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‘Twist and go’ type approval guidance emerges

The Bicycle Association (‘BAGB’, which merged with BEBA 3 years ago) and the DfT have recently released guidance on type approval for twist and go electric bikes, in line with the new requirements from January 2016.

Twist and go history

Twist and gos are electric bikes fitted with a throttle that can propel the bike to its maximum speed without the need for the rider to pedal and have historically been particularly popular with people who suffer from limited physical ability.

EU Type Approval (168/2013) states that, in order to fall outside of mandatory type approval, an electric bike requires the power to be cut off by the cyclist ceasing to pedal. So while an EAPC (electrically assisted pedal cycle) with a maximum continuous rated power not exceeding 250 watts and where the motor does not assist the rider past 15.5mph can be treated and ridden like an ordinary cycle, electric bikes with the same power limitations but featuring an independent throttle will require type approval.

In 2015 the DfT made it clear that twist and gos could also be treated as an ordinary cycle, so long as the e-bike met all the other requirements of an EAPC.

Type approval exemptions

Once stocks of twist and gos manufactured and imported before 1.1.2016 have been sold however, manufacturers and retailers are legally required to type approve twist and gos.

Cycles fitted with a ‘walk assist’ throttle limited to 6 km/hr are exempt from type approval requirements.

Twist and go type approval procedure

The initial requirement is that of automatic headlights (AHO), with broader type approval requirements coming into force in 2018.

In a response to Pedelecs, the DfT clarified: “The responsibility for obtaining type approval (or single approval) rests squarely with the manufacturer or retailer. The user is not committing an offence by riding or purchasing a non-approved bike.”

On obtaining type approval, A DfT spokesperson continued: “To obtain type approval, in cases of vehicles imported from the far east, the manufacturer and not the retailer/importer needs to obtain type approval, due to the need to control Conformity of Production. Discussions with stakeholders have led to the conclusion that applying for MSVA is a better option for importers, whilst for those manufacturing in the UK, type approval would be possible. VCA are ready to speak with applicants for type approval. These discussions are easiest on a one-to one basis so that advice can be tailored to the applicant’s particular circumstances.”

BAGB have also shared with Pedelecs the guidance provided to its manufacturer and retailer members in light of confusion as to whether a procedure is in place to type approve twist and gos. They say: “It has been argued that it is legal to sell new electric bicycles with ‘twist and go’ throttles until the 1st January 2018 without type approval. This is incorrect. Type approval is required now for the legal sale of new electric bicycles fitted with a ‘twist and go’ throttle.

“There are several possible routes to type approval for these “twist and go” electric bicycles, as set out in UK Statutory Instrument 2015-474. The two main options are:

  • The Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval (MSVA)
  • European Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA)

European whole vehicle type approval is impractically expensive to obtain for most cycle suppliers (it is intended for larger-scale motorbike and car industries, with sufficient control of their supply chains to be able to document ‘conformity of production’), but if it were sought, any in-force requirements from 168/2013 and associated regulations would need to be satisfied.

“But for most electric bicycle suppliers, the realistic current route to type approval is the MSVA test, which does not yet include those requirements. And so long as a “twist and go” electric bicycle passes the MSVA (currently, by satisfying the MSVA test requirements for a ‘low powered moped’) it is regarded as type approved for the UK, despite the fact that the current MSVA is not yet aligned with the EU requirements, or the vehicle classes, set out via EU Regulation 168/2013.”

L1e-A powered cycle type approval

On the subject of type approval alignment with the EU, BAGB states: “The MSVA is due to be revised/replaced to fall into line with the EU rules deriving from Regulation 168/2013. We are told that the DfT are prioritising updating the UK’s type approval regulations for larger vehicles (cars etc.).. but once these are in place, the MSVA test is in line to be revised, likely sometime in 2017. The outcome should be a test which reflects the 168/2013 categories and its requirements; most electric bicycles will fall into L1e-A (powered cycles), which covers cycles with motors rated up to 1 kW, but still with a 25 km/h max assist speed.”

BAGB further clarify that “although the L1e-A category can include bikes up to 1kW, that will not change what is legal to use in the UK as a bicycle (which remains 250W, 15.5mph)”.