The rise of the electric bicycle market is turning a vehicle that in many countries was considered only in the field of leisure in a means of urban transport. In this scenario, and especially in Europe, the regulation that defines them as conventional bicycles requires a sacrifice of their benefits, which in the field of urban circulation can be a problem of safety and functionality. Current technology allows regulations to be made more flexible and, above all, to adapt it to the particular circumstances of each environment: the geofencing (geofences) so that regulation can be smart too.
With the changing needs of transport in cities, urban centers need solutions that address the diversity and density of traffic. Electric bikes have sufficient autonomy and utility as well as to comply with many of the current displacements, also adding a series of benefits such as the economic one, and other less tangible ones such as health, the environment and the increase in the quality of life in cities. Electric bicycles can help eliminate congestion and traffic jams in cities and therefore the debate on their regulation should be directed to their use as a substitute for the car for many of those who travel alone every day. In this sense, new terms such as bicycles Pedelec, Speed Pedelec or Trolley Ebikes they start to sound louder than before.
Three types of electric bikes
The Pedelec they are the most basic. They are required to meet three requirements and if they do they are considered as conventional bicycles, that is, they do not need a license, registration, or insurance. The engine power must be equal to or less than 250 W, the maximum speed the one who assists pedaling must be 25 km / h and this can only be activated when pedaling, and therefore the use of a trigger or accelerators to start it is prohibited.
The Speed Pedelec exceed these specifications, with electric motors up to 4,000 W and speeds up to 45 km / h. They are considered L1e category vehicles, such as mopeds and require an AM permit, civil liability insurance, a license plate and a helmet, in addition to passing the corresponding ITV.
Finally the electric bicycles Throttle are those that include a throttle (on the grip, on a trigger or on a button) that makes the motor start without pedaling. In this case they are classified as L1e-A vehicles and require the same papers and conditions as the Speed Pedelec. These types of bicycles can reach speeds of up to 100 km / h and in many cases offer greater benefits than a moped, even being considered lightweight motorcycles.
The state of European regulations
The European regulation for Pedelec bicycles is common to the entire territory so that no country can get out of the current framework. Its objective is that electric bicycles are considered exactly the same vehicles as conventional ones, despite being mechanically different.
In Spain, the common regulations have been transferred, so that in June 2019, the DGT issued a clarifying instruction on the provisions of Regulation (EU) No. 168/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, which states that EPAC bicycles (Electronically Power Assisted Cycles) or assisted pedaling they are not category ‘L’ vehicles (among which are mopeds), and therefore “they do not need homologation or registration “. Therefore, pedelec bicycles are subject to the same traffic regulations as conventional bicycles, being able to travel on the same type of roads and under the same conditions.
Precisely, within the framework of the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry (CONEBI), 15 European national associations of the bicycle industry and 68 companies signed a document that protected Pedelec bicycles, committing to prevent owners from pirating them to obtain more speed and power.
Technology and intelligence at the service of electric bicycles
At this point, some manufacturers they have raised their voices so that the regulations facilitate that a bicycle that is not strictly Pedelec can be used as such in a city, when circumstances allow it. Limiting engine power and assist speed makes many riders feel helpless in traffic, since the speed difference with the vehicles with which they share the road is very large.
The option proposed by those who defend this change in regulation, among which are for example BMW and also some manufacturers of electric bicycles such as VanMoof is to create a new category of bicycles It is based on compliance with the Pedelec regulations and the possibility of taking advantage of the extra speed and power of the Speed Pedelec.
This is where technology has a lot to say. The Geofencing (the use of geofences) has been around for decades but has never been applied to private electric bikes. But it is used by electric rental vehicles, including bicycles, to prevent users from leaving the area where the service is offered.
Geofencing is nothing more than the implementation of geolocated barriers that delimit areas and environments. A computer connected to the internet, a Gps that positions the bicycle in real time and a software who receives the data and makes decisions are the three legs of the proposal. Located the bicycle and depending on the environment, the system will decide if at this time your speed is limited to 25 km / h or it can be increased to 45 km / h (or more). The cyclist will not be able to modify the decision of the system and will simply receive the information in which way he can circulate at all times.
Thus, in the event that you are traveling on a conventional bike lane, where only bicycles go, your speed will be limited to 25 km / h. When you leave it to join the traffic and share the road with other more powerful vehicles, the limitation will be unlocked and you will be able to make use of the extra power and speed. In this way the vehicle will be in equal conditions with the rest of the vehicles that surround it circulate where it circulates. Obviously, to deploy all this technology it is also essential work on cycling infrastructures.
The cities of Hyperbikes
The electric bikes have the ability to change cities; its autonomy allows many of the trips that are made today in a private car, increasing habitability and also the quality of life. They can be used both for private trips and for professionals and, in addition, they represent a benefit for the Health.
Faced with this new reality, the need arises to imagine how these new cities will be equipped with cycle paths to limit the conditions of use at each point. The basic problems to be addressed are, firstly, the ID of each of these routes unequivocally so that the location of the bicycle is always correct. Artificial intelligence has an important role to play here.
Now that the debate is open, the sharing of ideas that guarantee that both manufacturers and administrations agree on a common goal and so is the need to invest in technology that allows its full functionality.