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Veronika Odrobinová | November 7, 2023

Is an electric bicycle a motor vehicle?

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On 12 October 2023, a decision dealing with an agelong question was published in the Collection of judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union under Case number C-286/22, the question being: Is an electric bicycle a motor vehicle?

Why did the CJEU decide on this issue

A cyclist on an e-bike was hit by a car while riding around Brugge. The cyclist was seriously injured in the accident and died of his injuries after several months in hospital. In addressing the issue of compensation, the Belgian courts also came the question of whether an electric bicycle is a motor vehicle in the sense of Directive 2009/103/EC. If it were, this would mean that it would have to have its own compulsory insurance, without which the cyclist would not be entitled to full compensation.

How did the court rule

Before the decision itself, the court noted important facts that influenced the decision. The e-bike on which the cyclist was riding was only partially powered by the motor, and “pedalling” was required to activate the motor. Moreover, the motor of the e-bike was only able to move the bike up to a speed of 20 km/h, and only while pedalling.

Taking into account the purpose of Directive 2009/103/EC, which is to protect the victims of traffic accidents, the court ruled that an electric bicycle, which does not rely entirely on the power of its engine, is not capable of causing the same level of damage as a car or motorcycle, and is therefore not a motor vehicle for the purposes of the Directive – it is therefore not subject to compulsory insurance.

Author: Veronika Odrobinová, Petr Pešek