China tightens controls over lead-battery powered e-bikes

HONG KONG Tue May 31, 2011 4:16am EDT

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China plans to phase out battery-powered electric-bicycles (e-bikes) that exceed speed and weight limits published 12 years ago, a move that could force small manufacturing plants to close and cut demand for lead in the world's top consumer of the metal.

A statement posted on Tuesday on the Ministry of Industry and information Technology website requires local governments, police, regional industry and commerce offices to tighten management of e-bike manufacturing plants and use by e-bikers. (www.miit.gov.cn)

China's Standardization Administration drafted new standards for e-bikes in late 2009 but later backed down after the updated requirements stirred widespread fears that more than 2,000 e-bike factories would close, affecting millions of users.

The statement on Tuesday urges local authorities to use the existing e-bike standards that were published in 1999 to regulate the manufacture and use of e-bikes.

Under those requirements, e-bikes can weigh no more than 40 kg and cannot go faster than 20 km (12.4 miles) per hour.

However, the bulk of the estimated 120 million e-bikes in China have designed capacity of 30-40 kph and typically carry four batteries, which by themselves weigh at least 16-28 kg.

Factories whose products do not meet the standards would be asked to close, while owners of e-bikes would generally be asked to stop using e-bikes that do not meet the standards.

The statement did not provide a timeframe for phasing out the existing e-bikes or for plant closures but said local authorities could set their own deadlines. It also did not say how it would enforce the phase-out or what penalties, if any, would be imposed on those who continue to use the sub-standard bikes.

The timeframe could affect whether manufacturing plants have enough time to adjust their production of e-bikes or whether they would have to shut down.

The statement also requires users to obtain licenses, while e-bikers until now have not been subject to any licenses, including a driver's license.

Batteries for e-bikes accounted for about 20 percent of China's 3.7 million tonnes of refined lead consumption in 2010 with annual production of more than 17 million e-bikes, according to state-backed research firm Antaike.

To see the full statement: here

(Reporting by Polly Yam; Editing by Ken Wills)