The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (opens in new tab) (DVSA) has brought a prosecution against Hi-Confidential Ltd and MATE Bike UK for the supply of electric bikes (opens in new tab) that exceed UK power regulations. The company is required to recall all bikes sold outside the legal limit.
Originating in Copenhagen, and with the rapper Jay-Z as one of its investors, MATE produces three folding models with the MATE X 750W (opens in new tab) using a 750 watt motor to achieve assisted speeds of 32kph or close to 20mph. UK law requires e-bikes to be supplied with motors capable of no more than 250w and a 15.5mph assisted top speed.
According to Cycling Industry News (opens in new tab), after putting the MATE bike on its testing rig, the DVSA confirmed that the bikes were fitted with motors capable of 750 watts, which in turn can achieve speeds that far exceed the UK legal limit. In the UK e-bikes are essentially treated like regular pedal bicycles. However, step beyond the 250w/15.5mph limit and they become an ‘S-pedelec’, falling into a categorisation alongside mopeds, which requires a licence, a specific helmet, insurance, a number plate and more.
MATE’s defence centred solely on intended use; it claims that the MATE X 750W is sold specifically for off-road use on private land only. The DVSA’s responded that it was sold alongside identical bikes, albeit with UK legal 250w motors, and that its advertising sufficiently blurred the lines as to make its intended use unclear.
The MATE website features lifestyle shots showing the bikes in urban settings as well as more rural locations. The DVLA said that it believed that MATE’s advertising “clearly” suggested the bikes could be used on roads.
The judge, presiding over the case at Highbury Magistrates Court on August 31, agreed.
“You were the importer and distributor of power assisted pedal bicycles and you failed to ensure they had type approval,” they said. “Two test purchases were made by the DVSA; they did not conform with the regs for on-road bikes. The bikes could be used on private land but that was not made clear at the point of order and delivery; the risk to road users is now created. I give you credit for your guilty plea.”
“I have seen an email from the Co 15/07/21 which suggests they were well aware of the regs and they cite the exemption in sub-para (g) at 2.2. I do not consider their failure was by accident; whilst there are no aggravating features it could be said to have been committed for financial gain. I take into account the steps I have heard of to remedy the problem.”
By pleading guilty MATE Bike UK were given a criminal conviction and ordered to pay costs and fines totalling £3,864, alongside having to recall all the previously sold e-bikes. The MATE UK website now features a pop-up window that states: MATE X 750W is legal in the UK when ridden on private property (not public road). If in doubt, please check your local regulations.
“This is another great result in our work to keep Britain’s roads safe by taking illegal high-powered electric bikes off the roads, “ said Sadie Clarke, DVSA’s Market Surveillance Investigator. “Type approval standards exist so that vehicles, components, and parts meet the necessary safety and environmental standards before they are sold in the UK.
“DVSA will continue to make sure the growing electric bicycle market is safe for everyone by ensuring they have had their design and construction properly approved.”
This is the second such case in the UK. The first saw the DVSA successfully prosecute Monsterebikes Ltd, who were found guilty of supplying a ‘Falcon’ branded ‘e-bike’ that could achieve speeds of over 70mph.
Ensuring that e-bikes remain categorized alongside regular bicycles is vital to their growth in the UK. Given the DVSA’s ‘two-for-two’ success rate, the consequences for any brand or importer not towing the line now seems clearly defined.
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Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for over twenty years. Across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He fell in love with cycling at an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a passionate follower of bike racing to this day as well an avid road and gravel rider.
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