, 3 and light 4-wheeled vehicles conclude. We expect this process to be completed during 2012. In the mean time we will also carry out further work to consider whether other parameters (e.g. weight limits) could also be simplified or updated to reflect modern designs.
"The outcome of EU discussions could have implications for how we regulate EAPCs nationally. It would therefore be unhelpful to pre-empt the outcome of these discussions and to make changes to national rules which might need to be subsequently repealed."