A large number of (gasoline powered) car trips are 3 miles or less, and could be avoided with adequate bicycles and bicycling infrastructure. Recognizing this fact the European TwoWheel Retailers Association is looking to relax EU rules governing electric bicycles, hoping to spur a greater variety of electric bicycles that can replace a greater number of car trips. A few days ago, Phillip Darnton, executive director of the Bicycle Association of Great Britain, published an open letter via BikeBiz.com calling the proposed rules changes dangerous and calling for ETRA to not make any changes. On the 24th ETRA responded with an open letter on their website stating Darnton’s letter was full of innacuracies, full of half- truths, distorted facts and factual mistakes.
Current EU electric bicycle regulations are
- Maximum speed of 15mph/25kph
- Power rating of 250 w. maximum (currently 200 w. In UK)
- Power cut-off when not pedalled, otherwise is known as “pedelec”
By contrast the U.S. rules (which unfortunately vary from state to state) tend to limit power to 750 watts, and limit speed to 20 miles/hr, and carry no other requirement. For comparison 250 watts is approximately 1/3rd horsepower, and 750 watts is approximately 1hp.
Early in December bikeretailer.com reported that ETRA had proposed relaxing the power restriction in the EU, while leaving other requirements alone. Electric bicycles would still be limited to providing power under 15 mi/hr, and still be required to use the pedelec design.
A few days ago Phillip Darnton published an open letter via BikeBiz.com in which he claimed to be speaking on behalf of “the UK cycle industry” and called for rejection of ETRA’s proposal. The comments on the BikeBiz article indicate derision for Darnton to speak for all the UK bicycle industry. In the open letter Darnton states two matters he says are of serious concern in ETRA’s proposal:
- that the power-rating maximum of 250watt should be relaxed to include motors up to 1kw;
- and that the bicycle does not need to be pedalled for the motor to engage i.e. “twist and go” throttles are to be allowed
To explain the distinction, some electric bicycles have a throttle and others do not. The pedelec style (“pedal electric”) electric bicycle does not have a throttle, and instead has a sensor detecting when the rider operates the pedal, and adds power to match the pedaling action. Other electric bicycles have a throttle, sometimes a twist grip and sometimes a thumb operated lever, that can power the electric bicycle independantly of whether the rider is pedaling.
Darnton claims these two changes would make bicycling more dangerous than it is today. Clearly there is a disconnect between the bikeretailer.com report which said ETRA is proposing only to relax the power limit, and Darnton’s concern which extends to removing the pedelec-only restriction.
ETRA’s response to Darnton said, in part:
All protest against our proposals we have come across so far consists of sporadic letters full of half- truths, distorted facts and factual mistakes. Time and time again, you and your fellow protestors prove that you have not read the texts: not the Commission’s proposal for the review of the type-approval, not ETRA’s proposal for improving the Commission’s proposal, nor the draft Parliamentary report or the amendments. You have only read each-others’ letters and repeated the same mistakes over and over again, resulting in the same emotional and incorrect appeal.
ETRA states they “are working for regulations for electric bicycles, pedal assisted and open throttle, in both the 25 km/h and 45 km/h speed categories, that are made for electric bicycles, not for motorcycles.” Their response draws a distinction between electric bicycles giving power assist up to 25 km/hr (15 mi/hr), and others giving power assist up to 45 km/hr (28 mi/hr) speeds.
The former category (15 mi/hr) electric bicycles should remain with very few equipment regulations. For example they ask why a 25 km/hr electric bicycle with a 0.3kw motor should be required to pass motorcycle-style regulations, when an identical bike but with a slightly less powerful 0.25kw motor does not.
The 45 km/hr (28 mi/hr) category appears to be a new creation and will cover electric bicycles with higher power levels. The sort of power levels where stricter regulations make sense, but to use regulations which make sense for electric bicycles. ETRA believes electric bicycles are important enough for their own regulations category, and do not need gas motorcycle specific items like OBD (On Board Diagnostics).
Electric bicycles are extremely popular in some areas of the world. According to ETRA one out of seven bicycles in the Netherlands are electric, which is extremely significant in a country which bicycles as much as the Dutch. In China 10’s of millions of electric bicycles are in use.
Electric bicycles are a practical way to transport yourself around town, with miniscule energy and resources impact. Where an electric car might achieve 100 miles/gallon (equivalent) fuel efficiency, electric bicycles achive perhaps 2000 miles/gallon (equivalent) efficiency, while giving the rider exercise.
EU possibly will relax electric bicycle regulations, negative reaction in Great Britain