The CE mark, which implies an EC Declaration of Conformity by the manufacturer, is all around (...)
(...) us in Europe. It is on electric toothbrushes, mobile phone chargers and on almost every instruction manual for the most varied of devices. But on an electric bike? Here the “market conformity mark” can be hard to find, but in the European Union it is nonetheless compulsory for pedelecs.
Safety by Signature
The CE mark should guarantee that goods offered for sale in the EU fulfil particular safety requirements. But before anyone glues a little sticker with these two letters onto their product, or prints CE in the user manual, an EC Declaration of Conformity must be submitted.
In this, the “entity responsible for bringing the product to market” declares that their product complies with all relevant directives. This can in the first instance just be handwritten and signed, so it’s entirely their responsibility. Once signed, this declaration is something like an insurance certificate, and with it the manufacturer or importer is responsible, not the owner. So manufacturers are not obliged to have the compliance of their products with the regulations tested in a test laboratory: they can simply guarantee it independently with their signature. So conformity can be declared without any compulsory testing. Now, who would bet their life on an untested product? Unfortunately, far too many do just that, sometimes deliberately, and sometimes because they’re unaware of the situation.
To properly evaluate an EC Declaration of Conformity isn’t simple. Errors on the form such as a missing signature or incorrect details are the least of it.
National institutions such as Chambers of Commerce can help, but the real difficulty lies in the question of which directives and standards apply to the product in question. This lack of clarity makes it even harder to find ‘errors’ such as incorrect test procedures or standards missing from the listing in the EC Declaration of Conformity. And often test labs are said by manufacturers to have performed tests, but not which tests exactly.
CE Comformance for Pedelecs
So to which regulations must pedelecs conform to be able to correctly carry the CE mark? Pedelecs 25 are classified as bicycles within the EU, and in legislation they are called EPACs. They are also “machinery” and fall under several directives.
The Machinery Directive 2006 / 42 / EG, the EMC Directive 2004 / 108 / EG and for chargers the Low Voltage Directive 2006 / 95 / EG all apply, see also the overview here:
>> Overview: EU Standards for Pedelec
The Machinery Directive contains a list of essential health and safety requirements which affect the design and construction of the machine. Most of these requirements are already contained in EN 15194, which was specially developed for pedelecs and should bring together all of the relevant standards from the Machinery Directive. However, this has yet to be checked by the European Committee for Standardization, the CEN. When this occurs, EN 15194 will be published in the official journal and will then become a harmonised standard for the EU. So a pedelec which complies with EN 15194, will automatically also comply with the requirements set out in the Machinery Directive 2006 / 42 / EG. A similar harmonised standard will also apply in the case of pedelecs for the EMC Directive 2004 / 108 / EG. Manufacturers must be able to produce documentation on demand showing that their product is ‘electromagnetically compatible’. This can be checked properly only by laboratory tests. The EMC Directive requires that the pedelec can be unambiguously identified with type, batch or serial number. In addition the manufacturer or person responsible for importing to the EU must be recorded with name and address. Finally, the manufacturer must then apply the CE mark to the pedelec.
Scope of EN 15194
Pedelecs are classified in the EU as bicycles, and so they are exempt from type approval (2002 / 24 / EG). For them, EN 15194 applies and it should be available in the various national languages.
Most EU member states have not yet adopted EN 15194 into their national legislation as compulsory, with the exceptions being France and the UK. So most EU countries permit “self certification”.
That means that if a manufacturer has their own test facilities or just believes that their pedelec complies with all standards, they can simply apply a CE mark and release it to the shops. Nonetheless many manufacturers today do have their products tested independently. Anyone wanting to err on the side of caution should ask for the test reports to be made available.
The European Union has correctly recognised that pedelecs are often on the road or close to other traffic. For this reason they require the same EMC tests as those which cars must undergo.
EMC means Electro Magnetic Compatibility and it denotes a desirable state of affairs in which technical devices do not affect each other negatively through undesired electrical or electromagnetic effects. Most people know the pulsating beeps you get when a mobile phone interferes with radio reception, but here we are concerned with much more powerful interference emissions: ten times higher than in household devices and more dangerous. Tests at the German SLG laboratories with improperly shielded vehicles threw up situations where the motor would start as if by itself when someone nearby broke off a radio phone call.
The EMC tests specified in EN 15194 can only be carried out on special, interference-shielded test stands. Only a few laboratories have this capacity and so ‘false’ tests easily find their way into EC Declarations of Conformity. EMC compliance is made even more problematic because it is a cost-intensive test, and only makes sense for a product ready for full production. Yet any tiny change on the whole pedelec system, like a different light bulb, could have an effect on the EMC test. For the cycle trade, with its typically short development cycle in small teams under tight competitive pressure, such extensive testing is burdensome.
Competing with CE
Legally it’s a clear ‘yes’ to the CE mark. Pedelecs without it simply cannot be sold within the EU. For customers, the mark offers safety, and it makes whoever brings it to market responsible in product liability cases.
In practice, however, there are difficulties. Ignorance and lack of clarity about the correct test procedures and requirements lead to false certification or insufficient testing. In extreme cases a manufacturer could be held liable even though relying on false tests, if they have signed an EC Declaration of Conformity. If not, although their products would be on sale illegally without it, they would not be liable for damages.
Producers within the EU also complain about fake versions of the CE mark. These look confusingly similar to the CE mark, but small print explains that it stands for China Export.
Increasingly, it seems this is being seen as more relevant and worth taking seriously by the industry. After all, CE means more safety for producers and consumers. With it, manufacturers can sell legally in the EU knowing that their product fulfils all of the basic requirements.
Because the CE mark is valid across the whole EU, it represents a huge economic area with high export potential, within which there is no need to deal with individual national regulations. Quality is also a protection against cheap and unsafe imports – provided that it is effectively communicated and implemented.
|The CE mark is an essential prerequisite for the production, import and sale of certifiable products within the EU. Fundamentally, with this mark, manufacturers declare themselves to the public authorities that their products comply with the relevant directives. These define the requirements for health and safety in the European Community (EC). |
Text: Nora Manthey, Annick Roetynck, prepared within the EU GoPedelec! project: GoPedelec! Handbook (German version)
>> Go Pedelec! Handbook in Czech, Dutch, English, Hungarian, and Italian
Translation: Peter Eland (www.electricbikemag.co.uk)
Picture: Hannes Neupert, SLG
Online release: Angela Budde
7 June 2013