Electric bike industry growing fast, drives lead demand
Faster, heavier e-bikes classed as motorbikes
Motorcyclists need costly driving licences, insurance
By Polly Yam
HONG KONG, Dec 7 (Reuters) - China has restated its standards for classifying electric bicycles, raising fears that the rapidly expanding industry, which drives demand for lead in the world's top consumer of the metal, could be hit hard.
China has classified e-bikes that weigh over 40 kg or can go faster than 20 km (12.4 miles) per hour as electric motorbikes, a document posted on Sunday on the Standardisation Administration website said, restating 10-year old standards. (www.sac.gov.cn)
In China, motorcyclists must get driving licences and insurance, while e-bikers until now have not been subject to these costly requirements.
"The development of the industry will be limited," said a sales manager at a large e-bike battery maker in Zhejiang province. "(The standards) do not meet consumers' requirements."
He said many e-bikes had designed capacity of 30 kph. The bikes usually carried 4 batteries, which already weighed 16-28 kg.
China's produced about 21 million e-bikes in 2008 and 20 million units in 2007, figures from the China Bicycles Association show. Monthly production stood at about 1.75 million units on average based on last year's output.
That monthly figure is bigger than the October output of 681,400 units released by the National Bureau of Statistics, which began issuing e-bike production figures this year.
In the first 10 months, output was 9.2 percent up, year-on-year, at 5.92 million units.
It was unclear what accounts for the difference between the two sets of figures.
China has about 120 million e-bikes currently, according to a Chinese language report on caijing.com.cn.
Electric bike makers said most bikes already weighed more than 40 kg and could go faster than 20 kph. The new rules would hit their business badly as they expected demand to fall, state-owned CCTV.com said in an English report on Sunday.
Falling demand for e-bikes could reduce China's demand for lead. In China, batteries for e-bikes normally use about 3-7 kg of lead, depending on recharging time.