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Electric bike rules in Australia can be somewhat bewildering and it does differ from state to state but in the words of Vic Roads:

Power assisted bicycles are likely to have similar performance characteristics to pedal powered bicycles so the same road rules apply. These types of power assisted bicycles are not required to be registered nor the rider required to be licensed.

This makes sense really, so if it behaves like a bicycle and you can pedal it as long as the motor output is within certain limits it is still a bicycle except it has an auxiliary motor. Power assisted bicycles have two definitions in Victoria:

  • A bicycle with one or more auxiliary motors attached which has a combined maximum ungoverned continuous rated power output not exceeding 200 watts.
  • An electrically power-assisted cycle (EPAC). These are pedal cycles with an electric motor that has a maximum continued rated power of 250 watts. The power-assistance progressively reduces as the speed increases and cuts off once a top  speed of 25 kilometres per hour is reached. EPACs require the rider to pedal to access the power.

Power assisted bicycles that meet the above definition are allowed to be ridden in Victoria as they are classed as bicycles.

 

The Ebike Standards

Currently in Australia all E-Bikes (or more accurately Pedelecs or EPAC’s) need to comply with the standard EN15194:2017.

This standard has been around for a few years now, and it is also common throughout Europe and other areas, and covers both the electrical systems on the bike, as well as the mechanical components.

Given that Pedelecs are typically heavier than “normal” bicycles and are put through more stress due to additional power, and stopping forces the EN15194:2017 standard was introduced to include testing standards for the entire bike, not just the motor component as the previous EN15194:2009 covered.

Test Item EN 15194:2017 EN 15194:2009
Electric Circuit
Control & Symbols
Battery
Battery Charger
Power Cables & Conduits
Moister Resistance
Mechanical Strength
Maximum Speed
Power Management
Emission
Braking System
Pedal & Crank Drive System
Body Frame
Tire Inflation Pressure
Seat Post & Saddle
Chain-wheel & Belt Drive Protective Device
Handlebar & Lighting System

In a nutshell, for Pedelecs the motor can produce a maximum of 250 Watts of continuous power, and the assistance must be limited to 25Kmh while the frame and components must be strong enough to cope with these forces.

200 Watt standard

There is a secondary standard where the motor is limited to 200 Watts, with no speed cut off but these are much less common these days, especially with heavier cargo style bikes. You can still have a throttle on these bikes and there is no requirement to have a pedal controlled sensor but they really do have to be 200w and very few of the ones we see in our workshop would fall into that category.

Import declarations

When E-Bikes are imported into Australia, a decision is made by The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications on whether the model complies with the EN15194:2017 standard.

This submission includes proof that the E-Bike has been tested by the manufacturer and meets the standard, that the motor system complies, and the electric system is also compliant with the Australian standards.

Falsifying this information can be a criminal offence!

Compliance

Bicycles have to display a compliance label, typically a sticker/transfer applied to the bike frame showing the standard applied, and the restrictions in place (Speed/Wattage).

If the bikes do not comply with these standards, they are classed as a Motor Vehicle (motorcycle/moped), so need to meet all the applicable ADR’s, be registered for road use, display number plates, appropriate safety equipment must be worn (motorcycle helmets etc) plus carrying young passengers etc is a complete no go (all the rules that apply to motorcycles).

The Risks …

Historically there has been one well-publicised fatality involving an illegal overpowered e-bike, which struck a pedestrian. As part of the Coroner’s report the importer, as well as the seller(s), were held at fault for the supply of the bike, and the rider ended up being given a custodial sentence … not exactly trivial.

As an importer and a retailer of several brands of e-bikes, we are very cautious that all bikes we deal with are compliant with the EN15194:2017 standard. The risk to our business and to the industry as a whole is too great to do otherwise.

We regularly see non-compliant bikes coming into the store, often having been recently purchased from another retailer, that in our opinion are dangerous due to poor quality of components and manufacturing standards. When the carrying of passengers (often young children) is involved we shudder to think of the consequences.

When kits often up to 1000 Watts are fitted to bicycles it can be a recipe for disaster (not to mention the negating of all warranties, loss of any insurance (TAC) cover, extreme stress on the components). Usually these bikes are built to undercut the price of the bigger brands but they often choose to compromise on the quality of braking systems and wheel builds. Critical components for safety that are under even more stress because of high acceleration and top speeds.

Remember 1000 Watts is four times the power output of a very strong cyclist, often on a bike that is already near the limits of capability without the motor. Manufacturers select components based on intended use, so things like gearing and brakes would not have been specified to account for all the extra stress of overpowered motors (or in some cases, any motor at all).

25kmh is slow we get it

We are as frustrated as everyone with the current restrictions. 25Kmh can feel pretty slow at times, and the calculation of what is maximum continuous power output is a minefield of (mis) information in itself.

But, while the current standards are in place we have to comply with them.

Here’s a couple of examples of what can go wrong with hub motors and bicycle forks.

What does this mean for us …

 From a service standpoint, if a bicycle has been modified to interfere with any of the restrictions (power or maximum speed) we are unable to work on them, and any warranty in place would be void (including the frame).

Some manufacturers (BOSCH for example) are VERY strict on this. The software systems in place on the bikes can detect any tampering, even after the removal of any hacking device. We have had customers with failed wiring looms, batteries and even motors that have been denied warranty as a result.

Aftermarket kits

If these have been fitted by a third party, then we are unable to work on the bike due to the unknown nature of the setup, again any warranty would be voided.

We do fit both hub and mid-drive systems to various bikes ourselves, but only when the history of the bike is known, and is of acceptable quality, and level of components and using systems that we know are compliant.

When fitting kits we will often insist on upgrading other components (especially braking systems) before we will undertake the work. Erring on the side of caution is never a mistake when it comes to stopping.

Overpowered E-Bikes sold by other distributors, we cannot work on at all. This includes supplying parts or accessories. In our opinion supporting these models is exacerbating the issue, and in effect green lighting their dishonesty in mis-declaring the bikes when they are importing them.

From a liability standpoint, by working on them we are also drawn into the argument of who is responsible.

The risk to our entire industry is pretty high if one is involved in an incident. Unfortunately, the headline “illegal cargo bike hits pedestrian” reflects badly on every cargo bike, and if history has taught us anything it’s the Media love a good beat-up!

What can we all do to improve things …

 The only way current restrictions are going to change, is if they are asked for. New Zealand as an example moved to a 32Kmh / 350 Watt standard a couple of years ago thanks to enough people petitioning the powers that be (and them listening).

Add your voice

We have certainly added our voice, along with industry representatives including Bicycles Industries Australia.

We would  recommend writing to the Minister for Roads and Road Safety (Ben Carrol) with your views so at least that way the office will consider it and you’ll get an official response. Better yet get a petition happening, the louder the voice(s) the more chance someone will hear us !

We are always happy to offer advice if you are unsure about a bike you are considering (we are pretty brand-agnostic even when we don’t stock them).

In the meantime, ride safe!

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