What makes a street legal Ebike on NSW roads?

Before worrying our readers any further, I need to make it perfectly clear that bikes that are certified by the manufacturer as complying with the European standard EN15194 (such as Bosch-powered ebikes) are perfectly legal for use on public roads in all states and territories in Australia. Let us explain further.


Ebike regulations are set by each state and territory

In 2012 the Australian Design Rules (ADR) were amended to accept ‘pedelec- pedal-assisted electric bicycles’ that are certified by the manufacturer as conforming with the EN15194 standard. These are 250w-powered ebikes that assist only when the bike is pedalled, ie not throttle operated.

These national changes paved the way for the states and territories to amend their own regulations to accept these bikes. Victoria was the first to oblige, followed by NSW and the others, the last of which was the Northern Territory in November 2015. To import a bicycle with a motor, an approval needs to be granted by the Federal Department of Transport, that administers the Australian Design Rules. Importers of 200w ebikes (that allow throttles) and 250w pedelecs must provide documentation to prove compliance with the ADR, so in the case of 250w pedelecs, a document proving conformance with EN15194 is required when applying for an import permit.

Which electric bikes are legally permissible on NSW Roads?

This is clearly spelled out in the NSW Vehicle Standard Information (VSI) 27, available here. There are two classes of ebikes that are permitted on public roads and designated public areas. The first group are the 250w pedelec bikes, which are restricted such that powered assistance cuts out from 25km/h, as long as they are EN15194 conforming bikes. To prove conformance, each bike must be affixed with a manufacturers label citing EN15194 compliance and a 25km/h speed restriction. This label must be visible to any law enforcement officer to check.

Second is the earlier category of 200w electric bikes, which are not speed restricted, but owing to the limited motor capacity, would not much exceed 25km/h without pedalling. These systems may be fitted with a throttle, meaning no pedalling is required.

What is not permissible of NSW Roads?

Any powered ebike that does not fall into one of the above categories. So if the bike is fitted with a throttle, the motor capacity must not exceed a rating of 200w. If a bike is fitted with an aftermarket kit, it must not exceed 200w. If the bike is said to be 250w but does not have a manufacturers label stating compliance with EN15194 and stating 25hm/h restriction, according to VSI27, it does not comply.

It is important to note that EN15194 certification is undertaken on complete, whole bikes usually by the manufacturer, that are tested not only for their electronic componentry but structural qualities as well. Unless an individual bike undergoes full lab testing, an after-market or retro-fitted kit cannot claim conformance with EN15194, and therefore must not exceed 200w on NSW roads. The above is our interpretation of VSI27, and we encourage everyone to read this document for themselves and come to their own conclusions.


Implications of riding non-conforming electric bikes on NSW Roads

If you ride a Bosch-powered ebike or any other certified and labelled to confirm with EN15194, you don’t need to worry about this. Indeed aside from being on the right-side of the law, special insurance packages are now available, such as the ebike policy offered by Velosure. And if you are ever pulled over by a police officer curious about your ebike, you can merrily point to the manufacturers conformance label and be on your way.

Conversely if you ride a non-conforming bicycle, you risk being fined as riding an un-registered & un-insured vehicle (and potentially without a license). Here in NSW, where penalties for infringements by cyclists have been massively increased and are coupled with police enforcement blitzes, it is likely only a matter of time until they turn their attention to ebikes. Worse, if an ebike is involved in an accident, it is questionable whether an insurance company will honour a claim once they identify the ebike involved as non-conforming. It would be an easy out for them.

A few bad eggs

Non-compliant bikes present a huge risk for the future of pedal assist industry… in particular in mountain bike and tourist regions where policy makers may find it simpler to ban all ebikes as a safety/environmental risk. Higher output, throttle bikes pose a greater safety and environmental risk in these regions. The use of high powered ebikes is already creating some animosity between user groups and land managers who don’t understand that there are differences between legal pedal assist bikes and throttle assist high powered ebikes which are not legally permitted in public use areas.

There is no doubt plenty of fun to be had on private property on a high-powered motorised bike, however it is important that consumers are aware of the legal ramifications, not only to themselves but to other users, the environment and the industry as a whole if they decide to ride in public spaces.

Check before you buy

Our best advice if you live in NSW is to refer to VSI27, and ensure the bike you are buying, or the kit you are installing, conforms to its requirements. For other states and territories, check for similar regulations with the relevant roads and traffic authority. Bosch-powered ebikes that enter the Australian market through the Federal Government’s approval process and that conform to EN15194 and the Australian Design are legal for use on NSW roads. If in doubt, look for the manufacturers compliance label.

 

Nationally

As of November 2015 when the Northern Territory came #uptospeed, all States in Australia have similar versions of legislation in relation to both the 200w and the pedalec 250w.