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Dramatic developments in China's electric bicycle industry


China, with over 100 million e-bikes on the road, will as of January 1st, 2010 classify e-bikes which can travel more than 20 km/h and weight more than 40 kg as motor vehicles. 

The planned mandate requires that such motor vehicles be licensed, registered and insured. This will certainly effect most e-bike riders as it is believed that more than 80% of e-bikes are faster than 20 km/h and weigh more than 40 kg. Very few citizens actually have proper license and insurance as it can be very difficult and costly.
Additionally, it is unclear how this plan will effect the thousands of factories which produce millions of e-bikes every year. China claims that the new regulation will improve safety, but many people believe that the law is designed to squeeze out the electric bike manufactures and force e-bikers toward cars and motorcycles. 

The law requires electric-motorcycle manufactures to have at least 200 million yuan ($29 million) in total investment -a high barrier of entry for the many electric bicycle manufactures which employ millions of workers. These factories will be instanly lost as it is impossible for them acquire the funding and retool in such a short period of time. 

On the other hand, the regulation could be a benefit to the electric bicycle community as this will increase the production of light-weight e-bikes driving down the price. It is not difficult to make an electric bicycle to meet the weight limitation of 40 kg if the frame is made of aluminum rather than steel and a Lithium battery is used in place of Lead Acid.

In the United States, electric bicycles which can reach no higher than 32 km/h (20mph) are classified as bicycles and do not need registration or insurance. There is no stated weight restriction. In most of Europe, the maximum speed for electric bicycle 25kph (15.5mph). Cycles which can move beyond this speed require insurance and registration. (english translation)