45km/h Speed Pedelec Electric Bikes for Australia
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Our cities are literally choking on congestion and its time that electric bicycles were recognised for their true potential as efficient, healthy and convenient personal transport. More info on where the electric bike fits in the transport mix can be read here.
A speed pedelec is an electric bicycle that is capable of traveling upto 45km/h via pedal assist (not throttle). The power of the motor is 350w nominal.
Australia has fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to legislation outlining the use of electric bicycles on our roads. The current legislation follows EN15194 which states that the motor must not exceed 250w and the motor must not assist past 25km/h. There are several issue with this standard:
- The average commute speed of a regular non-electrified bike is 23km/h and some cyclists can maintain a speed of 30km/h for part or all of their commute.
- When an ebike cuts out at 25km/h the motor and battery become dead weight. Due to this weight it is hard to pedal the bike to increase speed which is frustrating for the rider.
- 25km/h on an electric bike when traveling in a lane with other vehicles around it is too slow. It encourages car users to take un-necessary risks to overtake. If the bike were travelling closer to 40km/h (the majority of our suburban / cbd streets are 50km/h) they would not need to take this risk.
- Many frustrated riders are fitting 'speed dongles' or other DIY mods to trick the bike into going faster. If there is a problem manufacturers often void warranty leading to a tarnished experience for the rider who may never buy an ebike again.
- Consumer choice is restricted as bikes manufactured for the US and EU market which are speed pedelecs cannot be imported. These bikes often have a superior level of design and specification.
- The 45km/h limit will open up many more commuters who live further away from the CBD to benefit from electric bikes. It will likely be the quickest and most convenient option for many. Widespread adoption for people with commutes >10km is possible.
Legislation which was put in place in 2012 to grow the market in line with EU standards is now the biggest hindrance to widespread electric bike adoption.Countries which have moved beyond this outdated legislation / adopted their own standard are as follows:
- Germany - 45km/h Speed Pedelecs are legal with a plate and insurance.
- UK - S Pedalecs were adopted in 2015 with type approval / licence and insurance mandatory.
- NZ - NZ law does not enforce a speed limit apart from the road signed limit and motor power must not be over 300w.
- USA - Has a power limit of 750w and a speed limit of 20mph (32km/h). States differ in their classification of faster bikes. California has 3 catagories now which are quickly being adopted by other states.
- Canada - Has power limit of 500w and speed limit of 22mph (35km/h).
- Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland all have similar laws in place.
Australia is very conservative compared to some of our closest allies and progressive European nations. It is recommended that the Australian government make motions to add a new class to the existing laws. A recommendation for these changes is as follows:
- Maintain EN15194 250w 25km/h pedal assist for all ages with no licence required.
- Add a new standard for S-pedalec which can be used by anyone with a licence (learner or above). This will be same as the existing moped laws where anyone with a licence can ride upto 50km/h.
- The S-pedelec bikes will be pre-approved by the department of transport prior to import. The import enforcement should consider Germany position where upgraded brakes and tyres are mandatory. Motor manufacturers such as Shimano, Yamaha, Bosch and Brose are already making motors compliant with the s-pedelec 45km/h 350w class.
- Third-party insurance (like bicycle NSW) should be mandatory and with the bikes frame number lodged on record.
- It is not recommended that riders register the bikes with a plate. This will add complications as the procedure will be different in each of the states & territories.
Lets start the movement to make this happen! We would all like to see our roads less polluted, congested and our citizens healthier. Cycling has a big role to play in our future transport mix. Lets encourage some of the most exciting ebike technologies to come to our shore promoting an sustainable and innovative industry!
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