LEVA-EU's Annick Roetynck

LEVA-EU says ‘blanket’ EU regulation ‘choking’ LEV sector

LEVA-EU is calling for an “urgent” change in EU regulations it says are “seriously hindering manufacturers”.

The advocacy group said the issue has been brought into focus as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with cities across Europe encouraging use of more light, electric vehicles (LEV), such as e-bikes, as an alternative form of transport.

It has presented proposals to the European Commission to revise rules it believes are “inaccurate and can put users in danger”.

LEVA-EU, whose work concerns a wide range of one, two, three and four-wheel LEVs including e-bikes, speed pedelecs (e-bikes that can achieve speeds of up to 45km/h), e-cargo bikes and e-scooters, says the central issue is that the regulations class LEVs in the same category as mopeds and motorbikes and as a result are “very seriously hampering the industry” at ‘absolutely the wrong time’.

Annick Roetynck, LEVA-EU manager, said the EC only has to look at all the cities across Europe opening up cycle lanes as the public tries to find safe alternative forms of transport. She called for ‘root and branch’ change to further unleash innovation and enterprise in the LEV sector – much of which is made of up dynamic small to medium-size firms.

“Our concern centres on Regulation 168/2013 which establishes the technical legislation for L-category vehicles, in other words, mopeds and motorcycles. At the request of the Commission, the European Council and Parliament decided in 2013 to only exclude electric bicycles with pedal assistance up to 25 km/h and 250 W from this L-category. So, all other electric bicycles are included in technical legislation, which has originally been written for internal combustion engine mopeds and motorcycles.

“The legislation has 1,036 pages of text, to a large extent dedicated to emissions, noise and other technical aspects which are totally irrelevant for electric bicycles. Manufacturers have to figure out which of these 1,036 pages are applicable to, for instance, their speed pedelecs or their e-cargo bikes with more than 250W.

“And if they manage that all, they have to go through a totally inaccurate type-approval procedure, which costs at least four times more than what the Commission predicted in their impact assessment before drafting Regulation 168/2013.

“This regulation is a significant barrier to SMEs and choking growth at a key time when the popularity and profile of LEVs as an alternative, greener form of transport, especially in these testing COVID-19 times, is set to soar. We must not hold back innovation and growth in this sector.”

Roetynck says that classing LEVs in the same category as mopeds also presents safety issues for riders. Most LEVs in the L-category are able to achieve a maximum cruising speed of 30-35kmh, yet classing them as mopeds forces them off cycle lanes and onto roads among traffic achieving speeds of at least 50kmh.

In its proposals to the EC, LEVA-EU cites the Belgian project 365SNEL carried out in the past 18 months where 106 people tested a speed pedelec for commuting for three weeks. After the test, 20% of participants effectively swapped their car for a speed pedelec LEV. The research showed that price was putting off some consumers from investing in a speed pedelec, but LEVA-EU says inflated prices are the result of the complicated regulations facing manufacturers.

Roetynck said the organisation is campaigning to protect the industry as more people move to LEVs in the future. LEVA-EU acts on behalf of around 50 members across Europe and estimates about three million e-bikes alone were sold in the European Union during 2019. About 98% of these were e-bikes with pedal assistance up to 25 km/h and 250W, which shows the extent the technical legislation for L-category obstructs the development of new types of E-bikes.

She said: “It has become very clear to LEVA-EU that the European technical rules for LEVs are hampering their market development. Research has shown that the biggest obstacle to getting more people to consider LEVs is still high prices, yet this price is a direct result of extremely complicated, inaccurate European technical rules. As a result of these rules, riders are often forced to ride in dangerous conditions because the speed difference between them and other means of transport is often life-threatening.

“The LEV market represents an exciting future for cities and towns across Europe, but this potential will be lost if we do not make urgent alterations to current legislation. We will continue to act as a voice for our members to ensure we remove any barriers to trade and get more people to do their bit for the environment by choosing an LEV.”

In a letter to the European Commission, Parliament and Council, LEVA-EU also calls for an amendment to the EU Green Deal. Even though the European Environment Agency has argued that shifting to walking, cycling and public transport is crucial for Europe to meet long-term sustainability goals and policy objective under the EU Green Deal, the Commission’s communication has no reference to such a shift. LEVA-EU, therefore, calls upon the Commission to include the shift to walking, cycling and using LEVs as a key element in the Green Deal and consequently put that shift at the centre of the forthcoming strategy for sustainable and smart mobility.

In the letter, LEVA-EU has rephrased the EEA Statement: “Shifting to walking, cycling, light, electric vehicles and public transport is a duty for Europe to meet long-term sustainability goals and policy objectives under the EU Green Deal, in honour of all COVID-19 and air pollution victims.”

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