According to the highest European Court, an e-bike is not a motorized vehicle. Speed pedelecs and other electric bicycles are, therefore, not covered by compulsory insurance for motor vehicles because they are not driven exclusively by mechanical power. That is what the European Court of Justice states in a judgment in a Belgian case.
The reason for the judgment was an accident in Bruges (Belgium), involving the driver of an electric bicycle, who was seriously injured after being hit by a car and died a few months later. Afterward, a discussion arose between insurers KBC and P&V about whether the e-bike should be considered a ‘vehicle’.
Classification is crucial
This classification is crucial to determine whether the victim was driving a ‘motor vehicle’ or should be considered a ‘vulnerable road user’. In the case of the latter, automatic compensation is claimed.
In its judgment, the European Court explains that the EU directive transposed into Belgian national law does not indicate whether a vehicle or motor vehicle must be propelled exclusively by mechanical power.
The highest European court now determined that an electric bicycle with pedal assistance only starts with muscle power. This distinguishes such a bicycle from motor vehicles, which are only mechanically driven.
The Court points out that means of transport that are not powered exclusively by mechanical power, such as an electric bicycle that can accelerate to a speed of 20 km/hour without pedaling, cannot cause damage or injury in the same way as motorcycles, cars, or trucks can. According to the Court, mandatory motor vehicle insurance does not cover electric bicycles and speed pedelecs.
Civil liability insurance is only requested for bicycles with pedal assistance in Belgium. But third-party motorbike assurance is required if a speed pedelec can move autonomously without pedal assistance at a higher speed than 25 km/hour.
In the Netherlands, e-bikes up to 25 km/hour are considered ‘vulnerable road users’; bikes that obtain higher speeds are considered motorbikes or motorized vehicles.