PLEVs: clarity at last?

Category: product safety Industry: consumer goods, mobility Author: Year:

PLEV Ordinance

Germany, like other European countries, will soon be allowing personal light electric vehicles (PLEVs) like e-scooters onto public roads. But the details of the proposed Ordinance on Personal Light Electric Vehicles (the PLEV Ordinance) are still in dispute. A first draft of the Ordinance was published in July 2018. Under this draft, a motorcycle test certificate would be required to operate PLEVs and PLEVs would have to be equipped with turn signals.


The draft has been criticized, particularly by companies trying to break into the market. A few details have been changed in the current draft. The Ordinance now provides for a minimum age of 12 (for vehicles with a maximum speed of 12 km/h) or 14 (for vehicles with a maximum speed of 20 km/h) to operate a PLEV. The turn signal requirement has also been watered down. The duty to obtain liability insurance coverage remains in the Ordinance.

Another question which has sparked debate is the question of where PLEVs may be operated in the future. The current draft of the Ordinance states that, in urban areas, vehicles with a maximum speed of 12 km/h may be operated e.g. on walkways and in pedestrian zones. This provision has drawn criticism from the German Road Safety Council and Deutsche Verkehrswacht, a German road safety association. Both organizations also call for mandatory motorcycle test certificates for operators of PLEVs. 

Their concerns about allowing vehicles with a maximum speed of less than 12 km/h in walkways and pedestrian zones are shared by the relevant Committees of the Bundesrat [Federal Council]. On 3 May 2019, they proposed a resolution which would strike these provisions from the Ordinance. As grounds, they cite the safety risk and the risk of conflict with other traffic participants.

In order to better account for local conditions, the Committees recommend inserting a clause allowing the road traffic authorities to prohibit the use of PLEVs in local areas where they would otherwise be permitted. They also recommend leaving the minimum age for operating PLEVs at 15, as originally intended, due to the similarity of PLEVs to motorcycles. However, they have not called for restoring the test certificate requirement.

The topics mentioned above were discussed in a public hearing held by Federal Parliament on 8 May 2019 concerning a motion presented by the FDP (the Free Democratic Party) regarding e-scooters and hoverboards. At the hearing, some experts also expressed safety concerns regarding the use of PLEVs on walkways. The federal government stressed that it is willing to compromise on this issue.

What will the future bring for PLEVs?

In view of the broad consensus concerning the use of PLEVs in walkways, it appears likely that the Federal Council will accept the recommendations. As far as other points are concerned, such as the minimum age for operating PLEVs and the duty to obtain insurance, we can only await the resolution. It also should be kept in mind that the Ordinance is to apply only for vehicles with handlebars. A separate Ordinance is planned for vehicles such as hoverboards, according to the Federal Transportation Minister.

While it is common for Ordinances to undergo changes on their way towards final adoption, the extent of the uncertainty is particularly pronounced in the case of the PLEV Ordinance. This lack of clarity makes it substantially more difficult for affected companies to make preparations for entering the market. Accordingly, they would be well-advised to closely monitor developments.

[May 2019]