A file photo shows two people riding on an electric bicycle in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, on April 2. Photo: CFP
By Song Shengxia
Despite widespread objections from consumers and manufacturers, the State Standardization Authority said Thursday that it will proceed with a new regulation limiting the weight and speed of electric bikes.
The new rule, scheduled to take effect January 1, will mean that a majority of the country's nearly 120 million electric bikes will be banned from public roads if their owners do not get a license to operate motor vehicles.
Also, a large number of small and medium-sized manufacturers say they will go bankrupt, as they won't be big enough to qualify for producing the mainstream electric bikes, under the new industry standard.
The Chengdu Electric Bicycle Association filed a petition with state authorities Thursday asking to suspend the new regulations, two days after the national bicycle association made a similar plea. Other local bicycle associations have also been taking action.
A female staff member surnamed Chen at the Office of Standardization Administration of China told the Global Times Thursday that the office has no intention of altering the new regulations in the near future.
The office hasn't publicly said why it issued the new standard.
The current electric-bicycle regulations, enacted in 1999, stipulate that electric bicycles should run no faster than 20 kilometers per hour and weigh no more than 40 kilograms.
The new regulations add that bikes exceeding those weight and speed marks will be categorized as motorcycles, which will only be allowed to run on public roads after the cyclists obtain a license, license plate and insurance.
Among the millions of electric bicycles in China, about 90 percent of them are believed to exceed the standards and will be deemed motorcycles.
But as of the first of the year, many cyclists will face a tough decision: abandon their electric bikes, pay the hefty fee for a license, insurance and registration, or risk getting caught and paying even bigger fines.
In many cities across the country, it will cost a motorcycle owner at least 600 yuan for the driving license, plate, insurance and relative fees.
The new rule also means that US President Barack Obama won't be able to ride his new Flying Pigeon electric bicycle in China. The bike, given as a gift by the state science and technology authorities during his visit to China last month, is one of the 11 types of electric bikes said by the Beijing Consumers' Association to exceed the speed and weight standard, according to the association's report on 28 sample bikes.
Gao Feng, an official with the Haidian Traffic Squad in Beijing, told the Global Times that the speed limit on electric bicycles should be even stricter, as accidents caused by electric bicycles have risen annually.
"Casualties caused by electric-bicycle accidents were unheard of before. But now, electric-bicycle accidents claim more and more lives," he said.
But Gao warned that the new motorcycle regulations are a bit ambiguous because more electric bicycles being labeled as motorcycles under the new rules, which forces the bikes to compete with cars on busy roads rather than be ridden in bicycle lanes.
According to official traffic statistics in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, for the first 10 months of the year, 110 people died from electric-bicycle-related accidents, accounting for 17.9 percent of the total casualties caused by traffic crashes.
Electric-bicycle companies across China haven't been quiet about their resentment over the new standards, believing they are a move by the motorcycle industry to strangle the electric-bicycle industry.
"The regulations will deprive the electric-bicycle industry of the chance for innovation and further growth," Lu Jinlong, vice director of the China Bicycle Association, told the Southern Weekend Thursday.
Ding Yunfei, executive of the Chengdu Yishunli Motorbike Co., told the Global Times Thursday that the standard will force his company to lay off hundreds of workers and go bankrupt.
Western China areas are hilly and the local conditions require faster speeds and more weight, he said.
Hong Min, sales manager of the Hangzhou Yongli Motorcycle Co., agreed with Ding, saying the standard reflects the motorcycle industry's goal of consuming the electric-bicycle industry. His company's main business is electric bicycles.
Electric bikes have been eating away at the market for traditional gas-powered-motorcycles, which have been banned in many cities for years.
No timetable has been announced for the issuance of new licenses for electric bicycles deemed motorcycles.
"The standard can't fully reflect the voices of bicycle companies and the general public," Hong said, questioning how the draft was formulated.
"The worst result is that we have to give up our bicycle business," he said, declining to unveil likely economic losses.
There are 2,394 electric-bicycle makers in China, among which more than 100 are motorcycle makers. If the new regulations take effect, many electric-bicycle manufacturers must convert to motorcycle businesses.
Under Chinese law, motorcycle manufacturers need a total investment of 200 million yuan and registered capital of 80 million yuan.
As a result, more than 2,000 electric-bicycle enterprises are expected to become "black" manufacturers and be forced out of the market.
Guo Qiang and Liang Chen contributed to this story
Explore the World, Understand China!
Please log on www.gloaltimes.cn