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Electric Bicycle Europe

Electric Bicycles / June 9, 2020

Three women cyclists wait at crossing.Red tape has been blessedly absent from electric bike ownership. Unlike most other forms of motorised transport, e-bikes don’t require registration, license plates or insurance, and anyone over the age of 14 can ride them legally in the UK.

Unfortunately, disparities between EU and UK legislation have long allowed for a ‘grey area’ when it comes to the specifics. Now (at long last) the Department for Transport has moved to harmonise Britain’s own electric bike laws with the rest of Europe. But what does that mean for me and you?

UK law hasn’t kept pace with other EU member states. The UK’s Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle regulations (or EAPC – the central piece of legislation governing e-bikes for sale in the UK) was implemented way back in 1982 and has only recently become updated. These regulations differed from the equivalent EU directive in a few key ways, imposing slightly more stringent limits on motor wattage and allowing for the use of full speed throttles (those capable of accelerating the bike to full speed independently of pedal action – also known as a twist and go). Up until April 2015, in the UK, any electric bike could:

  • Be fitted with a full speed
  • Be ridden by someone age 14 and over
  • Not be fitted with a motor exceeding 200 of power.
  • Not exceed a weight of 40 kg (or 60 kg in the case of a tandem or tricycle)
  • Have a maximum assisted speed of up to 15 mph (roughly 24 kmh)

Two British Policemen with Electric BikesEU harmonisation

The UK electric bike industry and the Department for Transport have long recognised these 1983 UK regulations to be antiquated. In practice, UK police enforce the standards set by the EU’s . The regulations stipulate that e-bikes may:

  • Be fitted with a motor with a power of no more than 250w
  • Provide a maximum assisted speed (i.e. the speed at which motor assistance is automatically cut off) of no more than 25 kmph (roughly 15.5 mph)
  • Not be fitted with a full speed that can work ‘independently’ (that is without the pedals ‘moving forward’). Start Up Assist throttles (those that assist up to 6 km/h) are allowed
  • Be ridden without any minimum age limit

How Twist and Go throttles fit in with the new harmonised regulations

In fact, nearly all UK based manufacturers design their bikes to these EU standards, with one notable exception: the historic use and acceptance of full speed throttles.