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Electric-assist bicycles (pedelecs) are becoming increasingly popular in Germany. According to the German two-wheeler industry association Zweirad-Industrie-Verband (ZIV), around 200,000 were sold in 2010, and the association expects 300,000 to be sold in 2011.
The percentage of sales accounted for high-speed pedelecs is now in the upper single-digit range. The market for retrofit kits is also growing, according to the ZIV. 10,000 of these were sold in 2010. Around 10 % of these sales were for high-speed pedelecs. This trend also brings with it dangers, however. In order to be able to better assess these new vehicles and identify possible threats to safety, the UDV (German Insurers Accident Research) commissioned DEKRA to carry out extensive investigations. These consisted of analyzing construction regulations, operational safety and riding and crash tests. The investigations focused on highspeed pedelecs, where pedaling is assisted by motor input up to a speed of 45 km/h.
The combination of higher speeds and higher mileage means it is likely that there will be more accidents involving these vehicles in the future. Since pedelec riders are unprotected, the consequences of these accidents will be serious. It is important to explain the situation to road users and inform them about the new risks. In addition, the general legal position regarding pedelecs must quickly be clarified. This has a direct influence on the design of these vehicles. From a safety-related perspective, pedelecs should not be just bicycles with a battery and a motor. Instead, the increased forces to which riders are subjected and more extreme operating conditions mean that separate developments and technical solutions are required. Consequently, a very critical view should be taken of retrofitting conventional bicycles to convert them to pedelecs.
The crash test films can be seen at www.youtube.com/unfallforschung