There are no "grey areas" when it comes to selling high-powered e-bikes, warns a joint statement from the representative bodies of the motorcycle and cycle industries. The statement from the Motorcycle Industry Association and the Bicycle Association of Great Britain says the organisations are concerned that some sellers are unaware of – or ignoring – the regulations pertaining to the sale and use of "speed pedelecs". (Pedelec is a portmanteau of the words "pedal" and "electric".)
Some retailers are claiming that the high-powered e-bikes they stock are for "off-road use" and that this makes them exempt from existing rules. It does not, says the statement from MICA and BAGB.
"In order for an electric bike to enjoy the same rights as an ordinary pedal cycle, it should have working pedals, not exceed 250 watts and the electrical assistance should cut out when the bike reaches 15.5mph," says the statement.
In the UK, an electric bike over 250W is legally classified as a moped if it is to be ridden on the road. Mopeds must be type-approved, registered, taxed, insured and have an MOT. The rider must also have the appropriate licence and training, and must wear a helmet.
If a high-powered electric bike is intended for off-road use in the UK it must comply with the same rules which apply to off-road motorcycles – meaning their riders are barred from using public roads, common land, paths or tracks intended for cyclists, and must be registered on an agreed list for off-road competition bikes, known as the FIM competition list.
It makes no difference if the machine – wink, wink – has a cheat-switch to flick between a higher and lower power setting: the higher power rating is the rating that the bike needs to be classified by.
Steve Garidis, operations director of the BA, said:
"The vast majority of the industry understands its obligations and is highly professional in the way it sells electric bicycles, but it’s vital all sellers understand there is really no grey area when it comes to when an electric bicycle must be treated as a moped."
He added: "Speed pedelecs, a category of faster e-bike becoming popular in Germany and other countries, are categorised as mopeds in the UK. They have motors more powerful than 250W and offer power assist to a higher speed than 15.5mph).
"Unlike in Germany, there are no regulations which exempt speed pedelecs from any of the standard moped requirements in the UK, so the machine must be type-approved, registered, taxed, insured, and the rider must have a suitable licence and wear a full motorbike helmet, and be over 16."
Dave Luscombe, MCIA’s project manager for Alternative Powered Vehicles, said retailers must read the rules that govern the use of the machines they are selling:
"Telling someone they are ‘okay on private land’ is seriously misleading. High powered off-road electric bikes currently fall within rules meant for off-road motorcycle sport. They can’t use public roads, common land or any trails or paths intended for bicycles, and the e-bike must be registered on the FIM competition list, which is a list agreed by all EU manufacturers for bikes used in off-road sport."
He stressed: "Dealers must make the restricted access very clear to people."