But it's a different story for speed, or s-pedelecs - bikes that are capable of reaching assisted speeds of 45 kph (28 mph). The market for s-pedelecs is doomed to the shadows. No more than a few thousand s-pedelecs now find their way from dealers to customers. The main reason speed pedelec sales haven't accelerated as they have for standard pedelecs is probably due to use restrictions imposed by some countries. In core markets, authorities have banned the use of s-pedelecs on bike lanes in cities and in other built-up areas. S-pedelecs are forced onto regular roads, where they have to contend with vehicular traffic travelling at speeds of around 50 kph. In practice, speed pedelecs rarely reach 45 kph - and only if the rider works extra hard. But no one, especially someone commuting to the office, wants to arrive soaked in sweat, so cyclists typically ride at lower speeds. Yet that leaves many s-pedelec riders in an uncomfortable position. Many don't feel at ease on a roadway, so they "cheat": They may remove the rearview mirror, side reflectors and license plate – all hallmarks of an s-pedelec – and ride them illegally on bicycle lanes, through parks and the like.
Accidents can lead to serious consequences, and if there are too many accidents involving wayward s-pedelecs, insurance companies and politicians may be encouraged to ban them entirely. For this reason the bicycle industry has to compromise with the traffic associations, and begin lobbying authorities to ensure that traffic rules explicitly allow this new kind of mobility. lt is in everyone's interests to support the use of these vehicles because a speed pedelec can be an excellent car replacement, especially for commuters who live outside the city.
A new type of type approval
In addition to restrictions on their use, s-pedelec manufacturers are also grappling with the uncertainty of the type approval process. New EU regulations, scheduled to become effective on Jan. 1, 2017, should help resolve some of these uncertainties. The forthcoming regulation, No. 168/2013, will replace existing regulation 2002/24/EC. Type approvals granted under the existing regulation will remain valid.
The new regulation outlines a more precise method for determining type approval. It also enhances the authority of EU member states to supervise the s-pedelec market. Manufacturers that are outside of the EU will need to name an EU-based representative, which can be an importer or distributor. Manufacturers within the EU will bear increased responsibility for potential safety risks. The new regulations also spell out the obligations of manufacturers and retailers for product recalls.
Before authorities grant type approval, the manufacturer has to declare whether it can provide engineering calculations, simulations or actual test results for components in case of a recall. If there is any doubt that a manufacturer can supply such documents, the authorities may deny type approval. In other words, manufacturers will have to do their homework before seeking type approval. They will no longer be able to assume that, if a particular component hasn't failed before, it won't fail in the future. Instead, the demands of licensing a speed pedelec will be comparable to those for cars.
Manufacturers will also be required to provide technical documents covering maintenance and repair data to all for an appropriate fee.
Author: Dirk Zedler
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