Changes to UK electric bike regulations come into effect during April 2015 and again in January 2016. Here's our summary of what you need to know.
Brief history of UK ebike law - Updated 28-01-2016
Red tape has been blessedly absent from electric bike ownership. Unlike most other forms of motorised transport, e-bikes don’t require registration, license plates or insurance, and anyone over the age of 14 can ride them legally in the UK.
Unfortunately, disparities between EU and UK legislation have long allowed for a ‘grey area’ when it comes to the specifics. Now (at long last) the Department for Transport has moved to harmonise Britain’s own electric bike laws with the rest of Europe. But what does that mean for me and you?
UK e-bike law hasn’t kept pace with other EU member states. The UK’s Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle regulations (or EAPC – the central piece of legislation governing e-bikes for sale in the UK) was implemented way back in 1982 and has only recently become updated. These regulations differed from the equivalent EU directive (EN15194) in a few key ways, imposing slightly more stringent limits on motor wattage and allowing for the use of full speed throttles (those capable of accelerating the bike to full speed independently of pedal action – also known as a twist and go). Up until April 2015, in the UK, any electric bike could:
- Be fitted with a full speed throttle
- Be ridden by someone age 14 and over
- Not be fitted with a motor exceeding 200 watts of power.
- Not exceed a weight of 40 kg (or 60 kg in the case of a tandem or tricycle)
- Have a maximum assisted speed of up to 15 mph (roughly 24 kmh)
The UK electric bike industry and the Department for Transport have long recognised these 1983 UK regulations to be antiquated. In practice, UK police enforce the standards set by the EU’s EN15194. The EN15194 regulations stipulate that e-bikes may:
- Be fitted with a motor with a power of no more than 250w
- Provide a maximum assisted speed (i.e. the speed at which motor assistance is automatically cut off) of no more than 25 kmph (roughly 15.5 mph)
- Not be fitted with a full speed throttle that can work ‘independently’ (that is without the pedals ‘moving forward’). Start Up Assist throttles (those that assist up to 6 km/h) are allowed
- Be ridden without any minimum age limit
How Twist and Go throttles fit in with the new harmonised regulations
In fact, nearly all UK based e-bike manufacturers design their bikes to these EU standards, with one notable exception: the historic use and acceptance of full speed throttles.
This ‘cherry picked’ approach to regulation leaves the law divorced from the practice and denies many end-users peace of mind.
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Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (Amendment) Regulations 2015
Thankfully, most of these ambiguities are set to be eliminated by the introduction of the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (Amendment) Regulations 2015 – the DfT’s most recent effort to create a clear and universal standard by bringing UK and EU regulations in-line.
From 2016, the UK’s EAPC regulations will allow for a maximum rated power of 250 watts and and a ‘cut off’ speed of 15.5 mph ( a direct conversion from 25 kph). Other than the minimum rider age (which will remain at 14 years), EAPC will be ‘harmonised’ with EN15194.
Despite these commendable moves towards clarity, one question remains unanswered by the upcoming amendment – namely the official position on the ‘twist and go’.
It’s understood that any e-bike purchased before January 1st 2016 won’t be retrospectively affected by the new regulations, as recently stated by the IVS (the International Vehicle Standards – the DFT division responsible for vehicle safety), so fear not: your beloved twist-and-go won’t be subject to Vehicle Type Approval. Registration, tax, insurance, and a motorcycle helmet will remain unnecessary, provided your purchase was made before January 1st 2016. (So get on it!)
And even though the IVS have confirmed that twist-and-go e-bikes will become candidates for Type Approval, those that cut off at 15.5 mph will still be treated as e-bikes (as opposed to motor vehicles).
This would leave only Speed Pedelecs (e-bikes that surpass this 15.5 mph maximum cut off limit) requiring the registration, tax, insurance and a motorcycle helmet - and registration alone will require evidence of conformity to a moped class of vehicle, either provided by the manufacturer or completed by the DVSA at one of its approved test stations during a single vehicle approval test. Which kind of takes the fun out of riding a bicycle. However - that's the Law as it stands.
But despite such heavy hinting, the exact process for this exceptional twist-and-go Type Approval has yet to be outlined by the DFT. So, from January 1st 2016, all Juicy Bikes will be configured to conform with the 6km/h ‘start up assistance’ throttle outlined in the amendment. When the Type Approval process has become defined, and our bikes are then shown to comply with the criteria that process stipulates, we'll be able to restore the full speed throttle in the controller configuration.
Continued wider participation for cycling
Electric bikes have the potential to open-up cycling to more people than ever. For many less-abled cyclists, twist-and-go e-bikes have proven to be an indispensable aid and will be sorely missed. We look forward to there being a clear route to twist-and-go Type Approval in the UK, and the signs coming from the DFT are certainly reassuring.
While we try to ensure that our interpretation of the law is up to date and correct, it is only our best understanding of a somewhat ambiguous current state. So, whilst we're doing our best in this article to provide a clear summary of a complex law, we cannot yet accept full liability for any interpretation that later proves to be inaccurate.
The Bicycle Association have it on good authority via correspondence with the Department of Transport that electric bikes manufactured before the 1st of January 2016, landed in the UK and with full speed throttles installed will be allowed to be sold until stocks run out. That's great news for Juicy Bike customers - we have a long list of frame numbers all recorded and registered as manufactured before the 1st of 2016 and all able to be sold set-up with their full speed throttle available! We don't expect them to hang around for long...
The Department of Transport have once again tried to clarify their exact requirements for what constitutes a legal electric bike...
Despite intimating to the UK Bicycle Association before Christmas that UK held stock would be good to sell with full-speed throttles, until that stock exhausted, the DfT are now saying that throttles may only operate the bike (without pedals turning) up to 6KPH, to be legal to sell from 01-01-2016. Not a problem for us of course (wise designers that we are). It takes only moments for us to reconfigure each bike.
So whether you live in Norway, where full speed throttles are legal on electric bikes, or in the UK where throttles must be limited to 6KPH, our electric bikes can be quickly configured to suit.
The situation regarding type approval, allowing manufacturers to sell bikes with full speed throttles remains unclear, with new hints from the DfT that the only requirement for a 15.5 MPH limited motor-assisted-bike is for an automatic headlight to operate whilst the bike is in motion. But there is still no clear criteria spelled out and no process in place for large scale certification of product (nor any defined penalties for breaching this mysterious ruling). Really: there's a law, but no penalty for breaching the law!
Compared to motor cars, where it is possible to swoon over a shiny, ultra fast, dream-machine capable of travelling well in excess of our national speed limits and legally sell or purchase it (so long as you can afford the insurance and road tax), assisted bicycles are poorly served by UK Law, which seems to provide a flimsily defined framework within which manufacturers can not confidently operate with any certainty or long-term plan.
How different the law in Germany and Holland where Governments have provided clear definition allowing faster electric bikes to be sold and enjoyed fully, reassuring for all concerned and reflected well in their popularity on the roads, reducing traffic and pollution as a consequence.
Fortunately smaller UK indie ebike brands (like Juicy) are able to respond at very short notice and don't have to spend too long on their soapboxes...