The PLEV Ordinance

PLEVs: Cla­ri­ty at Last?

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 [the 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 the 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.

Adop­ti­on by the Fede­ral Coun­cil on 17 May 2019

As expec­ted, the Fede­ral Coun­cil adopted a reso­lu­ti­on appro­ving the Ordi­nan­ce on Per­so­nal Light Elec­tric Vehic­les (the PLEV Ordi­nan­ce) on 17 May 2019, sub­ject to the con­di­ti­on that use of PLEVs should be rest­ric­ted to bicy­cle paths. Howe­ver, the reso­lu­ti­on also cal­led for a mini­mum age of 14 years in order to ope­ra­te a PLEV. Rai­sing the mini­mum age to 14 would mean aban­do­ning the pro­po­sal to intro­du­ce two dif­fe­rent cate­go­ries of PLEVs, each with dif­fe­rent maxi­mum design speeds. This would exclude some of the user groups tar­ge­ted by the com­pa­nies see­king to enter the mar­ket. No chan­ges were made to the duty to obtain insu­rance, so that PLEV ope­ra­tors would still be obli­ga­ted to obtain appro­pria­te lia­bi­li­ty insu­rance coverage.

The Fede­ral Cabi­net adopted the revi­sed Ordi­nan­ce on Per­so­nal Light Elec­tric Vehic­les with Hand­le­bars on 22 May 2019 and the Ordi­nan­ce will take effect on 15 June 2019. Ques­ti­ons and ans­wers con­cer­ning the Ordinance.

In its atta­ched reso­lu­ti­on, the Fede­ral Coun­cil also made state­ments about the pro­po­sal for a sepa­ra­te Ordi­nan­ce cove­ring per­so­nal light elec­tric vehic­les wit­hout hand­le­bars. The Fede­ral Council’s reso­lu­ti­on sta­tes that “a stu­dy on per­so­nal light elec­tric vehic­les published by the Fede­ral High­way Rese­arch Insti­tu­te in 2018 recom­mends that only per­so­nal light elec­tric vehic­les with a hand­le­bar should be allo­wed onto public roads in order to ensu­re a mini­mum level of safe­ty.” For this reason, the Fede­ral Coun­cil rejects the idea of a sepa­ra­te Ordi­nan­ce for such vehic­les. Howe­ver, it should be kept in mind that the Fede­ral Minis­try of Trans­por­ta­ti­on its­elf has poin­ted out that the pro­po­sed Ordi­nan­ce for PLEVs wit­hout hand­le­bars would not requi­re the appr­oval of the Fede­ral Coun­cil. It remains to be seen what future deve­lo­p­ments will bring with respect to this Ordinance.


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