China’s top-level authorities have proposed stricter manufacturing standards for electric bicycles in an effort to tackle a recent rise in accidents and fire hazards.
According to figures from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), there are 200 million e-bikes registered in the country, with 30 million more being added to the roads every year.
On Tuesday, four government departments including the MIIT jointly published a draft standard for a monthlong public consultation. The proposed standard allows for heavier models, more powerful motors, and higher speeds — raising the maximum from 20 to 25 kilometers per hour. The new standard will be compulsory, unlike its predecessor, which had loopholes that could be exploited to sell e-bikes topping out at speeds of 40 kph, the MIIT explained in its announcement Tuesday.
Guo Jianrong, secretary-general of the Shanghai Bike Industry Association, welcomed the changes, telling Sixth Tone that the higher speed cap would help meet drivers’ needs in China’s developing, expanding cities. He also believes the proposed changes will create a comprehensive, effective regulatory system by stepping up supervision and product recalls.
“In the future, e-bikes that don’t meet standards won’t have a chance to enter the market,” Guo said.
The MIIT’s announcement also included accident statistics. More than 56,000 traffic accidents from 2013 to 2017 were caused by e-bikes, resulting in over 8,000 fatalities and 63,000 injuries, and incurring financial losses amounting to 111 million yuan ($17 million).
Electric bicycles have also posed off-road hazards, with 34 e-bike fires over the same time frame resulting in 158 deaths. Just last month, a fire started by e-bikes charging on unsafe wiring killed five and injured eight in Beijing.
The proposed standard will allow manufacturers a one-year grace period to adjust their plans, the MIIT announced. As for e-bike owners whose vehicles fail to meet the new standard, local governments will be tasked with drawing up practical solutions, such as exchange schemes, subsidies, or bulk repurchase at a depreciated price, in accordance with regulations.
Editor: Qian Jinghua.
(Header image: A man rides an e-bike through traffic in Shanghai, Feb. 19, 2014. Wang Chen for Sixth Tone)