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Ministers to consult on doubling legal wattage of electric bike motors | Cycling

Ministers are to consult on doubling the legal wattage of electric bike motors, regardless of considerations over street security and the danger of lethal fires brought on by batteries.

The Department for Transport will launch the session on Thursday, the Guardian understands, which can suggest altering the utmost allowable energy of an e-bike motor from 250w to 500w.

Another potential transfer would enable e-bikes to be powered by a throttle, like a bike. Currently, they should be pedalled for the electric motor to help.

While the plans are believed to not embody growing the utmost powered pace of e-bikes from the present 15mph, the Bicycle Association, which represents the biking trade, stated it has critical considerations concerning the session.

In a briefing doc to members seen by the Guardian, the organisation famous that 500w non-pedal bikes could be notably faster to speed up and would wish considerably larger batteries, making them heavier and thus extra harmful in crashes.

Some e-bike house owners already tamper with their software program to take away the 15mph restrict, and with 500w bikes this might lead to very excessive unrestricted most speeds.

While the Bicycle Association doesn’t point out this threat, fireplace companies are doubtless to be cautious of a change involving bigger batteries, given a latest surge in fires involving e-bike and e-scooter batteries, some of which have killed folks.

Because the EU has the identical 250w restrict the UK presently does, if the UK strikes to 500w, many consumers may need to purchase the extra highly effective e-bikes from locations like China, the place battery security guidelines are much less strict.

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The briefing warned that the change may have an effect on the trade extra usually if a pushback towards heavy and probably faster machines on the roads noticed requires all e-bikes to require registration and licensing like motorbikes.

“While the idea of more power and throttles may seem superficially attractive, we believe it cannot be introduced without putting at risk the electric cycle’s category status as ‘not a motor vehicle’, which we [the cycle industry] understand as key to its role and potential as a universal mode of transport,” it stated.

“We consider this proposal highly risky for the current e-bike category, which relies for its success on e-bikes being treated legally as cycles, not as motor vehicles. This may be impossible to sustain if these new rules go through. There are also serious safety implications and possible unintended consequences to this proposed change.”

E-bikes are more and more in style within the UK, and now comprise shut to a 3rd of all bike gross sales. One huge space of progress has been in cargo or household bikes, which might carry a number of kids.

The physique stated it was not clear why the DfT had determined to go forward with the session, saying it could possibly be as a result of ministers need to present the UK can diverge from EU guidelines, or that there was demand from huge logistics corporations wanting to transfer into cargo cycle operations.

As nicely as extra energy for freight-carrying bikes, there could possibly be some advocates for the modifications. For instance, some cyclists with disabilities discover it simpler to use e-bikes with out having to begin it shifting with pedals. They both have to not cycle, or use an unlawful bike with a throttle.

The DfT was contacted for remark.

This article was amended on 29 February 2024 to take away textual content stating that electric motors solely begin as soon as an e-bike reaches 4mph, which isn’t at all times the case.

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