In our daily work as we deal with bicycle safety, technology and user manuals we come across lots of safety risks. The most frequent ones are published in articles of the leading German special-interest magazines TOUR – Europas Rennrad-Magazin Nr. 1, BIKE – Das Mountainbike Magazin Europas Nr. 1 and E-Bike – Das Pedelec-Magazin to make this information important for the sector accessible to a wider public.
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“Bicycles marked ‘e-bike-ready’ would be one solution. The testing would be performed by the bicycle manufacturer and the retailer would be legally on the safe side.”
Dirk Zedler - Zedler-Institut
In former days, strong cyclists used to run down others who had to get off their bike when climbing uphill with the German saying that whoever loves his bicycle, pushes it. With retrofit motors this is over. Everyone can climb a hill, often even with an old bicycle.
Technical experts request carefulness
Dirk Zedler, Managing Director of the Zedler test institute (Ludwigsburg), expresses a similar opinion: According to traffic law a pedelec25 is a bicycle. But in terms of product liability a pedelec25 is a machine and therefore subject to the Machinery Directive. Thus, by retrofitting a bicycle with a motor, the retailer builds a machine and is therefore entirely its manufacturer. He must therefore comply with all requirements of the Machinery Directive, such as the preparation of the risk analysis, the testing of all parts, the EMC test excluding interferences with police radio or cardiac pacemakers or the marking of the product with the CE mark. “Whoever intends to work thoroughly has to work off all measures of the e-bike manufacturers prior to production. In recent years, they have been testing their pedelecs much more thoroughly than before, because they have become aware of the demands they are facing. A stem working properly on a bicycle may fail on a pedelec due to the fact that the weight and the speed and thus the load are higher”, warns Zedler. A retailer may be able to fulfil these requirements, but according to Zedler’s cautious estimate this is rather unrealistic.
It is up to the trade supervisory authorities to verify whether the retailer fulfilled his obligations when manufacturing the pedelec. They are obliged to verify the work of the retailer assembling pedelecs. But in practice, the few officials qualified in this field are already working to capacity, knows Zedler. The controllers thus concentrate on the high-volume manufacturers. If they were to verify the small retailers as well, they would certainly be completely overcharged. The Federal Network Agency is another supervisory authority, i.e. of the EMC test. Big manufacturers have already been forced to pay painful penalties, as a consequence of which they are now testing as thoroughly as they did not a few years ago, reports Zedler.
Marco Brust declares that the EMC test must be performed by the manufacturer of the fully-assembled bicycles, as the frame would act like an antenna. At velotech.de this test costs about 2,000 Euro. Zedler proposes: “Bicycles marked ‘e-bike-ready’ would be one solution. The testing would be performed by the bicycle manufacturer and the retailer would be legally on the safe side.” A cargo bike could therefore be offered less expensive in the beginning and converted accordingly at a later date. This is what some manufacturers do already, such as the German cargo bike manufacturer Muli Cycles, the Danish manufacturer Christiania Bikes and the Dutch manufacturer Santos. Marco Brust confirms: “A bicycle manufacturer developing and releasing their bicycles in consideration of all legal obligations for the retrofitting of electric motors, releases the retailer from a few obligations, such as the EMC test or the risk analysis for the complete pedelec.”
A list of obligations for the retailers and possible legal consequences was issued by Brust and Zedler in cooperation with the German service and bicycle association (VSF), the German Bicycle Association (ZIV), the German umbrella organisation for the cycle industry guilds BIV in their guidelines “Things to know about retrofitting bicycles with e-drives”. The guidelines are available here: https://www.zedler.de/files/kunde/news/medienberichte/e-bike/Leitfaden_Nachruestung_Version3_Stand-31-07-2018_EN.pdf
Alber abandon the retrofit market
Therefore, there are manufacturers of hub motors foregoing sales of retrofit drives. Alber, owner of the pedelec drive brand Neodrives has been active in electric mobilities for 30 years and in pedelec business for nine years. Division manager Andreas Binz confirms Zedler’s presentation of the legal aspects. Therefore, the manufacturer from the Swabian Alb do not offer their pedelec drive as conversion kit for liability and safety reasons.
Author: Tillman Lambert
Zweirad Magazin, 11/1998