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December 17, 2009

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Brakes placed on planned rules for electric bikes

CHINA has suspended a planned standard that was meant to rein in bigger models of electric bicycles.

The suspension delighted the e-bike industry, which said the prospective rules were a move to protect motorcycle makers.

But it disappointed those who view the electric bikes as quietly menacing missiles that jockey with pedal-power bikes in special lanes on city streets - and even pose a danger on sidewalks.

The Standardization Administration of China issued a circular yesterday on its Website (, demanding the suspension of the news rules for bicycles with battery-powered motors, on grounds "it is a booming industry and more time is needed for the policy-making process."

The rules, issued last week, were supposed to be effective on January 1.

"We are satisfied with the result," said Lu Jinlong, of the China Bicycle Association, reported

The SAC said it wants a faster creation of new national standards for electric bicycles, instead of counting the bigger models as light motorbikes.

The standards are being drawn up by the bicycle association.

The Standardization Administration of China resurrected 10-year-old rules saying that electric bikes weighing over 40 kilograms or able to go faster than 20 kilometers per hour should count as motorbikes. That meant riders of such bikes might need the licenses they had long done without.

The new rules, if applied, could be bad news for over 2,000 manufacturers and dealers of such bikes, concerned that the new standards were too strict.

E-bike makers denounced the rules as a move to protect motorcycle makers and state-owned companies whose business has been crimped.

China now has about 200 motorcycle manufacturers nationwide selling no more than 15 million motorcycles in the country annually. In contrast, more than 2,400 e-bike producers offer more than 20 million e-bikes every year.

Some people are no fans of the e-bikes.

"They are even not licensed, the electric bikes," Reuters quoted a Beijing taxi driver, Wang Fuhe, as saying. "So they have nothing to fear. They hit pedestrians and cars then run away, barely traceable."

The previous rules, released in 1999 and officially still in effect, have been largely ignored. Meanwhile, e-bike makers have been making the vehicles bigger and faster to enhance competitiveness.


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