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Government considering doubling e-bike motor power but retaining 15mph limit

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Alex Bowden's picture

Alex Bowden

Alex has been editor of ebiketips since 2021. He previously contributed news, reviews and more to road.cc and has also had a parallel (largely lapsed) career writing about cricket for various publications.

13 comments

1 month 1 week ago

Why are these bikes allowed to go at this speed when a mobility scooter is limited to 4 mph on a pavement and 8mph on a road this is massive discrimination and will make a lot more dangers for others 

1 month 2 weeks ago

Curious.

It feels like there's already enough illegally tweaked electric motorised bikes bombing about the cycle paths and roads. Given that motorised bikes are a few times heavier than standard bikes it's definitely a safety concern. I've seen the occasional post on Twitter about illegal bikes being confiscated/crushed but enforcement is presumably tricky enough already so this change in the law would seem to blur the lines even further and make life simpler for modders.

Ah well, on the positive side - by the time I've aged enough to feel the need to own an Easy-Bike they will probably be up to a couple of horsepower...similar to my first motorbike...and that was a lot of fun to be fair! Smile

1 month 2 weeks ago

I’m a long term daily user of a mid tail Cargo e-bike in a hilly city, and I support the government’s proposals to permit 500watt e-bike motors. 

In the consultation the Govt has set out a clear and specific rationale for exploring how more powerful e-bikes can contribute to the pressing need to facilitate more Active, less vehicle reliant travel and transport behaviour, thus improving the nation's health, reducing transport costs and emissions, cutting congestion and making local areas more attractive places in which to live and work. This is a good thing.

 

There have been some alarmist reactions to the proposals, doubtless understandably driven by recent incidents involving illegally powerful and fast electrically powered bikes (legally classed as Mopeds, not bicycles) and of serious and even tragic battery fires which investigations have associated with the use of poor quality imported batteries and chargers which don’t conform with UK safety regulations. 

Concerns include: 

POWER: Here it should be noted that some of the more sophisticated (and expensive) current 250W Mid motors kick out up to 600W briefly, by design and legally, to suit applications like load carrying. This is much more than the equivalent 250W wheel mounted Hub motor, which is often the much cheaper option the legally compliant ‘last mile’ delivery operators and ‘throttle only’ makers currently tend to choose over expensive Mid drive models. It is also not much less than the 500W Hub drives most likely to be used if permitted, or even the more affordable 500W mid drives that may be employed.

 

As a heavy rider who makes the most of my bike’s design capacity (e.g. a small car boot’s worth of shopping) I really appreciate this high ‘peak’ wattage capability and the safe acceleration it affords, for example when pulling away loaded, on a hill, from traffic lights, thus enabling me to negotiate my place neatly and safely in and around the traffic flow, to the benefit of all road users.

In fact my e-bike simply wouldn’t be the car replacement it has become without this level of ability.

The standard brakes fitted to my bike are well up to the job of stopping all that mass too.

THROTTLES: The UK already has ‘type approval’ legislation permitting a so-called ‘Twist and go’ or ‘Throttle only’ option, and at least one reputable UK manufacturer has taken advantage of this provision and can supply such an e-bike. Such a bike is still regulated to 15.5mph, so does it really matter how it gets there if it offers a more egalitarian choice to a wider audience?

BATTERIES: In the case of battery safety, size is not the issue, it is quality. Existing good quality 250W systems already have safe and reliable batteries of up to 800Wh or so capacity fitted, and in some cases a pair of these. 

The safety of Lithium based batteries is dependent on the quality of components and of manufacture, and on using the correct ‘matched’ charger for the system, rather than on battery size. 

What is needed is regulation and enforcement of the supply and sale of good quality, affordable batteries and chargers, which the industry and regulators now appear to be waking up to as this sector develops.

So all these things are already out there in plain sight, and for this discussion to be objective and useful it is essential to avoid any conflation of prospective, legally restricted 500W motors with those poorly built, unrestricted and illegal systems capable of producing in well excess of this and speeds far beyond the legally permitted 15.5mph, and the behaviour of those who purchase them.

PS I’m not hearing any moral panic about the massive and unnecessary increase in the power and acceleration of ‘everyday’ vehicles as they go electric….

1 month 2 weeks ago

How about a minimum fee for having your ride type approved? I've a custom mini cargo bike mid drive 24v used for care work it's passed being road worthy with type approval based on throttle drive with mechanical & electrical speed restriction.

1 month 2 weeks ago

@jimney

Re making 500W legal, what's the issue with not just creating an additional category for higher powered bikes.

the "issue" is that that is exactly what is not being proposed, the issue is precisely that they are proposing including 500W bikes under the same legislative umbrella as current EAPCs, which is to say, treat them as ordinary bicycles. That's like treating cars as pedal carts just because they use electricity instead of petrol.

1 month 2 weeks ago

I have 2 disabled friends who both have hand bikes, both are e assisted and both have a thumb throttle fitted. Neither friend uses the thumb throttle for "cruising" they use their bikes for exercise. They use the thumb throttle mostly for setting off up steep inclines and navigating through tight spaces such as bicycle barriers. It's impossible to turn the hand cranks when you are nearly on full lock. The thumb throttle is a lifesaver for both of them.

Re making 500W legal, what's the issue with not just creating an additional category for higher powered bikes.

In the States I believe they have a few different categories based on max top speed and if you have to pedal or not.

I'd certainly have no issue having to have some form of number plate attached to the back of a bicycle. I've got them on our car and my motorbike. If you ride within the law, you have nothing to worry about.

1 month 2 weeks ago

The consultation paper talks about increasing "active travel"; be removing the need to pedal?

The paper talks about the meeting the needs of the disabled - because they can't pedal? The one change that might be justified there would be allowing a twist throttle to get the bike up to a speed where the cyclist can balance and steer, for those with difficulties setting off from rest.

But fondly imagining that 500W throttle activated motorcycles will be taken up in droves by the disabled rather than simply be used as scramblers by oiks tearing up the local community is naive beyond credibility.

The final plank of the consultation is to pander to the delivery operators, who would obviously love to have heavy-duty haulage escape the rigour of motor vehicle legislation and exploit the liberties of cycling regulations and infrastructure.

The simple fact is that once you are so far beyond the performance even of fit cyclists then no amount of wishful thinking makes it a bicycle. The law should not be made as ass of by its own creators.

1 month 2 weeks ago

Start enforcing the current rules - then look at changing then! 

This applies to just about every bit of tinkering at the edges legislation that MPs seem to be falling over themselves to enact.

Not only does this do nothing to address the problems that are already covered by legislation, it reduces the chances of anything being dealt with, due to the increased complication of laws - and that's before we start talking about reduced resources.

1 month 2 weeks ago

@Bikebeer77

I share your concerns. Yoking whatever higher powered machines to bicycles inevitably moves the centre of gravity of the combined category. Eventually the calls to change the legislation to reflect the new status quo will be undeniable. If there is a need and a place for higher powered electrical vehicles then let them make their own case and stand on their own legislation.

1 month 2 weeks ago

Whilst I appreciate and share the Bicycle Association's concerns about the importance of not allowing changes that might compromise the legal 'bicycle' status of the current e-bikes, I don't share their concern that allowing 500w motors would lead to issues that may affect this.

 

I suspect the 500w 'ask' is indeed coming from those who wish to take advantage of the extra torque (pulling power) produced by inexpensive and versatile 500w wheel mounted (Hub) motors so they can shift more cargo weight for such as 'last mile' deliveries etc, as being performed by firms like DPD now. (rather than using 250w mid mounted motors, which although producing more torque, require expensive purpose built frame shapes to accommodate the centrally mounted motor.)

Speed wise, I don't believe such an increase  would make a significant difference to the safety of e-bikes, the current higher torque 250w motors already accelerate rapidly to 15.5mph without causing problems, quite the reverse in fact as it allows the rider to keep pace with general traffic moving off from lights, to everyone's advantage.

 

The real benefit of having a 500watt motor would be to improve the bike's ability to tackle heavy loads and hilly terrain more effectively, rather than increase speed.

 

Battery wise 250w systems can already have big batteries, up to 800Wh or so, without issue. Battery safety is entirely dependent on the quality of components and of manufacture, and on having the correct charger for the system, and not on battery size.

1 month 2 weeks ago

Being cynical is this some "clever" MP or group proposing this so that eventually any sort of bike, acoustic or electric, will need road insurance and registration and registration plates.

If folk want a throttle operated electric moped I'm sure they are already on the market. 

I really do wonder who is behind this idea and exactly why.

1 month 2 weeks ago

Any change will only strain the link link ordinary bicyles. In the end they can have electrically powered vehicles of whatever stripe they want - but pretending they are akin to bicycles when they are 500W apart will be a mistake. Legislation  must recognise and take into account the difference once it stretches beyond 250W, 15.5mph and strictly pedal-assistance (no throttle, not even a throttle that looks like pedals going round and round).

1 month 2 weeks ago

Personally I think that we are currently in a sort of sweet spot and legal ebike users are considered as "just bikes" in almost all circumstances

Start tinkering woth this and we risk some areas being removed.

 

And in any case - why consider change the regulations when the current ones are openly ignored by a lot of "ebike" users - especially delivery riders - who can be seen riding around with no - or little - pedal input and with a hib motor the size of a dinner plate

(for reference to those with no experience - my hub powered ebike has a hub motor that is only a couple of inches diameter - not the 12 inches that I commonly see on food delivery riders!)

 

Start enforcing the current rules - then look at changing then!