18 Sep 18

E-bike boost and tragedy in UK

One of the key modes of zero emission urban transport, the electric bicycle, has experienced mixed fortunes in the UK in the past week.

Viewed as a potential solution for both last mile deliveries and as an integral part of mobility as a service applications, e-bikes have hit the headlines for both good and bad reasons.

On the positive side, the British government has pledged £2 million (€2.3m) to support the uptake of electric cargo bikes as an alternative to fossil-fuelled last-mile delivery vans. The government blames older, polluting vans for both poor air quality and congestion.

Jesse Norman, minister for low emission vehicles, said, “Encouraging electric delivery bikes on to our city streets will cut traffic and improve air quality, and will show how these vehicles have the potential to play an important role in the zero emission future of this country.”

The rapid expansion of online shopping, up 15.3% in the UK in the past year, has seen a significant increase in the use of diesel delivery vans.

Supermarket e-cargo delivery trial

The supermarket giant Sainsbury’s conducted a government-funded e-cargo bike trial last year in London and found that it could fulfil 96.7% of internet orders with a single e-cargo bike drop.

The government still expects e-cargo bikes to be a niche solution, and anticipates that electric vans are more likely to replace diesel vans.

As of April next year, any diesel vehicle that does not meet Euro 6 emissions standards will have to pay a £100 (€115) daily charge to enter central London.

E-bike fatality

But the role of e-bikes for swift personal city travel have taken a blow after the first fatality involving a battery-powered bicycle. The cyclist crashed into a pedestrian, who died of her injuries last week.

E-bikes do not currently require a licence, tax or insurance in the UK, so long as the maximum power is below 250 watts and the top speed on battery power alone does not exceed 15.5mph (25kph).

However, an electric scooter is classified as a motorcycle, requiring a driving licence and crash helmet to ride.

Do e-bikes need insurance?

In May, the European Commission said it considered all forms of electric-powered vehicles to be motor vehicles, which therefore require third party liability insurance.

“New types of motor vehicles, such as electric bikes (e-bikes), segways, electric scooters already fall within the scope of the [Motor Insurance] Directive as interpreted by the Court of Justice,” it said.

EU member states have the power to exempt new types of electric motor vehicles from this compulsory third party motor insurance, but only if they establish a national fund to ensure the compensation of victims in the case of an accident.

Authored by: Jonathan Manning