Compromise is reached in ETRA's e-bike battle with European Commission

European Two-wheel Retailers' Association agrees e-bike type approval compromise with European Commission
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ETRA and the European Commission have reached a compromise on electric bicycles in first Delegated Act.

Here's ETRA's press release:

In the past few months, the European Commission insisted on additional power limitations for electric bikes in the type-approval. The European Twowheel Retailers’ Association (ETRA) kept fighting these limitations because they were not proven to be necessary for safety and they would block the market for several types of electric cycles.

The Commission and ETRA have reached a compromise which for now leaves one power limitation in the text but which no longer blocks market entry for different types of electric bicycles. For many months, the European Commission has been negotiating with the member states and stakeholders on the functional safety requirements in the type-approval. These requirements are now laid down in the first delegated act, in short the RVFSR. The Commission is expected to formally adopt that delegated act in the near future. Upon that the act will be sent to Parliament and Council who have a few months’ time to either agree with or reject the text.

Unsuitable requirements In these negotiations, ETRA, recognised by the Commission as an official stakeholder, has fought very hard for the inclusion of adapted requirements for electric cycles. As the requirements were originally developed for mopeds and motorcycles, some were totally unsuitable for electric cycles. On the other hand, one essential requirement to ensure the safety of electric cycles, i.e. tests of frames and forks, was missing from the text.

ETRA succeeded in obtaining quite a number of adapted requirements, for instance in the field of the tyres, brakes, lights, audible warning devices. What’s more, ETRA also convinced the Commission to include testing of frames and forks.

In the course of the negotiations however, the Commission added further power limitations for electric cycles in the belief that the only type of electric bike subject to type-approval was speed pedelecs, i.e. pedal assisted bicycles with assistance up to 45 km/h for sportive use.

ETRA explained to the Commission that speed pedelecs were not the only type of electric cycles in type-approval. Electric cargo bikes or open throttle electric cycles for instance are just as well subject to the regulation. The power limitations introduced by the Commission were unsuitable for these other types, so much so that the limitations would prevent them from entering the market. The Commission tried to remedy the situation by abandoning all the power limitations but one: the auxiliary propulsion power should not be more than 4 times the actual pedal power.

ETRA continued to object against the remaining limitation for 2 reasons. Open throttle electric cycles could technically not comply with the factor 4 requirement and would therefore be prevented from entering the market. Moreover, the Commission did not give any evidence that factor 4 was necessary to ensure the safety of pedal assisted bicycles.

The discussion resulted in a stalemate until ETRA thought of a compromise, which the Commission accepted willingly. ETRA was prepared to accept factor 4 for the time being, on condition that the Commission stated in the delegated act the possibility of reviewing factor 4.

The Commission has now added the following recital to the delegated act: “The limitation to “four” of the ratio of auxiliary propulsion power and actual pedal power for cycles designed to pedal set out in Annex XIX should be subject to further scientific research and assessment. Upon availability of scientific data and statistics on vehicles placed on the market, the ratio “four” referred to above may be revised in a future revision of this Regulation.”

Furthermore, the Commission explicitly stated that open throttle bicycles up to 25 km/h would be classified as L1e-A vehicles. Before this statement, the Commission had indicated that L1e-A was meant for pedal assisted cycles 25 km/h up to 1 kW only.

Categorisation of open throttle bicycles as L1e-A not only frees these vehicles from factor 4 but also results in additional benefits. The vehicles will enjoy all adapted requirements for electric cycles as well as exclusion from a few additional requirements, i.e. mirrors and driver-operated controls (including identification of controls, tell-tales and indicators).

ETRA is pleased with this outcome. Secretary General Annick Roetynck states: “Our battle in this case has always been for the interest of 2Wheel dealers. We believe that there is a huge potential for electric mobility, since combustion engine cars in urban areas must be halved by 2030 and completely banned in 2050. We want as many of these cars as possible to be replaced by electric cycles and very light electric vehicles. The conventional pedal assisted bike 25 km/h – 250W launched the market but is not sufficient for the future. To tap on the potential, dealers need a wider variety of electric cycles and very light electric vehicles. So far, type-approval was standing in the way of this diversification. By adapting the technical requirements of type-approval to these vehicles, we ensure that they can enter the market instead of being unnecessarily obstructed by European law.”

The battle is not over yet. ETRA is currently negotiating with the Commission on the second delegated act, laying down the construction requirements, the RVCR. Annick Roetynck explains: “One of the key issues in this debate is the definition and requirements for powertrain. In the current draft, powertrain includes the whole mechanical transmission system on electric bicycles, even though that system is independent from motor and battery. As a result, the whole system will have to be type-approved. The dealer will only be able to replace relevant components with type-approved components even though identical non-type-approved components will be at hand. What’s more, this type-approval requirement has no effect on the safety performance of the vehicle. We are still hopeful that we will be able to make the Commission understand that this requirement is of no use for electric cycles.” 

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