E-bike power limit: BA and ACT urge bike industry to resist 500W proposal

The Association of Cycle Traders and Bicycle Association say the proposal to raise the e-bike power limit is unnecessary, risky, and the wrong approach

Clock12:30, Saturday 13th April 2024
A man removes an e-bike battery

© Getty Images

E-bike batteries will need to be heavier and higher capacity to fuel a 500W motor

Two trade bodies for the bicycle industry, the Bicycle Association (BA) and the Association for Cycle Traders (ACT) are urging the industry to respond to a Government consultation proposing to change the well-established definition of a legal e-bike for the UK.

If passed, the legal maximum power output for e-bikes would double from 250W to 500W, and the requirement for e-bikes to be pedal assist would be removed, meaning e-bikes could be operated via a throttle and without turning the pedals.

The Government began considering these changes back in February, much to the consternation of voices within the cycling industry. At the time, London's Walking and Cycling Commissioner Will Norman called the proposal "madness", and the Bicycle Association warned that a higher power limit might lead to "moped-like requirements". One of the few voices in support was PedalMe, the e-cargo delivery service, who have wanted a higher power output for some time to allow them to shift heavier loads via e-bike.

Read more: UK ministers consulting on doubling e-bike power limit and allowing throttles

Now, with less than a fortnight remaining on the consultation, the BA and ACT have joined forces to speak out in one voice against the proposal. They are encouraging the bike industry to respond to the consultation to oppose the changes.

They give three key reasons for opposing the changes, which they explained in a shared statement.

Firstly, they say the change is unnecessary. They say that the current regulations, which are the same as those in the EU and several other nations around the world, work well. Although the changes are touted as an incentive to get more people on e-bikes, they say there is no proof that that is the case:

"There's no evidence these changes would significantly boost demand – instead, for real e-bike growth we need safer cycling infrastructure, and purchase incentives to address affordability," they write.

Secondly, they highlight that these new regulations bring with them three new risk factors. Firstly, there is a risk that, as reputable brands take time to adapt to the new regulations, people will buy unregulated, untrustworthy 500W e-bikes from online marketplaces. These unregulated e-bikes pose a far greater fire risk. The second risk that will accompany these changes is that, as e-bikes become more powerful and heavier (due to larger batteries to fuel the more powerful motors), there will be more collisions and injuries. Subsequently, the third risk is that raising the power limit would trigger the introduction of moped-style regulations, partly because of the higher accident rate, and partly because of that 'twist-and-go' throttle which, they argue, "would be seen as light mopeds, not as cycles."

Finally, they say that this is simply the wrong approach. The ACT and BA welcome innovation, and more lax limits on e-bikes does, arguably, open the door to that. However, they say that higher-power vehicles deserve their own category:

"We strongly urge that any new vehicle types, for example 500W, throttle e-bikes or e-scooters, be introduced under the comprehensive LZEV framework approach which was already proposed by the current Government, to provide category-specific regulations appropriate to each new vehicle type, and leave the well proven EAPC regulations broadly unchanged."

The consultation closes at 23:59 on 25 April 2024, so there is still time for anyone, from within the industry or without, to voice their opinions.

For more of the latest tech updates, visit our tech news page. For the latest on e-bike news, visit our e-bike page.

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