After years of negotiation – and foot-dragging – the Department for Transport has finally "harmonised" its regulations on electric bikes with the regulations in force in the rest of the European Union. However, to the consternation of many UK e-bike suppliers the DfT has not okayed the use of so-called "speed pedelecs". Should consumers wish to purchase and use such go-faster electric bikes they will have to have registration plates fitted and wear motorbike helmets.
The Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (Amendment) Regulations 2015 was "laid before Parliament" on January 16th and comes into force on April 6th. This takes the place of creaking e-bike legislation first enacted in 1983. Prior to the current harmonisation the UK's e-bike regulations on motor power, throttle use, bike weight and rider age were different to that of the rest of Europe. The DfT has now ensured that the UK's e-bike industry has to follow EU regulation 168/2013 – e-bikes with a maximum speed of 25 kmh and 250 watts will remain exempt from type-approval (i.e. they're not classed as "mopeds"). Throttle-only machines will need type-approval (although this is a grey area). These "twist-and-go" e-bikes have been sold in the UK for many years.
The harmonisation also extends to Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1983 being brought into line with EU-standards. The Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) Regulations include provisions specific to electric bikes on the brakes that must be fitted and on what information must be visibly included. The proposed amendments for brakes take the place of the latest standard (BS EN ISO 4210-2:2014).
In countries where sales of electric bikes are high – such as Germany and the Netherlands – the go-faster e-bikes are given their own S-class category and are not classified as mopeds.
It's likely that some UK e-bike retailers will continie to market speed pedelecs as "for off-road use only" – but with a less-assured-than-before wink (that could fall foul of trading standards).