The NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (Australia) want to nobble the emerging electric
bike (ebike) phenomenon. Worse, they want their policy applied as a
national standard. Worse still, Bicycle Victoria (BV) have endorsed this
policy. This issue is symptomatic of how govt fail to grasp the issue
of climate change abatement. The economic benefits of people on bikes
include reducing infrastructure costs, reigning in health costs, personal
fitness, greenhouse abatement, etc.
Content below posted on Bicycle Victoria forum:
I was just discussing with Bicycle Victoria (BV), their electric bicycle
(ebike) policy endorsement of NSW Roads and Traffic Authority's position
on ebikes: 250w motor, speed limited to 25kmh pedal assisted. Available
BV's endorsement is
on: 'New electric bike standard proposed' (3 June 2009) URL:
I ride a 200w (36v 10 Ah Li Ion battery) flat bar Jamis road bike 34.4km
from Werribee to Melb CBD 1-2 times a week. In up to 15kn headwinds I can
manage 28.5-32.0 kmh, and in 15-25kn headwinds about 25 kmh. Above 34 kmh
(eg downhill), I use the bar extensions, let go of the throttle and crank
While I was thrilled to see potential to raise power max 25% to 250w, I
was simultaneously deeply dismayed to see a 25kmh speed limit brought to
bear. My trip time from Werribee to CBD is 1hr 15mins. If you limit me to
25kmh, it would add 20 mins making trip time 1hr 35 mins. I have an 800cc
motorcycle that will do the trip in 40 mins. I am not going to spend 3hrs
10 mins travelling time per day. Effectively, this policy would kill the
potential for ebikes to service medium to long distance commuters.
On the Federation trail I ride 16kms off-road. I have struggled over 6 kms
to catch up to 2 chaps on racing bikes. If I was doing 28 kmh, they were
doing 26.5 kmh. If a non-electric bike can go over 25kmh, why would
bicycle Victoria endorse 25kmh speed limiting for an ebike. If a stretch
of road requires a 25kmh limit, then sign post it as such.
On the Beach Road bike route on Saturday mornings, the packs of racing
bikes run at 45-60 kmh though Brighton and Sandringham.
BV contact mentioned that BV endorsed this 250w/25kmh propsoal because it
is the European standard. To get 25 European countries to agree on a
standard requires a lowest common denominator approach. Australia should
be aiming for excellence and maximum efficiency. Pedalec is the term for
motor/pedal speed interfacing. It's an added mechanical complication. I'm
reminded of the KISS principal: keep it simple stupid. Europe's roads are
old, small, constrained and winding in many instances.
Australia is more like Canada and USA, where 750w & 900w motors are
respectively permitted on ebikes, to my knowledge. Australia has decent,
fairly wide and straight roads. I think the increase in power to 250w is
warranted. Speed limiting to 25 kmh is ridiculous. Why would someone limit
an ebike's speed, when it is a fraction of that available to cars and
motor cycles? They can travel way over the 110 kmh speed limit, but no
one's proposing speed limiting them.
An ebike can move a person using 1% of the caloric energy of fuel that is
required to move someone in a car. The lithium batteries have only been
popular for 2-3 years. It's a new and evolving technology. An agency like
VicRoads is bringing 80-100 years of negative inertia to the table. With
climate change a major issue today, we need solutions. Propping up the
bottom line financial take of VicRoads should not be the main focus here.
Bikes also have a low footprint in terms of road wear and tear. They're
good for your physical well-being. The ebike brings a cycling capacity to
outer suburban dwellers.
My ebike cost me $A2000 two years ago, and is now worth about $2700 new.
This is around the cost of a 50cc scooter, which will take a rider to 80
kmh without bothering to pedal. Why would someone buy an ebike for $2700
speed limited to 25 kmh, and take 3 times longer to arrive?
Please don't follow NSW Roads and Traffic Authority down the garden path
to killing the ebike's potential as an efficient healthy transport medium.
The 200-250w output isn't enough to take ebike speeds up to what fit
people do on regular road bikes already. Ebikes definitely don't need
speed limiting, as my bike's 22kg weight holds it down to 34 kmh top speed
anyway. Promote wearing a safety vest instead. BV's endorsement of speed
limiting ebikes strikes me as a lazy uninformed policy developed by
someone who's never ridden an ebike. I'm asking BV to reconsider it.
The second posting
I'll quote the NSW RTA's proposal on ebike control: '...continuous rated
power not exceeding 250 watts, of which the output is progressively
reduced and finally cut off as the vehicle reaches a speed of 25kmh'.
Clearly with this recipe, pedalling is considered paramount to acheive
In my earlier posting, I said I can do 34 kmh before the motor ceases to
provide aid on my Jamis Coda Sport ebike (200w motor, 10 Ah Li-ion
battery). My 12kg bicycle is carrying an extra 8kg of motor/battery. Why
carry this weight, if you won't gain much benefit in doing so? The reg's are
saying I can go 9 kmh slower, because if I want to go faster I can just
pedal. Have you carried an extra 8kg on a long ride lately?
I spent $A840 on a new road bike, converting ebike gear over to save 2kg
and go from 21 to 27 speed, which has shaved 5 mins off my trip time
(34.4km in 1'15"). Here a bureaucrat who probably never rode an ebike, is
going to cut 9kmh off the ebike concept for what purpose? Will this help
keep people in cars? Probably. Would that suit road traffic authority
accountants, motor vehicle manufacturers and oil companies? Possibly.
Would you go to war to protect your need for oil. Yes.
My ebike's motor makes a tram starting off sort of noise below 26kmh. It's
just getting into its useful/efficient torque range when running at
27-32kmh. Whose interest is this legislation looking after, because it
certainly isn't the cyclists'?
In road use terms, it's safer to ride at a speed matched with the stream
of cars around you so you can merge with the traffic. A slow cyclist is
dodging in and out around parked cars. Speed doesn't always equal danger,
it's an asset for a cyclist. You can follow a car around a round-about,
instead of sitting out there as a lone duck target.
Why not promote bikes you favour, rather than ban ones you don't? When I
ride home from work around Melb Docklands, I can't keep up with 15% of the
cyclists out there; and some are on mountain bikes (!), as well as road
bikes. Don't get me wrong, I'm up for slipstreaming as much as the next
cyclist, but you have to pace yourself when you're riding 34km.
I can't see the threat from ebikes. I'm 57 years old, and wouldn't cycle
34 km to work without a motor. It's been a joy to be in amongst cyclists
in all their diversity. It's always a good cardio-vascular workout. If you
think I ride feet up with a motor doing all the work, think again. I got
home last night in about 9 deg temp with my shirt wet with sweat, and I
drank a glass of water within minutes. I pedal the whole time I'm
commuting. The challenge is to get an extra few kmh out of the bike by
cranking at the pedals. Having the motor be cut out just when it gets
interesting, is a bit like how people dated in the 1950's. Do we really
want to be a backward looking country?
The ebike is an emerging low-carbon technology, with the govt in Australia
wanting to keep it at the limit of a moderately capable cyclist. It's like when cars
first appeared in the late-1800s: a speed limit of 5 mph (to match
horses), with a walking man waving a flag out the front.
The NSW 'Proposal for a new AB vehicle definition' paper mentions ebike
sales in Europe and Japan, and compliance to their standards with an eye
to export opportunities. 'The European market, with 250,000 estimated power-assisted pedal cycles
(PAPCs) sold in 2007 and Japan, with an estimated 300,000 PAPCs sold in
the same year, are the two most significant markets
outside China'. The paper fails to mention that China manufactured 19 mil
ebikes in 2007, 97% for domestic use. So Australian standards could speed
limit Aussie ebikes down to 25 kmh to pander compliance with a 2.9% market
share of Europe/Japan/China ebike 2007 sales. Didn't we fight a war at
some stage to maintain our sovereignty? Does innovation still exist in
Do you think this NSW product proposal ebike (250w/25kmh limited) would do
well at the Australian pavilion in the Shangahi World Trade Expo which
opened May 2010? That might be a lonely job.