1. What Is a Personal Light Electric Vehicle (PLEV)?
A Personal Light Electric Vehicle is typically an electric vehicle with 2 to 4 wheels, powered by a battery, fuel cell, or hybrid-powered. They generally weigh less than 100kg and some examples are electric bicycles, electric kick scooters, electric skateboards and Unicycles. Although some are purely for leisure, most PLEV’s are designed as an aid for the “last mile” of a journey or city commuters.
2. Laws surrounding PLEV’s in the UK
PLEV’s are currently not permitted for road use, in cycle lanes or on pavement in the UK with the exception of electrically assisted pedal bicycles (EAPC’s) that meet certain criteria i.e. must have pedals for propulsion, the manufacturer or power output of the motor visible, the battery’s voltage or speed off the bike displayed, must have a maximum power output of 250 watts, should not be able to propel the bike when its travelling more than 15.5mph and 2 or more wheels. However, many modern PLEV’s are far safer than electric bicycles as they have indicators, front, rear and brake lights as well as reflective strips, electric horns, wing mirrors, speedometers and high-quality brakes as standard. They can also be electronically restricted to the maximum speed whereas a pedal bike can easily achieve speeds in excess of 20mph when ridden manually. That fact that they have “fixed pedals” and are therefore not propelled manually seems to be the regulatory tipping factor even when all other criteria is met and surpassed. It can be argued that an electric scooter can also able to be ridden completely manually by pushing like a standard kick scooter.
The law restricting their use on pavements dates back to 1835 Highway Act and outlines the prohibition of any carriage, Horse, Ass, Sheep, Mule, Swine, or Cattle on a pavement. This law is extremely outdated when the types of vehicle are compared from 1835 to now.
3. European Laws for PLEV’s
Electric Scooters were rigorously trialled in California over the past couple of years and they proved so popular, a rental infrastructure has been developed, similar to “Borris Bikes”. Due to their success in reducing carbon emissions and city congestion along with their increase to levels of commuter enjoyment (which is linked to happiness and productivity), mainland European countries are rapidly updating their PLEV laws.
In France a PLEV can go up to 25km/hour in a cycle lane, while Austria, France, Finland, Netherlands and Switzerland additionally extend this to road use. In France and Germany a PLEV can also go up to 6km/hour on the pavement, similar to a mobility scooter.
4. Main Benefits of PLEV’s and why the UK Laws should be updated
Some of the major benefits offered by certain PLEV’s are as follows:
- Significantly Reducing Carbon Emissions compared to diesel/petrol cars or most public transport
- Far more compact than a car so much less congestion on the streets
- Powered by renewable energy so cheaper to run and better for the environment
- They can be charged from a 240V socket so less infrastructure costs required than other larger, electric vehicles
- Potential to enhance commuter enjoyment significantly which is linked to productivity.
- Can be built specifically to meet regulations
From the above list and the previous paragraphs, it is hard to see the downside of a regulated introduction of PLEV’s onto our streets/ cycle lanes and potentially pavements. They reduce emissions which will significantly aid the government in its “Road to Zero” strategy immediately. They are compact and lightweight so the levels of congestion in cities will drastically reduce as proved in California and more recently mainland Europe. This will also lessen the impact of vehicles on our roads so there will be less maintenance required, saving more money. From our experience and research people that currently use public transport are the least content with their commute, down to congestion, expense and cancelled/late services mainly. The PLEV’s will target all of these negatives in a positive way i.e. decrease congestion, save the commuter money within a matter of months generally and allow the rider the freedom to travel at a time that suits them. I believe that at the very least the PLEV’s should be considered for cycle lanes and pavements under similar regulations as Europe are enforcing.
Petrol and Diesel supplies will eventually run out, not to mention the impact that their combustion has on the environment. It is time to evolve into the renewable energy markets and pioneer rather than follow, As Mrs May stated, “leading from the front”.
To try and clarify the UK regulation specifically for PLEV’s we wrote to the Department of Transport and received the following response 06.12.18:
“The Government is committed to ensuring the safety of all road users, and as a result the UK has one of the best road safety records in the world. Requiring vehicles to comply with construction requirements, and putting appropriate restrictions on where they can be used, is an important part of maintaining the UK’s good road safety record. For pedestrians, particularly disabled people, unobstructed access to the pavement is a key part of enabling them to move around freely and independently.
As set out within the powered transporters information sheet, the Department does not believe that personal powered transporters can meet the current requirements for vehicles for use on the road. The Highway Act 1835 continues to prohibit the use of ‘carriages’ on pavements for this reason. ‘Carriage’ refers to all vehicles, including pedal cycles and powered transporters, which means that they cannot be used on pavements. In addition, powered transporters are also not permitted to use cycle facilities such as tracks or lanes. These are defined in law as being reserved for pedal cycles, including electrically assisted pedal cycles that meet the relevant legislation.
Wheelchairs and mobility scooters (defined as ‘invalid carriages’ in law) are permitted to use the pavement through specific legislation, which also sets rules on their use. For example, mobility scooters are limited to a maximum speed of 4mph on the pavement and 8mph on the road. Further guidance on invalid carriages can be found on GOV.UK.
This does not mean that we wish to prohibit the introduction of new technologies, such as powered transporters, by default. The Government recognises the essential role that new technologies, transport solutions, and business models will play in helping to resolve transport issues such as increasing congestion and pollution.
I’m sure you will be pleased to know that the Government is reviewing a wide range of transport law as part of the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge, announced in the Industrial Strategy in November 2017. The aim is to establish a flexible regulatory framework to encourage new transport modes and business models, by undertaking a thorough review of all relevant legislation. The scope of this regulatory review will be informed by the responses to the Future of Mobility Call for Evidence, which closed on 10 September 2018.
We are currently analysing these responses, and will be announcing the priorities for the regulatory review alongside the Future of Urban Mobility Strategy, in early 2019. For further information on the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/industrial-strategy-the-grand-challenges/industrial-strategy-the-grand-challenges.”
The above response from the Department of Transport takes an official standpoint regarding current law as would be expected. However, the latter part of the email does show an openness to evolution and change which is very encouraging for the not too distant future!