Government Consults On Legalising Higher Powered Ebikes

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The government has announced a consultation on changing the rules around ebikes. What do you think of the proposals?

As you’ll no doubt be aware, UK electrically assisted pedal cycles (or EAPCs – as distinct from electric motorbikes) are subject to the same access rules – and lack of licensing rules – as standard bikes, providing they meet certain restrictions. At present, those restrictions are:

  • cycle must be fitted with pedals that are capable of propelling it
  • maximum continuous rated power of the electric motor must not exceed 250 watts
  • electrical assistance must cut off when the vehicle reaches 15.5mph (25km/h)

Bikes can – and do – put out more than 250 watts at present. Shimano’s EP8 motor claims a peak power of 500W – which is legal under UK rules because the system can’t sustain it for the ‘the maximum thirty minutes power at the output shaft’ required to calculate the continuous rated power. Anything that doesn’t meet the above criteria doesn’t count as a bike, and is subject to a range of rules, ranging from licensing and helmet requirements, through to vehicle excise duty and restrictions on where you can use them. In some instances, bikes can be subject to ‘type approval’, where the Vehicle Certification Agency ensures that a vehicle meets certain technical requirements.

This one is an EAPC, despite the branding.

The government is consulting on the following changes:

  • to amend the legal definition of how EAPCs are classified so that the maximum continuous rated power of the electric motor must not exceed 500 watts instead of 250 watts as set out in the current regulations
  • to allow ‘twist and go’ EAPCs to have throttle assistance up to 15.5mph (25km/h) without the need for type approval

The consultation makes no mention of e-mountain bikes, focussing instead on ‘active travel’ and e-cargo bikes. The government argues that the above changes will make it easier for people to choose bikes as transport, and makes particular reference to disabled people having a broader range of transport options available to them, and the wider use of cargo bikes for deliveries and goods.

As the owner of a cargo bike with Bosch CX motor, which has a maximum claimed output of 600W, I can see why some riders (or non riders) might think more power could be desirable. Fully loaded with a 60kg teen and climbing a steep 20% hill, your speed will drop and you’ll have to put some effort into the pedals. But it’s doable without undue sweat, and that’s a pretty niche case. Enough power to make that scenario faster isn’t without its attractions however, especially if you regularly haul large loads up hills. Note that the government’s consultation doesn’t mentioned removing or raising the 15.5mph assistance cut off, so with the more powerful motor it wouldn’t make you go any faster as a maximum speed (unless you’re freewheeling downhill), but it would allow you to achieve that 15.5mph more consistently, whatever the load or terrain.

Would more power be useful for this sort of beast?

But the proposal isn’t limited to heavy hauling cargo bikes, and with such power would come a fair amount of punch. Imagine if, instead of that ‘boost’ mode being something that could be relatively briefly sustained, as is the case with a Shimano EP8, that was the base level of continuously sustainable output. ‘Boost’ mode could then be something far higher under the above proposals. If you’ve ever set off in boost on a tricky section, you’ll know how hard to handle that can be – if that was just the baseline, and there was a load more power available, that could be another level of challenge.

To some extent, we already have some of these issues in the form of ‘chipped’ bikes, which are illegally modified to exceed the current restrictions. You might imagine that such chipping would continue, even if legal power was increased. What would a modded 500W ebike be capable of?

It’s all these safety concerns that has led Cycling UK to issue a statement opposing the proposals – along with a belief that expanding throttle options will reduce the health benefits of cycling, which are still present even on an EAPC.

Cycling UK’s director of external affairs, Sarah McMonagle said:

“These proposals present a huge safety risk to pedestrians and others who cycle. The dramatically increased power would mean faster acceleration and much heavier bikes, which we’re really concerned about.

“E-cycles with no pedal requirement would also reduce the health benefits of e-cycling – in essence, they would blur the line between e-bikes and electric motorbikes.

“The Government has stated that the proposed changes would make e-cycles more attractive, yet the most commonly cited reason for people not cycling is that they don’t feel safe. E-cycles are also prohibitively expensive for many people. We fully agree with the Government’s goal to get more people to enjoy the benefits of e-cycles, but believe the way to do that effectively is to invest in high quality infrastructure and provide financial assistance for those who need it.”

In the mountain bike world, the blurring of lines between e-bikes and electric motorbikes has often been a concern, with electric motorbikes being cited as causing access problems and trail conflict. Electric motor bikes are not allowed on bridleways or mountain bike trails, and many landowners and trail builders have complained of the damage caused by such motor bikes. Meanwhile, mountain bikers have complained when they find themselves being tarred with the same brush by people not appreciating the difference between a pedal assist eMTB that does have a legal right of access, and electric motorbikes, which don’t.

The government states:

E-cycles with increased power and throttle assistance in line with the proposed changes would be classified as EAPCs and would, therefore, be able to use the same infrastructure as pedal cycles, including cycle lanes, tracks and other cycle facilities.

Are we looking at a step towards everyone being allowed to ride everything everywhere all at once, or a hectic free for all and rapid disintegration of paths and trails? Could such deregulation be followed up with regulation, in the form of cycling licences or helmet laws?

The government’s proposals seem to be based on the idea that more power equals cycling will be easier, equals more people will get on bikes. But does that really bear out? An electric road or gravel bike makes cycling very easy on all but the steepest inclines – but the fact that on the flat you hit the speed restriction for the assist well before the speed a reasonable rider might expect to pedal at seems like a greater frustration than lack of power. As cities that build good cycling infrastructure have shown, it seems to be this – or the absence of cars – that really gets people onto bikes. Couple that with making bikes – and their insurance and storage more practical and affordable – and the pricier electric bikes become more attractive still.

What do you think? Is more power desirable? More throttle bikes? Or is there nuance and perhaps narrower rule amendments to be made – the classic political ‘third way’?

Head to the government’s consultation page to read and respond to its full list of questions. You have until 11:59pm on 25 April 2024 to submit any views.

No prizes for guess where David Turner would sit in this debate. His words ‘We First Worlders, We Want More’ seem quite fitting. Watch the video here:

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Hannah Dobson

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I came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. I like all bikes, but especially unusual ones. More than bikes, I like what bikes do. I think that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments. I try to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

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Viewing 33 posts - 1 through 33 (of 33 total)
  • Government Consults On Legalising Higher Powered Ebikes
  • argee
    Full Member

    Raise the speed to 20mph like the US would also be useful, 15.5mph is a real weird one as it’s normal speed for most, so motor only kicks in on uphills, and you end up using more energy than on a normal bikes sometimes 🤣

    Gribs
    Full Member

    I’d find it interesting if Singletrack could measure what the output on modern ebike motors actually is, how long they can hold peak power, and what the drop off is. It shouldn’t be too difficult to measure with a moderately fit rider, power pedals and a smart trainer. I’m surprised no one had already done it.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    just to have all the debate in one place

    who wants a 500w ebike?

    ampthill
    Full Member

    My only real thought is that they should make 500w the limit but for say 2 minutes. So in effect all your doing is removing the loop hole

     

    I’d keep the speed limit the same. I think shared use paths in particular with benefit from e-bikes going faster

     

    Finally everyone talks about the American dream of the 20mph e-bike. But the reality is that there are MTB trails where the are banned. I’d rather keep our full rights as a bike

    E-Bike Guide to Moab

    speaker2animals
    Full Member

    I just wonder what the reasoning is behind this? If you want a throttle operated more powerful bike get an electric motorbike, and comply with all the regs for an internal combustion motorbike. I thought the whole point of e-bikes was for assistance, not motor powered.

    Industry lobbying of MPs perhaps?

    I can see this muddying the waters for those of us who want to carry on riding acoustic bikes. More powerful ebikes will probably/possibly lead to more outcries for all types of bike to be registered, insured etc.

    I may be spouting a conspiracy theory, I just like to think I’m cynical and wonder where thos has really come from.

    BruceWee
    Full Member

    It does annoy me that no one (including bike journalists, it seems) understands what continuos power means.

    I’ve been through all the standards related to ebikes and there isn’t anything that suggests continuous power means something different for ebikes than it does for every other application that requires an electric motor.

    250w continuos power means that you can run the motor at 250w for 30 minutes and the temperature will have stabilised.  That’s it.

    It has nothing to do with running the motor for 30 minutes and making sure it’s on its way to overheating.

    Therefore a 500w motor is already a 250w motor. As is a 750w motor, as well as a 1000w motor.

    Someone did a good job pulling the wool over the eyes of legislators when the regs were first written and no one seems to have noticed.

    MrAgreeable
    Full Member

    Smacks of some bright spark in the DfT trying to find ways in which the UK can “diverge from EU legislation”

    VanHalen
    Full Member

    i suppose there is a different between bike for offroad trails and bikes for commuting. For me a higher motor speed is unnecessary as i only really use mine offroad and the motor only really kicks in uphill or a cheeky pedal before a feature. on the flat i just pedal along above the motor speed. its quite hard to go under teh motor cut out on teh flat without a headwind unless you really are bimbling along.

    b33k34
    Full Member

    I believe this is largely driven by needs of cargo bikes (so lobbying from logistics industry).  There are already a good number of cargo bikes in use in London – PedalMe using Urban Arrow, a few co’s using trikes with big boxes on the back,  Fedex/UPS/Amazon using a variety of 4 wheel ‘cabin’ type vehicles.   Pedalme say they can’t compete with motor vehicles in hilly towns.  I suspect the kerb weight of the 4 wheel jobs and the wind resistance in anything blowy limits them.

    If they need more power (however that is measured) then the obvious answer would be to make these more powerful motors for cargo bikes only (only legal to fit to vehicles with a tested cargo carrying capacity above xKG and xL volume.  Theres also a debate about whether they should then be allowed in cycle lanes  – which wouldn’t be a much of a problem if they were built to the width required by he infra standards, but many predate this or are undersized.  If two cargo bikes can’t pass each other on a cycleway theres an issue.

     

     

    comet
    Full Member

    In the mountain bike world, the blurring of lines between e-bikes and electric motorbikes has often been a concern, with electric motorbikes being cited as causing access problems and trail conflict. Electric motor bikes are not allowed on bridleways or mountain bike trails, and many landowners and trail builders have complained of the damage caused by such motor bikes. Meanwhile, mountain bikers have complained when they find themselves being tarred with the same brush by people not appreciating the difference between a pedal assist eMTB that does have a legal right of access, and electric motorbikes, which don’t.

     

    As a motorbike trials rider and a mountain biker, I share this concern from both directions. It is naive of us as mountain bikers to think “oh, electric motorbikes are the problem, not us”. The impact of illegal riding impacts anyone that wishes to have legal access to ride a powered or unpowered bike.

    thecaptain
    Free Member

    If it’s down to cargo bikes they can easily give higher power for 3 or more wheels.

    Can’t see the kids getting excited about something that looks more like a mobility scooter than a motorbike.

    chrismac
    Full Member

    Really bad idea. If you call it a ebike there is no type approval, no insurance requirements and no legislative require you to wear a helmet. If you ride a petrol scooter ,Vespa type thing, at 20mph as that’s the urban speed limit the it has to be type approved, insured, a driving licence required and a helmet. Is 4mph really that much more dangerous that you need to jump though so many more hoops.

     

    sounds like industry lobbying merged with a good dose of eco waffle

    eddd
    Free Member

    Increasing the speed limit to 20 makes sense if you’re using them for urban transport. It should mean cars don’t need to overtake you.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    ye4s on road – but on cycloeways 20 mph is a menace

    convert
    Full Member

    How far are we from gps connected to a database that could ‘unlock’ a higher top assisted speed if on a road, but prevent it on share use paths, bridleways etc?

    alanclarke
    Full Member

    So if, as made clear in the article, a “250W” continuous output motor is usually 500-600W does this mean the consultation is really on 1.2 kW motors? Which sounds like quite a bit. For a non cargo rider the current, rather odd interpretation of 250W seems to be plenty. So can a “250W” motor actually go up to say 1kW for a cargo application?

     

    tthew
    Full Member

    Increasing the speed limit to 20 makes sense if you’re using them for urban transport. It should mean cars don’t need to overtake you.

    Sorry pal, that’s just rubbish. I can maintain 20mph through the town bit of my commute.  The close passes just take longer to complete and end up closer as oncoming traffic cause the overtaking vehicle to squeeze in.

    ampthill
    Full Member

    The big growth hub cycling in the Holland was based around purely cycling at around 14 km/h. Most car journeys are short. People on this forum might benefit from cutting a few more minutes off their 15 mike commute. But the low hanging fruit is getting people to cycle 3-5 miles.

    jameso
    Full Member

    So can a “250W” motor actually go up to say 1kW for a cargo application?

    Briefly, maybe. I think that’d be a stretch for the normal power supply to a 250W EPAC system though. The test standards dictate 250W as the max continuous rated power of the motor, related to a stable or specified working temperature over a longer period. A 350W rated motor that’s stepped down to 250W by changing the voltage and / or via the controller unit is common, can also pass as a 250W rated power motor as it won’t overheat at that level or go above that output with the electronics fitted.

    A 500W limit could mean peak power over 1kw and powering heavier loads up longer hills around town which is good for some uses, but in an E-MTB it could mean more damage to the trails by roosting climbs etc if the system isn’t managed well. Power < control.

    mattsccm
    Free Member

    Problem is that at 20mph you are going faster than most commuters and will be out of synch with other shared space users. It won’t be fast enough to keep up on any roads that are not grid locked so serves no purpose there. The percentage of time that you will be at full speed anyway won’t make much difference to journey time and actually society has got to get used to the idea that if you want something you put more effort in not get given it. So get out of bed 10 minutes earlier.

    Recreational use doesn’t matter.

    I could see a use of greater power in purely commercial situations which can of course be licenced with no issues. A commercial load carrying bike, owned by a company ,would fit in here nicely. Much how mopeds work. Limited to 30mph but when introduced there was no actual power limit, just speed.

    thepodge
    Free Member

    Everyone on this and the other thread grumbling about minor changes to ebikes is driving a motor vehicle that has a top speed and a maximum power output that vastly exceeds what is nessecery or safe.

    If people can’t be trusted with slightly more powerful ebikes then no one can be trusted with cars.

    onewheelgood
    Full Member

    no one can be trusted with cars

    I agree with this. Ban cars. Just think of the benefits to society.

    mattsccm
    Free Member

    Bloody true. So many road users don’t really need to be there. Tis our lifestyle though. We all want things yesterday not in a week or better still never.

    Aidy
    Free Member

    If people can’t be trusted with slightly more powerful ebikes then no one can be trusted with cars.

    Drivers are licensed, and cars have annual tests for road worthiness.

    b33k34
    Full Member

    Everyone on this and the other thread grumbling about minor changes to ebikes is driving a motor vehicle that has a top speed and a maximum power output that vastly exceeds what is nessecery or safe.

    If people can’t be trusted with slightly more powerful ebikes then no one can be trusted with cars.

    Well, yes.  Cars should have be geo-limited to the speed limit and there should be controls over their acceleration (I see people driving Teslas in London like complete dicks, it makes crossing the road as a pedestrian, or pulling out of a side road much in a car, much more dangerous)

    kelvin
    Full Member

    If people can’t be trusted with slightly more powerful ebikes then no one can be trusted with cars.

    People can be “trusted”, and more powerful electric powered two wheelers are available right now for use on the roads… just with additional regulation and responsibilities. Much like cars and motorbikes. The question is where the boundary at which the additional regs and responsibilities kick in… and what can be used on shared paths rather than just roads… and importantly for us… what is still legally “just a bike” when it comes to off road use and access to the countryside.

    Bruce
    Full Member

    No just no. Too many cars, too many eBikes to many dickheads.

    zomg
    Full Member

    Replacing cars and vans for city logistics with e-vehicles is great. I’d support changed assist limits to that end, but would like to see a limit on acceleration under assist and an outright ban on throttle control above walking speed.

    cookeaa
    Full Member

    No just no. Too many cars, too many eBikes to many dickheads.

    While I agree, in the UK the law has lagged badly behind the technologies on offer and as a result it’s a bit of an unpoliced wild west.

    I actually think the rules for eeebs are ok as is, assistance up to 15.5 mph is sufficient, you want more speed buy (and get licenced for) a moped or get fitter and pedal harder…

    My worry is still that they unthinkingly create some intermediate twist ‘n’ go 20-25 mph class with minimal training/licensing requirements with a bit more speed/power and therefore accident potential and the backlash that causes inevitably extends to us boring non-electrified bicycle users.

    The thing I’d rather they consider is the rules around other bits of personal E-transport, the whole rental Vs privately owned E-Scooters thing, it’s not currently working. I’d love it if they could make E-skateboards work as a legal form of personal transport, but they are currently sketchy as **** (IMO).

    But also ban those ‘one-wheel’ contraptions not for safety reasons just because they look stupid and only seem to be used by proper edge-lords for some reason…

    thecaptain
    Free Member

    As an occasional unicyclist I resemble that remark!

    gravedigger
    Free Member

    People can be “trusted”

    All people – that’s pretty naive – a minority of people can be trusted might be more accurate.

    kelvin
    Full Member

    That’s why you need a point at which additional responsibilities (testing, licensing, insurance) kick in. But the point is that you can get more powerful and faster electric assisted or powered two wheel vehicles right now. It’s just that more is expected of you, legally. People are trusted… but more is required of them when using more powerful equipment in public.

    thepodge
    Free Member

    We already have a point at which additional responsibilities kick in, and the new proposals would be below that.

    Further complicating the testing and licencing of users by adding in a new category will not only be expensive to administer but will be largely ignored by both users and enforcers and push people into car ownership.

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