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February 13, 2024

Taming the "Wild Wild West" of E-Bikes

Illegally ridden e-bikes and mopeds face roadside power tests in the Netherlands, licensing requirements in California, and literal crushing in the UK.


By Tyson Roehrkasse

Welcome to the Micromobility Newsletter, your weekly digest of important events and industry news in the world of personal transportation.


What You Need to Know Today

Larger vehicles are more deadly to pedestrians, with more and more studies are confirming just how deadly SUVs and trucks are. A study in the Economics of Transportation journal demonstrated that a 10 cm (4 in) increase in front-end vehicle height translates to a whopping 22% increase in pedestrian fatality risk.

This draws more attention the problematic dependency on large vehicles in the US, where tens of thousands of miles of roadway guardrails are designed for vehicles of up to 5,000 lbs (2,270 kg). That’s especially bad news for large EVs which often weigh in excess of 7,000 lbs (3,175 kg). 

Indian two-wheeler startup River has raised $40M USD in a Series B funding round led by Yamaha. Their flagship product, the Indie, is called “the SUV of mopeds” and offers larger wheels and more storage space than most other mopeds currently on the market.

Malta is struggling with the problem of car dependency, with shared mobility providers ceasing operations ahead of a government ban on rental scooters which takes effect on March 1st. Dr Suzanne Maas from Friends of the Earth Malta believes the problems with shared mobility services amounted to a lack of infrastructure, and a lack of political will to build it.

Electric bike licenses are on the horizon in California. A new bill would mandate a minimum rider age of 12 years, plus basic licensing requirements for all riders who lack a vehicle driver’s license.

The Netherlands have seen a rise in modified e-bikes that exceed the legal power limit of 250 watts, and police are cracking down with portable chassis dynos used for roadside testing. This comes after the country saw its highest numbers ever for fatal bicycle accidents in 2022.

Crackdowns also escalate in New York City as officials shut down yet another e-scooter shop in Queens, citing 31 violations including rebuilding lithium-ion battery packs into illegal “Frankenstein batteries”. NYC has banned the sale of non-UL certified batteries, and governor Kathy Hochul plans to propose a similar state-wide ban.

Perhaps the most extreme enforcement is coming from the UK where Hampshire officials have launched Operation Crush, empowering law enforcement to confiscate and literally crush illegally operated e-bikes and mopeds. Says Inspector Andy Tester: 

“… We will always try and engage with people first and educate them about the laws around these vehicles. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to listen to us and refuse to heed our warnings. So, we realised we needed to deploy tougher tactics for those persistent offenders and looked at how we can use existing legislation to offer more of a deterrence.”

Ola Electric was the first two-wheeler manufacturer to become eligible for India’s PLI incentive scheme, and now they have certified a second model, the S1 Pro. This makes it eligible for government subsidies for the next five years, with amounts ranging between 13% and 18% of determined sale value.

Instead of subsidizing electric car purchases, should cities be helping residents pay for shared mobility services instead? The leader of Oslo’s public transit agency believes so. 

Apple Maps has expanded support for cycling directions to Sweden and Switzerland. Already available in many other countries, this feature enables turn-by-turn directions and prioritizes bike paths and roads with proper cycling infrastructure.

Looking to raise funds for the next big thing in European transportation? A new report by Via ID and Dealroom reveals the top investors in European mobility startups, with EIT Urban Mobility leading the pack in terms of number of rounds.


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