Considering supply and demand and with a view to the consequences, there is a clear need for clarification on both topics from the associations' point of view. According to the associations, many users seem to be unaware of the serious consequences, including criminal offences, especially in the case of tuning. Retrofitting bicycles with e-drives is another topic that is regarded as critical by the experts in view of the existing technical standards and requirements. The guidelines were drawn up by the umbrella organization for German industry guilds BIV, TUEV Rhineland, the test institute Velotech.de, the German service and bicycle association VSF, Zedler-Institut as well as the German bicycle association ZIV.
While from the experts’ point of view, retrofitting a motor is more of a specialist topic for workshops, tuning, i.e. increasing the maximum design speed of electric bikes, is to primarily about sensitise broad awareness among consumers. As according to the experts’ experience the suppliers of tuning kits do not provide their customers with sufficient information. Often it is only mentioned in the small print that the use of such kits is not permitted on public roads. There is not a single word said to indicate that use in general can be dangerous, as the bicycle components are not designed for a higher permanent load. “Riding without driving licence” or “Driving without insurance protection” on public roads can be particularly serious.
The associations therefore indicate that EPACs with tuning kits are no longer electric bicycles, but motor vehicles that are moved in traffic without insurance protection and not allowed to be ridden for example on bicycle lanes. The trade associations of the cycle industry, together with the industry, have been campaigning for years to make tuning as difficult as possible and to inform users about the state of facts and the dangers.
Consequences for the use
E-bikes 25 (15.5)/EPACs are limited to a continuous rated power of 250 watts and a maximum design speed through electrical pedal assistance of max. 25 kmh (15.5 mph). In this case only they are equivalent to bicycles in accordance with the road traffic law (section 63a (2) of the German road traffic licensing regulations.
Raising the output and/or the maximum design speed beyond this limit will result in the fact that the bicycle becomes a motor vehicle in terms of traffic law. This results in severe consequences, such as the compulsory operating licence (individual approval by authorised test centre), the compulsory driving licence (class depends on maximum speed), the compulsory insurance (insurance tag), the requirement to wear a helmet, the inadmissibility to use cycle lanes and the proof of fatigue strength for all safety-relevant components.
Possible legal consequences for users in case of tuning are administrative offence and penalty, criman offence (section 21 of StVG (German Road Traffic Act): “Riding without driving licence”; section 6 of PflVG (Law on compulsory insurance for motor vehicle holders: “Driving without insurance protection”). In the event of repetition, possibly entry in the criminal record certificate (previously convicted!), the loss of insurance cover (private liability), the loss of materials defect liability and warranty claim, the loss of the driving licence and regularly, partial responsibility in case of accident.
Consequences for specialist trade
In their guidelines “Risks related to retrofitting bicycles with e-drives” trade associations also indicate that bicycles are designed and tested for being used with pure muscle power. Retrofitting them with special kits turns these bicycles at least into e-bikes 25 kmh/15.5 mph / EPACs that are subject to the Machinery and the EMC Directives (electromagnetic compatibility) and have to be tested accordingly. Finally, the retrofitting person would have to draw up a declaration of conformity what he usually cannot or is not allowed to do. With a higher power than 250 watts and more than 25 kmh / 15.5 mph pedal assistance it is a motor vehicle in terms of traffic law that requires individual approval, an operating licence from an authorized body.
Possible legal consequences for dealers in the case of retrofitting are aiding and abetting of an offence, participating in an administrative offence, the dealer’s liability for personal and material damage and the loss of the business liability insurance cover.
Author: Maxim Huber