Product safety

The advice sheets below have the latest information on product safety. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Enforcement & Regulatory option).

Electrically power assisted cycles

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In the guide

Specific safety requirements and advice on the legal requirements relating to electrically power assisted cycles (EPACs or e-bikes) when used on public roads, including the use of the CE mark

This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales

EPACs have become increasingly popular in recent years as a means of transport. As they can be made available at affordable prices, concerns have been raised about their safety, particularly as they have been developed by enthusiasts, adapting ordinary pedal cycles and then supplying to consumers as a growing cottage industry.

When assessing the safety of a product a number of matters are taken into consideration and anyone in the supply chain, including retailers, can be held liable for the supply of unsafe products.

Product safety

The law requires that any product sold to consumers must be safe. Products should not present any unnecessary risk to anyone when used in a normal or reasonably foreseeable way. When assessing the safety of a product, the following must be taken into account:

  • packaging, labelling and instructions
  • effect of the product on other products with which it might be used
  • special needs of particular types of people, such as elderly people or those with disabilities

Where there are national, European or international standards relating to the product, these standards will also need to be taken into account. Electrical cycles that are not EPACs and are designed for off-road use do not currently have any British or European standards governing their safety. There are international standards available, and manufacturers should have off-road electrical cycles checked further by a test house that is a notified body for assurance that they are safe.

For EPACs designed for use on UK roads, there are specific Regulations (see 'Special safety requirements' below) that need to be satisfied if they are not to be treated as motor vehicles subject to tax and licensing legislation. These requirements are:

  • cycle must be fitted with pedals that are capable of propelling it
  • continuous rated power of the electric motor must not exceed 250 watts
  • electrical assistance must cut-off when the cycle reaches 15.5m/h or 25km/h

An EPAC that complies with the above is not considered to be a motor vehicle within the meaning of the Road Traffic Act 1988. As a result, it is not required to be registered and is not subject to vehicle excise duty (road tax), nor does it have to be insured as a motor vehicle. EPACs must not be ridden by anyone under the age of 14.

Some 'twist and go' cycles have particular benefits for elderly and disabled users. These pedal cycles provide electrical assistance without the use of pedals and are included within the EPAC classification, provided they are capable of pedal operation and comply with the above restrictions on maximum motor power and assistance cut-off speed. However, these will continue to require 'notified body' approval as they are not included in the scope of the standards that apply to other EPACs.

Anyone in the supply chain, including retailers, can be held liable for the supply of unsafe products. In general, it is a criminal offence to supply unsafe products and you could also be liable to pay compensation for any injury or property-damage caused.

You should be prepared to carry out checks on the product and/or on your suppliers to ensure product safety. Doing nothing is not enough.

Special safety requirements

All EPACs, and other types of electrical cycles need to comply with the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008.

The Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles Regulations 1983 and the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (Amendment) Regulations 2015 apply to EPACs designed for use on roads in the UK and the European Union. Manufacturers, their representatives, and importers have to ensure that, when their cycles, systems, components or separate technical components are placed on the market or are entering into service, they are manufactured and approved in accordance with the requirements set out in the Regulations.

Manufacturers are required to equip EPACs with battery management systems / master control devices to prevent tampering or modification that may prejudice safety, in particular by increasing the cycle's performance in order to increase torque, power or maximum speed limits. 

Anyone in the supply chain that modifies an incomplete cycle in such a way that it then qualifies for a different category of vehicle or cycle, with the consequence that the legal requirements already assessed in a previous stage of approval have changed, is also responsible for the approval and conformity of production of the modified components and systems.

The Pedal Cycle (Construction and Use) Regulations 1983 and the Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 include requirements for EPACs on brake construction and performance. The Regulations require EPACs to be marked with the:

  • name of the manufacturer of the vehicle
  • nominal voltage of the battery of the vehicle
  • continuous rated output of the motor of the vehicle

The amending Regulations require, as an alternative to the above, that the vehicle be marked with the:

  • name of the manufacturer of the vehicle
  • maximum speed at which the motor can propel the vehicle
  • maximum continuous rated power of the motor of the vehicle

Particular safety concerns

The current British Standard for EPACs is BS EN 15194: Cycles. Electrically power assisted cycles. EPAC Bicycles. A new 2017 version of the Standard will be applicable to EPACs after 28 February 2018. Although it does not apply retrospectively, it does stipulate requirements for electrical, mechanical and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) compliance, as well as labelling requirements and requirements with regard to instructions and warnings. The new Standard is aligned to meet the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008.

Mechanical safety

As well as strength tests, the new 2017 Standard requires safety measures that relate to the general safety of EPACs, including:

  • sharp edges
  • security and strength of safety-related fasteners
  • protrusions
  • brakes
  • steering
  • frames
  • front fork
  • wheels and wheel / tyre assembly
  • rims, tyres and tubes
  • front mudguard
  • pedals and pedal / crank drive system
  • drive-chain and drive belt
  • chain-wheel and belt-drive protective device
  • saddles and seat-posts
  • spoke protector
  • luggage carriers
  • road-test of a fully-assembled EPAC
  • lighting systems and reflectors
  • warning device
  • thermal hazards

Electrical compliance

  • the EPAC and battery pack must be designed in order to avoid risk of fire and mechanical deterioration resulting from abnormal use
  • during the test the EPAC and the batteries must not emit flames, molten metal or poisonous ignitable gas in hazardous amounts and any enclosure must show no damage that could impair compliance with the European Standard
  • safety and compatibility of the battery / charger combination must be ensured, according to the manufacturer's specifications
  • the battery terminals must be protected against creating an accidental short circuit
  • appropriate care must be taken to ensure that the batteries are protected against overcharging
  • an appropriate overheating and short circuit protection device must be fitted
  • batteries and the charger unit must be labelled in order to be able to check their compatibility

Labelling requirements, instructions & warnings

After 28 February 2018, the new Standard - BS EN 15194 - contains its own requirements. The Standard is aligned with the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 and there will be a presumption of conformity with the Regulations if the EPAC is manufactured and supplied to the new 2017 Standard. After 28 February 2018, it is therefore recommended that EPACs are labelled with:

  • contact and address of the manufacturer or authorized representative
  • EPAC according to BS EN 15194
  • appropriate marking required by legislation (CE)
  • year of construction - that is, the year in which the manufacturing was completed (it is not possible to use a code)
  • cut off speed expressed as XX km/h
  • maximum continuous rated power XX kW
  • maximum permissible total weight - for example, marked near the seat post or handlebar
  • designation of series or type
  • individual serial number if any
  • mass if EPAC mass is more than 25kg
  • mass of the EPAC in the most usual configuration

The frame must be both:

  • marked with a successive frame number at a readily visible location - for example, near the pedal-crank, the seat-post or the handlebar
    ... and
  • marked with the name of the manufacturer of the complete EPAC or the manufacturer's representative and the reference to the Standard BS EN 15194

There are additional markings that are required if the EPAC is equipped with a coupling device for a trailer. There are also recommendations for safety-critical components to be marked with traceable identification. You should seek the advice of your local trading standards service if you need more information.

All markings should be clear and permanent in accordance with specifications set out in the Standard.

As well as labelling requirements EPACs must be supplied with a set of instructions for use relevant to the country in which the EPAC is destined to be supplied. The 2017 Standard states that it is obligatory to deliver these in paper form, along with more detailed information to enable access for vulnerable people. Instructions for use should be available additionally in electronic form on demand. The Standard stipulates that the instructions for use cover all aspects of the safe use of the EPAC, including preparation and making adjustments for riding, maintenance, charging the batteries, and safe riding, as well as warnings related to wear-and-tear and impact damage.

Technical documentation

The Regulations also place an obligation for manufacturers and importers that place EPACs on the market to:

  • ensure that the technical file is compiled and made available in accordance with the requirements
  • provide information as necessary to operate it safely, such as instructions for use, repair and maintenance
  • follow appropriate conformity assessment procedures as prescribed by the Regulations
  • ensure that there is an EC declaration of conformity undertaken by the manufacturer, and that they have affixed the CE marking to the machinery visibly, legibly and indelibly

The CE mark is placed on a product by the manufacturer as confirmation that it complies with all the relevant safety standards (see 'Safety of products: due diligence').

CE mark

The position for retailers

Retailers may not have the same degree of technical knowledge and expertise as a manufacturer or importer; however, they may be able to carry out certain checks on the safety of EPACs.

Retailers should ensure that each vehicle is supplied with adequate written instructions. Reliance on verbal instructions only would make it very difficult to prove what you have said and may not reach the end user (if the EPAC is a gift, for example). Instructions for maintenance are particularly important to pass on in written format as they will be relied on for safe use for the entire expected life of the product. If there are parts of the instructions that have a particular relevance to safety, you may wish to highlight them.

You should also examine each vehicle before you supply it and carry out basic checks - for example:

  • all fixings, nuts and bolts are correctly and securely fastened
  • the frame is not damaged
  • the condition and inflation of tyres
  • brakes are working effectively
  • no sharp edges and entrapment hazards
  • ensure that the steering is aligned
  • ensure that you can supply full instructions for use

You may wish to offer advice on the appropriate safety equipment that needs to be used with the EPAC - for example, a cycle helmet and suitable clothing - and to offer to supply this equipment. Any such advice should also be included in the written instructions. It is worth noting that the safety equipment approved for use for an EPAC, such as ordinary cycle helmets, will be insufficient for the more powerful or off-road electrical cycles.

Other electrical cycles as well as EPACs are supplied with rechargeable batteries and chargers. Currently, chargers must be both compliant with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 2016 as well as being compatible with the batteries. There are harmonised safety standards for both batteries and chargers that are currently applicable to all electrical cycles, as well as the 2017 Standard that will apply to EPACs after 28 February 2018.

Product quality

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, the goods you sell must be of satisfactory quality, fit for their purpose and as described. A consumer may expect to have to carry out some maintenance and replace some parts over time. EPACs would be expected to be sufficiently robust to use on UK roads for a reasonable service life. Electric cycles intended to be ridden off-road should be robust enough to provide a reasonable service life over rough terrain.

If an electric cycle or EPAC fails prematurely, the consumer may be entitled to claim his losses from the retailer. This could include a repair, replacement, full or partial refund and/or compensation.

If the manufacturer offers a guarantee, remember that this does not take away a consumer's rights. Your consumer may still have a claim against you even after the manufacturer's guarantee has expired.

See 'The sale & supply of goods' for more information.

Legal & illegal use of EPACs & other electrical cycles: information for your consumers

The law only permits those electrical cycles that fall into the classification of EPACs to be used on the public highway. Electrical cycles suitable only for off-road use cannot be used on the public highway. Furthermore, under the Road Traffic Act 1988 (and related legislation) they cannot be used anywhere off-road, except on private land with the landowner's permission.

Consumers may not be fully aware of the legal restrictions that apply to the use of off-road electrical cycles. They may well be disappointed if they buy an electrical cycle, expecting to be able to ride it on a local park or common, only to find out later that they cannot do so. It would therefore be advisable to check with your consumer, at least in general terms, what they wish to use the electrical cycle for, and only supply an electrical cycle or EPAC that is suitable for their intended use.

Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs), retailers are obliged to disclose information that might affect a consumer's decision to buy, even if the consumer does not ask for it. You should therefore make it clear to prospective customers that the electrical cycle or EPAC that they buy may have restrictions on its use or capability, and to advise them to only purchase one that meets their requirements.

For more information on the CPRs, please see 'Consumer protection from unfair trading'.

Counterfeit cycles

Trading standards services are aware of a number of cases where pedal cycles are being converted into either EPACs or off-road electric cycles. Some of these have been badged with the registered name of a manufacturer or even the name of a famous motorcycle manufacturer, even though that manufacturer had no involvement in their production.

If you are offered the chance to supply such vehicles, you should check with the manufacturer's UK representatives to find out whether the vehicles are genuine, and whether you need their consent to keep this badge or need to remove it.

Anyone supplying counterfeit cycles should be reported to trading standards. The products might also be dangerous.

Outside the scope of this guide

If you are importing EPACs or other electric cycles into the EU, to sell at retail or wholesale, you may need to take specialist advice from your local trading standards service, an accredited test house or a notified body that can test this type of product.

Penalties

A breach of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 or the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

Enforcers can also apply for a court order requiring you to comply with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Consumer Rights Act 2015. If the order is not complied with, the maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

Additionally, if new products on sale are found to be in breach of the legislation, the manufacturer or importer could be required to recall all of the affected products.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: December 2017

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.