Starting from November, and in line with recent amendments to the Compulsory Automobile Liability Insurance Act (強制汽車責任保險法), electric bicycles (e-bikes) and other small electric two-wheeled vehicles must be licensed with mounted license plates before they can be ridden on the road.
This change should resolve some existing problems, such as the difficulty that e-bike owners have faced in receiving help to find their bikes if they are stolen, and the difficulty that road users have in holding anyone accountable when an accident occurs. It would also allow the more than 600,000 e-bikes that are currently being ridden on Taiwan’s roads to escape from their uncertain legal status and find their own niche in the system.
However, making e-bikes carry license plates is only the first step in solving a host of problems. Authorities still have their work cut out to ensure that e-bikes can be safely ridden on the roads, while also protecting the safety of all road users.
The “safety type approval management regulations for electrically power-assisted cycles and electric bicycles” (電動輔助自行車及電動自行車型式安全審驗管理辦法) stipulate that on its way from the factory to the road, an e-bike has to go through inspection, examination, reinspection, checking, random inspection and receiving a conformity certification sticker, plus the new procedure of licensing and issuance of a license plate, which involves a further check as to whether the previous procedure had been followed. As such, there should be no worries about the safety of e-bikes that are newly licensed from November onward.
However, what about the more than 600,000 e-bikes that are already on the road? Very few e-bikes on the market were made in Taiwan from start to finish — just as not many compressors used in Taiwan are made in Japan. The vast majority of e-bikes are assembled in Taiwan using components imported from China. Unscrupulous manufacturers have ways of getting around the complicated and intricate safety inspection and management procedures.
After assembling their products, they can either forge the conformity seal with its “lightning bolt” logo and the accompanying license plate, or buy fake ones online and then proceed to put their e-bikes on the market. What started out as an open secret in the e-bike business has since been exposed by amateur sleuths posting on the Internet.
Following a joint investigation by local governments, this matter has become an important issue that authorities must confront.
This issue is a test for the authorities as to how they should implement the consistency of production of e-bikes on the market, and highlights the importance of vehicle safety type approval. How can the authorities ensure the safety of e-bikes that have not gone through the legally required procedure? How can they implement a supplementary inspection and test program for e-bikes that are already on the road? Would it be legal to certify existing bikes on the spot, or should they all be recalled and retested before being licensed?
All of these questions should put the wisdom of transport authorities to the test. Furthermore, the new system is scheduled to be launched in less than two months, but the procedures have not been determined. This situation reveals the lax management of transport authorities and a serious lack of respect for the new system.
Wang Kuan-hsiang is secretary-general of the Taiwan Vehicle Industry Association.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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