Series Hybrid cycles are EPACs excluded from L-category, European Commission confirms

The European Commission has confirmed that e-bikes with a Series Hybrid (SH) system are EPACs as defined in Article 2.2(h) of Regulation 168/2013.

As a result, SH e-cycles now enjoy the same status as conventional bikes in all member states, trade association LEVA-EU said.

In 2018, several German e-bike dealers received an official warning from Kraftfahrt Bundesambt (KBA), the official German approval authority. If they were to continue selling a specific electric bike without a chain as an EPAC, they could receive a €5,000 fine.

The electric bike concerned differed from other bikes by the absence of a chain. Instead, it had an SH system. LEVA-EU said it took the association and its members almost five years of hard work to convince the European Commission and the members states that Series Hybrid cycles are EPACs.

Established in 2017, the Light Electric Vehicle Association in Europe (LEVA-EU) represents the strategic interests of light electric vehicle distributors, manufacturers and suppliers to promote the development, sale, and use of LEVs in the EU. It has over 70 members in the EU as well as in China, Korea, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK.

An EPAC is a pedal-assisted cycle with a maximum 25km/h and 250W, excluded from Regulation 168/2013 following Article 2.2(h). A vehicle equipped with an SH drive system has no mechanical chain – instead, energy flows directly from a pedal generator into the motor.

According to KBA, these vehicles required type approval in the L-category. Later, BMVI, the German Transport Ministry came out in support of the KBA-position. The concerned bike was even literally chained up for over a year, said LEVA-EU.

However, a few years earlier, the Dutch approval authority, RDW, had issued a formal statement to confirm that they considered a cycle equipped with an SH system to be an EPAC, excluded from Regulation 168/2013.

In the meantime, more companies started to develop SH systems and, especially e-cargo cycle manufacturers, discovered the advantages of the system for their vehicles. It offers the benefit of less wear and maintenance costs because the system has fewer mechanical parts, and that, in turn, allows for a reduction of fleet maintenance and service intervals, said LEVA-EU. It also offers more design freedom and a higher potential to customise the digital system to the needs of specific riders.

The SH system also allows a reverse function, which LEVA-EU said is particularly interesting for e-cargo cycles or other EPACs with more than two wheels. From its start, the association has argued and worked for the removal of legal bottlenecks in technical legislation, which it said obstruct technological development.

LEVA-EU’s position on technical legislation for light electric vehicles is based on the principles of kinetic energy and technology neutrality, it said. The association therefore immediately committed to helping its members concerned with the SH issue.

A first meeting with the European Commission in 2018 yielded no result. LEVA-EU said it continued to work on the issue, and in ISO, CEN and IEC, LEVA-EU experts also actively and consistently worked to ensure for SH systems to be covered by ISO, CEN and IEC standards.

Towards the end of last year, LEVA-EU requested a new meeting with the commission. By that time, the trade association had 12 members concerned by Series Hybrid. The uncertainty on the legal status of Series Hybrid, in or out of Regulation 168/2013, was becoming a ‘major stumbling block’ for their potential customers and/or investors, said the association.

In close cooperation with these 12 members, LEVA-EU explained in detail the technical aspects of the system as well as its market potential to the commission. Following that consultation, the commission had a meeting with the EU Member States in the Forum for the Exchange of Information on Enforcement on 17th February.

At the meeting, the commission clarified the following “on the requirements that need to be met by pedal cycles to meet the requirements of Article 2.2(h) of Regulation 168/2013”:

– Equipped with an auxiliary electric motor with a max continuous rated power of 250W
– The motor is cut off when the cyclist stops pedalling
– The motor is otherwise progressively reduced and finally cut off before it reaches 25 km/h
– The auxiliary function of the motor means that the vehicle should not be able to be propelled by the motor only, without pedalling (except for the walk assist up to 6km/h)
– The motor provides assistance only as long as the cyclist pedals continuously
– Whether the vehicle has a chain or not is not taken into consideration to fall under this exemption: respect of technology neutrality.

The commission confirmed that electric cycles equipped with an SH system are EPACs, excluded from Regulation 168/2013, Article 2.2(h). It also confirmed that there were no further comments from the member states, as the commission’s interpretation was accepted by all.

“This statement finally puts an end to an agony that has lasted for almost five years and to a problem that posed a significant threat to the development and success of electric cycles in general and electric cargo cycles in particular,” said LEVA-EU.

Read more: UK e-bike retailer warns of price hikes as demand stays high

“This statement also provides WG9 in CEN TC333 – Cycles, which is in the process of developing standards for e-cargo cycles, with a definitive answer as to whether the SH system should be taken into account in future standards or not.

“And last, but not least, e-cycles equipped with an SH system enjoy the same status on the road as conventional bicycles in all EU member states.”

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