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Australia Flow-on from Europe Clamp-Down on e-Bike Tampering

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Brussels, Belgium

Europe’s bicycle industry has demonstrated a strong show of unity to clamp down on e-bike modification, with 15 national associations and 68 companies signing an industry-wide commitment to prevent ‘tampering’.

The Brussels-based Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry (CONEBI) last month announced the ‘self-commitment’, and Bicycle Industries Australia (BIA) has indicated it could replicate the move in Australia as part of its measures to prevent ‘chipping’ of e-bike motors in this country.

BIA General Manager Peter Bourke said the organisation is constantly looking for the best ways to show government officials that the industry is aware and ready to act on the problem of e-bike chipping to circumvent inbuilt controls to limit a bike’s speed.

“It’s certainly something we are discussing and we will look at the idea of a signed declaration when the board meets again in early November,” he said.

“It’s important to reaffirm to bureaucrats that we are a mature industry that is aware of the concerns, as well as the benefits, of e-bikes,” he said.

Mr Bourke said European moves to prevent tampering would bring change in Australia.

“With brands like Yamaha, Bosch and Shimano, companies that target the European market, you will have motors that are more difficult to chip,” he said.

“Those motors would then be fitted in bikes sold in Australia because those larger companies would not bother supplying different motors for our small market.

“However, smaller manufacturers of e-bike motors, who often aren’t in a position to implement more tamper-proof systems, could still target the Australian market. And if a manufacturer isn’t required to bear the extra cost of tamper-proofing their systems, they often won’t.”

Mr Bourke said this could be addressed by an update of Australian Standards for e-bikes, in a process that could get underway during the next few weeks.

“Chipping is possibly an even bigger problem in Australia compared to Europe because we are operating under standards adopted in 2009,” he added.

They’re based on standards that were implemented in Europe in 2009 but were updated there in 2017 to include anti-tampering measures. A more stringent version is expected for implementation in Europe in 2022 and a public draft of the updated standards could be released by the International Organization for Standardization as early as next month.

The BIA has indicated it will examine the public draft to potentially guide an update to the Australian standards.

Mr Bourke said the BIA saw chipping as a massive obstacle to the successful uptake of e-bikes in Australia.

“Not only does it create a major safety risk for riders and other road users – by pushing bikes beyond the speeds they are designed to travel at for any extended period – it also undermines the legitimacy of e-bikes,” he said.

“As soon as bikes are chipped they are illegal for use on public roads – they are effectively unregistered and unroadworthy motorbikes – and that threatens to create more anti-bike sentiment among other road users.

“It erodes efforts to position bikes, including e-bikes, as a legitimate form of transportation.

“That can also create a more negative perception among decision makers who might therefore be less likely to support the introduction of valuable infrastructure for bikes or incentives for people to buy e-bikes.”

Several CONEBI Actions

CONEBI said the signatories of the self-commitment, ranging from national industry associations to global companies active in the industry, are committing to ensuring “all applicable anti-tampering requirements are met, to continuously evaluate and improve existing standards”.

They were also committing to raising awareness about this illegal practice to related stakeholders, such as retailers, through training, publications, workshops and campaigns.

In a statement issued late last month, CONEBI President Erhard Büchel says: “The Bicycle Industry takes the topic of tampering very seriously and has started several actions to curb this dangerous practice. This self-commitment is only one pillar of our overall strategy.

“Market surveillance must be strengthened at a national level supported by European legislations.

“Last but not least, we condemn very strongly the sales of tampering kits which endanger the safety of consumers, as the e-bike is not designed for such an increased speed. We therefore call upon the European legislators to clearly forbid the sale, application and use of tampering equipment.”

The statement says while a large majority of e-bike riders do not tamper with their bicycle, CONEBI is concerned about “the negative effect the illegal actions of a few will have on the innocent many who conduct themselves according to the law”.

“CONEBI strongly believes that the current regulatory framework for e-bikes is well-suited and the equal treatment of e-bikes and bicycles is fundamental for the rise in e-bike use in recent years,” it says.

“CONEBI does however see the tampering as a threat to this stable framework. Therefore, there is a strong motivation for the bicycle industry to fight tampering.”

The confederation is working with its members, technical experts and other associations to prepare supplementary information to support the self-commitment.

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Is chipping a major problem for the advancement of e-bikes in Australia?

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  1. Having retailed e-bikes in Australia and NZ, I can tell you that ‘chipping’ is a complete non-issue over here in Aotearoa New Zealand. The solution is very simple – remove the 25kph speed limit from the legislation and you no longer have a problem. The majority of e-bikes imported into NZ are around 32kph-35kph models (32kph for Bosch/Shimano etc, ~35kph for hub motor ebikes). And then there’s a small but growing number of 45kph models (Speed pedelec) as well. These are all road legal and almost nobody ‘chips’ their e-bikes because they don’t want the extra expense of the tuning kit and they don’t want to lose their warranty.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Maurice. The debate on e-bike maximum speeds is certainly intensifying again, particularly with BMW getting more serious about entering the e-bike industry and becoming vocal on the issue. In addition, Bicycle Industries Australia is lobbying for higher maximum speeds for e-bike. Our next issue of the Micromobility Report is earmarked to include an article on another prominent player releasing a higher-speed e-bike.

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