The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has prosecuted the manufacturer of Mate e-bikes for supplying e-bikes with motors and assistance limits in excess of those required to be considered an electrically assisted pedal cycle (EPAC) under UK law. Hi-Fi Confidential Ltd T/A MATE Bike UK argued that its vehicles are intended for off-road use but ultimately pleaded guilty and will have to issue a recall.
At the time of writing, Mate was still offering 750W versions of its Mate X e-bike capable of speeds of up to 20mph via its website.
An EAPC is what most of us think of as being a standard, everyday e-bike – which is to say one that doesn’t need to be registered, isn’t subject to vehicle excise duty, and doesn’t have to be insured as a motor vehicle.
The three main requirements to qualify are:
- The bike must be fitted with pedals that are capable of propelling it
- The maximum continuous rated power of the electric motor must not exceed 250W
- The electrical assistance must cut-off when the vehicle reaches 15.5mph
A definition of 'continuous rated power' is notoriously difficult to pin down (most e-bike motors' peak power is much higher), but speeds attainable with electrical assistance are presumably a bit easier to establish.
Either way, Cycling Industry News reports that the DVSA tested two Mate bikes and found they were capable of 750W, three times over the legal limit, and capable of speeds of 32km/h.
That effectively shifted the bike into the moped category, which means it must be type approved.
Mate argued the bikes are intended for off-road use on private land and said this exempted them from type approval. (This is kind of the situation with privately-owned e-scooters at the minute.)
While a comparison table on Mate’s site indicates the 750W Mate X isn’t road legal in the UK, the DVSA reckons the brand’s advertising “clearly” pushed the bikes for use on roads. It highlighted in particular the identical design to the 250W versions.
Mate pleaded guilty at Highbury Magistrates Court on August 31 and received a criminal conviction. It was ordered to pay costs and fines of £3,864 and instructed to issue a recall for all bikes previously sold that were not within the legal limit.
The judge said: “You were the importer and distributor of power assisted pedal bicycles and you failed to ensure they had type approval.
“Two test purchases were made by the DVSA; they did not conform with the regs for on-road bikes. The bikes could be used on private land but that was not made clear at the point of order and delivery; the risk to road users is now created. I give you credit for your guilty plea.
“I have seen an email from the Co 15/07/21 which suggests they were well aware of the regs and they cite the exemption in sub-para (g) at 2.2. I do not consider their failure was by accident; whilst there are no aggravating features it could be said to have been committed for financial gain. I take into account the steps I have heard of to remedy the problem.”
Reacting to the decision, DVSA’s Market Surveillance Investigator leading the investigation, Sadie Clarke, said: “This is another great result in our work to keep Britain’s roads safe by taking illegal high-powered electric bikes off the roads.
“Type approval standards exist so that vehicles, components, and parts meet the necessary safety and environmental standards before they are sold in the UK.
“DVSA will continue to make sure the growing electric bicycle market is safe for everyone by ensuring they have had their design and construction properly approved.”