Are electric bicycles really so terrible? (Update #1)

  • Updated with more photos!
  • Updated with more letters & articles!

TRANSIT has taken note of the Minister of Transport’s recent comments that the Road Transport Department would seek to ban the use of electric bicycles. Ironically, another Minister recently launched EcLiMo electric scooters in Malaysia and directly refuted the Minister of Transport saying that electric vehicles including e-bikes would not be banned in Malaysia!!!!

To make it even more interesting, former Minister of Transport Ong Tee Keat was present at the launching!

The company also talked of plans to sell 40,000 scooters by the end of this year (with a base price of RM10,000 and a battery replacement cost of RM4,500 every 3 years, we wish them luck!)

Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Peter Chin Fah Kui at the unveiling of the Malaysian-made electric two-wheelers in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Image courtesy of the NST.
Eco-friendly bikes: Models unveiling the Eclimo electric scooters at the launch in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday. Image courtesy of The Star.

Our original comment on the topic of the e-bike ban is below:

Govt may ban electric bicycles (The Star, 10 March 2011) – The Ministry of Transport has expressed that they may ban electric bicycles because they are not the same as motorcycles/electric motorcycles and there are safety risks if these bicycles user motorcycle lanes.


The Minister, along with the Director-General of the Road Transport Department together argue that electric bicycles, (classified as bicycles, therefore not requiring licenses, inspections, helmets and insurance) can travel at speeds up to (and even greater than) 40km/h – speeds that are unsafe and can cause injury.

Although it seems from the nature of the comments that this is a ‘trial balloon’ raised by the Minister to gauge public response, the Malaysian government has a history of making decisions based on its own ‘unique’ interests.

As you can see from the letters & articles below, the response to the statement by the Minister has shown that many Malaysians clearly like electric bicycles as an alternative to other forms of private transport and believe that better regulation is the solution, rather than an outright ban.

There is also a follow-up article, Electric bike ban unfair, say riders and producers in The Star on 12 March 2011.

TRANSIT Says:

For a long time we have been intrigued by the concept of electric motorcycles (and electric bicycles) because they provide an alternative form of private transport that:

  • takes up less space;
  • uses less energy, and;
  • cost less to own, operate and maintain;

than traditional petrol powered motorcycles or of course the automobile.

And we are intrigued by the possibilities of using electric motorcycles / electric bicycles to introduce the concept of cycle-hire/bike-sharing into Malaysia, as well as provide a ‘private transport’ alternative to feeder bus services in the areas of LRT stations, shopping malls, university and college campuses, etc. Our post, Can electric motorcycles be an opportunity for better public transport? Yes, says TRANSIT is a reflection of these thoughts.

Now, we know that the Malaysian government hates to deal with anything complicated – and one challenge with regulating electric vehicles is that they do not have ‘engine displacements’ (to calculate road tax) and fuel-consumption readings (to calculate…um…fuel consumption).

What makes things even more complicated is that electric bicycles can basically be divided into 3 categories:

  1. pedal-powered ‘regular’ bicycles with electric ‘motor-assist’;
  2. electric-powered bicycles with pedal-assist;
  3. electric-powered ‘bicycles’ with ‘pedal-assist’ (in case you are wondering, these ‘bicycles’ look and function more like electric scooters, operating at higher speeds (25km/h or over);
An EcLiMo motor-assisted electric bicycle (not electric scooter). Image courtesy of EcLiMo Marketing.

As we have said above, in Malaysia these powered vehicles are all classified as bicycles – which means that licenses, inspections, helmets and insurance are not required.

Classifying all motor-assisted bicycles as motor-vehicles would probably resolve most of the problems since owners would have to pay for insurance, be required to use helmets, and have licenses. However, this could place an inconvenience on many of the users (consider the children & old folks living in places like Pulau Ketam where electric bicycles – of various forms – are used regularly).

Another possibility would be to regulate based on the top speed of the vehicle, but this could be ineffective in that many people would & could later modify the smaller speed ‘bicycles’ to achieve greater speeds than the regulation cut-off.

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4 thoughts on “Are electric bicycles really so terrible? (Update #1)”

  1. It will become very useful/very good after the government able to find a crony company willing to give their officers tonnes of extremely high margin profit by selling low quality electric bicycles with high sky rocketting prices after using the excuse of import duty/tax.

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