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SAZbike 17/2023
Reading time 3:50 minutes

German associations are warning against e-bike tuning and retrofitting

The trade associations of the cycling industry from industry, commerce and trade have published two new guidelines dealing with the “Risks related to e-bike 25 (15.5) / EPAC tuning” and the “Risks related to retrofitting bicycles with e-drives“.

Considering supply and demand as well as in view of the consequences, the umbrella organization for German industry guilds BIV, TUEV Rhineland,, the German service and bicycle association VSF, Zedler-Institut as well as the German bicycle association ZIV see a clear need for clarification on both topics. 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 two new guidelines are intended to familiarise both users and the specialist trade with possible consequences.

Insufficient clarification
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 primarily about sensitising 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.

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 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 consequences, such as the compulsory operating licence, the compulsory driving licence, the compulsory insurance, 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, a criminal offence (“Riding without driving licence”, “Driving without insurance protection”). In the event of repetition, possibly entry in the criminal record certificate, the loss of insurance cover, 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 the 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 person who performs the retrofitting would have to draw up a declaration of conformity what he usually cannot or is not allowed to do. With a higher power it is a motor vehicle in terms of traffic law that requires 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.

Measures against tuning
According to the German bicycle association ZIV, German and European manufacturers and suppliers are aware of the tuning problem which they take seriously. Since 2017, they have been working together with the institutes and associations of the bicycle industry to make e-bike tuning more difficult and to inform users and dealers about the risks. Another initiative is the anti-tampering initiative "Companies against Tampering" (since 2021) from the Confederation of the European Bicycle lndustry (Conebi), the umbrella organisation of the European bicycle, e-bike, parts and accessories industry. By signing, the organised manufacturers and suppliers of e-bikes 25 (15.5) / EPACs and drive systems strictly oppose any kind of manipulation of their products resulting in the increase of power or maximum assistance speed. Within this framework, the participating partners undertake to comply with all applicable regulations on protection against tampering, to continuously evaluate and improve the existing standards and to sensitise all actors to the dangers posed by tuning.

The European Union has also adopted technical measures against tuning. The technical specification CEN/TS 17831 “Cycles - Electrically power assisted cycles - Anti-tampering measures - Reproducible tests fighting counterfeiting” is to be published shortly. According to ZIV, it will state various measures and tests that manufacturers of e-bikes must comply with.

Author: Maxim Huber

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