May 13 2016.

Dave Luscombe is the Motorcycle Industry Association’s (MCIA) campaign manager for alternatively powered motorcycles and mopeds. He has been working with the Bicycle Association of Great Britain (BA) to simplify the terminology used around e-bikes, so that customers and dealers don't fall foul of the law.

Sales of electric e-bikes are booming across the globe. In China, where many are manufactured, over 200 million e-bikes take to the streets every day. In Europe, estimates suggest around 500,000 e-bikes have now been sold and the market is growing in excess of 10 per cent every year. There is little doubt that in most European markets, e-bikes will be an important part of a greener transport mix.

But the growth in the e-bike market is not without its challenges, and one of the key issues the UK cycle industry is grappling with is the growth in higher powered electric bikes that are technically electric mopeds or even electric motorcycles.

UK law;
In the UK, pedal cycles with electrical assistance can be legally ridden by anyone over the age of 14 without any of the regulations of a motorcycle (insurance, registration, licence, etc) if they produce no more than 250 watts of power (continuously rated) which cuts out at 15.5mph. This output is measured by the manufacturer as part of the bike's compliance with CE marking requirements and the bike is labelled accordingly. More than 250 watts of continuously rated power and the electric bicycle ceases to be an electric bicycle and becomes, in the eyes of the law, an electric moped.

An electric moped (e-bike with more than 250 watts of continuously rated power) is no different to its petrol powered cousin. To use it requires training, a driving licence, L-plates, third party insurance, a full sized number plate and a motorcycle helmet. Once that’s sorted, the electric moped can be used on the road, and only on the road, or on private land with permission. It’s a motor vehicle and subject to the same rules as someone riding a conventional motocross bike. Trial parks, cycle paths, cycle trails are all for bicycles, not electric mopeds.

An understanding of the categorisation of e-bikes is critical to the future of the sector in the UK. For dealers; not informing the customer about the true nature of what they are selling, including the law pertaining to use of the e-bikes is misselling. There are clear penalties for those who take this route and not understanding the regulations is no excuse.

The impact for the customer is no less severe. If caught riding an electric moped anywhere, other than on private land, could lead to a conviction and penalty points on a driving licence - potentially a driving ban in certain circumstances.

Clarity is key;
The MCIA and BA are the two trade associations responsible for the growing e-bike sector. The growth in this sector is bringing valuable new business opportunities to motorcycle and cycle dealers and the continued growth will hinge on the public continuing to embrace it.

Misselling by a small segment of the industry, which may lead to significant legal problems for some customers, has the potential to derail the e-bicycle sector and has wider implications for conventional cycling.

The apparent confusion amongst both dealers and customers about what is legal and what is not has led to an agreement to encourage everyone in the sector to adopt the correct terminology when referring to e-bikes with different power outputs.

In publicity materials produced by the MCIA and the BA, the following terminology will be used;
E-bikes - a generic term referring to all electric powered 2 wheelers
Electric bicycles - referring to e-bikes of 250W and below
Electric mopeds - referring to e-bikes over 250W up to 4kW
Electric motorcycles - referring to e-bikes producing 4kW or more

Using this terminology will go a long way to help customers and dealers understand what an electric bicycle is and what their legal obligation is when their e-bike is actually a moped or motorcycle.