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Good legislation is the basis for the success of the pedelec!

Whether legislation can have a decisive effect on the success, or lack of success, of new developments, is often questioned.

But from examples in Japan, Germany, China and Europe it is clear to see just how critical legislation can be for market development and for the implementation of any technology.

In 1992 Yamaha persuaded the Japanese government that a bike with an electric assist system working in proportion to muscle power could retain its status as a bicycle. Since then there have been over 4.3 million pedelecs sold in Japan, and in 2012 alone 430,000 units. To date Japan has held fast to the rule that motor power must be applied only in proportion to muscle power. That means that pedelecs must be equipped with a precise torque sensor to measure pedalling effort.

>> Sanyo electric bike

>> Yamaha PAS pedelec

At the end of the ‘80s there were rules in Austria which meant that an electric bike, like a horse and cart, could only be ridden with a suitable 10 km/h number plate. From 1990 the national German legislature enacted the ‘light moped’ legislation as a trial, by which an electric moped limited to 20 km/h could be ridden without a helmet. In 1995 the Japanese regulations were taken into German law, so that pedelecs were treated as bicycles so long as a power assist factor of 1 to 1 for human power and electric power was adhered to. Then as part of European harmonization at the start of the 2000s the EPAC (the European term for Electric Power Assisted Cycle) regulations were created with the aim of bringing regulatory clarity across Europe. As part of this, the Japanese rules were taken out of application.

So it is now only mandated by the regulations that the electric assist may only work while the rider is pedalling – but it doesn’t say how hard. This has resulted in electric scooters being sold as pedelecs with tiny stumpy pedals which you just have to move every so often to prevent the electric motor cutting out.

In China electric two wheelers have become a dominant mode of transport in many metropolitan areas as well as in the countrysi-de. In 2011, 33 million electric two wheelers were sold in China. These were almost entirely electric scooters, which are treated le- gally as electric bikes thanks to the presence of pedals when tested. Experts estimate that there are 200 million electric two-wheelers on the road in China. Around the end of the ‘90s the government enforced this huge success in electric mobility through financial incentives: internal combustion engined two wheelers were suddenly hit with high taxes, with the result that these two-wheelers had disappeared from the streets of most cities within three years.

>> Electric bikes in China

Copy: Hannes Neupert, prepared within the EU GoPedelec! project: GoPedelec! Handbook (German version)

Picture: Sanyo, Yamaha, Hannes Neupert

>> Go Pedelec! Handbook in Czech, Dutch, English, Hungarian, and Italian

Translation: Peter Eland (

Online release: Angela Budde

7 January 2013



7 - 12 September 2021, IAA, Munich, Testtrack