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DfT launches consultation on doubling legal wattage of e-bike and e-cargo bike motors

The policy objective is to increase usage, support active travel, reduce air pollution and carbon emissions, and cut congestion – a campaign group has 'serious concerns'

Juliana O'Rourke
29 February 2024
DfT says: `The use of e-cargo bikes by freight and logistics operators can reduce congestion from other vehicles and improve air quality

 

The Bicycle Association (BA), representing the UK cycle industry and the cargo bike sector, says it has serious concerns about reported proposals to change the well-established rules about road legal e-bikes in the UK, including doubling legal wattage of electric bike motors.

The Government has now launched a consultation on its proposals around two changes to the regulations on electrically assisted pedal cycles (EAPCs or e-cycles):

  • to amend the legal definition of EAPCs, so that the maximum continuous power output of the electric motor is 500 watts instead of 250 watts

  • to allow ‘twist and go’ EAPCs to have throttle assistance up to 15.5mph (25km/h) without the need for type approval


Access the Consultation documents here: closing date 25 April 2024


BA said it was not clear why the Department for Transport (DfT) had decided to go ahead with the consultation, saying it could be because ministers want to show the UK can diverge from EU rules, or that there was demand from big logistics firms wanting to move into cargo cycle operations.

As well as more power for freight-carrying bikes, there could be some other advocates for the changes. For example, some cyclists with disabilities find it easier to use e-bikes but are unable to pedal unassisted to the 4mph speed at which, under current laws, the electric motor starts up. They either have to not cycle, or use an illegal bike with a throttle.


Join us at The National Cargo Bike Summit, London, May 10, to discuss all things cargo bike


The DfT says: "The policy objective is to increase usage of electrically assisted pedal cycles (EAPCs) and therefore contribute to the benefits of active travel in terms of improving health outcomes.

"Increasing the power and throttle assistance of e-cycles should make them more accessible for different groups of people, including disabled people, older people and people with mobility impairments in addition to making e-cycles more attractive travelling in hilly areas. The proposals should also support freight operators use e-cargo bikes as it will help e-cargo riders transport freight with greater use, including for heavier loads and uphill.

"E-cargo bikes can deliver the objectives and benefits of active travel as electrical assistance helps riders of cargo bikes transport goods with greater ease. In particular, the use of e-cargo bikes by freight and logistics operators can reduce congestion from other vehicles and improve air quality.

"To support the development of e-cargo bikes, the government has invested in supporting businesses and local authorities to transition to more sustainable business travel and last-mile deliveries through e-cargo bike grants, including £2.6 million for local authorities from 2 rounds of funding administered by the Energy Savings Trust between 2019 and 2022."

In a response to the consultation launch, the The Bicycle Association urges Government to:

  • Consider carefully whether there is really a pressing need for change to EAPC regulations. Rules aligned with current UK EAPC regulations are widely used and accepted internationally, and in many countries EAPCs under these rules are highly popular and successful. The industry stands ready to propose a number of interventions to Government which would boost uptake of EAPCs as has been done overseas.

  • Weigh carefully any possible benefits of this proposed change against the very real risk that it will, in time if not immediately, see the attractiveness to users of the EAPC category degraded by additional restrictions. This will put at risk the UK’s active travel and decarbonisation objectives, and UK cycle industry growth.

  • Consider any amendments to EAPC regulations only as part of a comprehensive, overall plan for micromobility, not as an isolated change. The introduction of a new Low-speed Zero Emission Vehicle (LZEV) legislative framework would be the most appropriate opportunity to consider any such change. If a new category of higher power, ‘no pedalling’ e-cycle is to be introduced, it would better be proposed and consulted on as part of a holistic LZEV plan, rather than as a change made in isolation.

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