Electric Vehicle Update
Date: 20/2/2006
(see update at the bottom.

After my first post about electric vehicles for city commuting I sent a letter to the Minister of Transport, John Watkins MP. After many months I finally received a response today, which I will quote in full (I don't have a scanner handy):

Joseph Tripodi
Minister For Roads

The Hon John Watkins MP
Deputy Premier
Minister for Transport
Minister for State Development
Member for Ryde
PO Box 736

Dear Minister

Thank you for your representations to the former Minister for Roads on behalf of Mr Matthew Allen of xx xxxxxx Street, North Ryde concerning the user of motorised foot scooters in NSW.

I am advised that all motorised 'stand-on-to-ride' scooters are banned from use on roads or in road-related areas in NSW, including footpaths.

I am also advised that with their small wheels and steep steering head angle, motorised foot scooters are less stable and controllable that bicycles and, in particular, are more susceptible to road irregularities. Sudden falls sideways into the path of passing cars are more likely than with bicycles. They cannot, therefor, be categorised like bicycles for use on roads.

Motorised foot scooters create significant dangers to their riders, pedestrians, and other road users. The only place that can be legally user in NSW is on private property.

The Australian Road Rules and the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 1998 provides that an auxiliary propulsion motor fitted to a motor assisted pedal cycle can only have a maximum output of 200 watts (200w). The power was deliberately restricted, because the motor was never intended to be the principal source of power, but only to provide assistance to the cyclist when pedalling up a hill.

If Mr Allen requires any more information he may wish to contact Ms Sui, Manager Customer Management, Roads and Traffic Authority on (02) 9218 3583.

Yours Sincerely.
Joe Tripodi

As disappointed as I am I'm not surprised. I disagree with the statement that they are less safe than a bicycle, or that they present more of a risk to pedestrians and other road users than a bicycle does. But that's classic close minded bureaucracy for you. Notice how the issue of pollution and traffic is conveniently swept under the carpet. What politicians don't realize is that the cost of not letting people ride around on scooters may be higher than a few scooter accidents, in the extra smog caused illnesses, depletion of fossil fuels, increased traffic and so on. It's just a small minded "That doesn't fit our model, lets ban it".

It even seems that motorized scooters with less than 200w are banned with some of the language they use in the letter. However there are several avenues that I think have promise.
  1. Building transmissions for 200w scooters that can gear down for hills, and then back up for flats. The power output of a human riding a bicycle is about 150-200 watts on average (which is quite similar to our current limit) and by using extensive gearing they achieve hill climbing ability and high speed. I see no reason why this concept can't be applied to electric scooters. I expect with a little effort and design one could reach 40km/h on the flat.
  2. With petrol motors there are 2 different metrics used to quantify output, power and torque. One can often by increased when the other is fixed. As in WRC rally cars the power output is limited to about 240kw, so the engineers work on maximizing the torque. So maybe this concept can be applied to electric motors, maybe not. I don't know, but it's worth investigating.
  3. If small wheels are the only reason that electric scooters can be discriminated against then lets find out what the minimum wheel size is to overcome that "excuse" and build scooters with that wheel size. If that reason is eliminated we could argue for a higher power rating.
  4. Forget super lightweight electric vehicles and jump up a class, to mopeds that meet ADR's. That way you can put any size motor you like in it. So you can't use bike tracks but your still avoiding the unleaded tax and saving the environment. But I expect this is going to have a much higher cost of entry than electric scooters.
The quest for cheap, non-polluting transport continues...

Update (20/2/2006): It turns out I misunderstood the rules, and the 200w limit applies to powered cycles, and motorized foot scooters of any type are banned. So it's worse than I thought.

I spoke to Ms Sui and she referred me to Chris Peckham (02 9218 6587) at the NSW RTA. We spoke at length about the issue and the reasons behind the rules. There seems to be a Scooter working group that was responsible for the current situation that I'm hoping to find out about over the next few days. Chris sited an unnamed report regarding the unstable nature of the motor foot scooters as being sufficient evidence that they should be illegal despite my protests that they have been legalized in (some parts of) Europe and the US. The core issue seems that the scooters don't have sufficient trailing stability, i.e. if you take your hand off the steering in a car, moped or bicycle the steering self centers and you go in a straight line. I'm not sure why this "hands off" stability is that important as anyone in their right mind keeps their hands firmly on the steering system while in motion anyway.

My personal experience with motor foot scooters is that while it looks unstable, once your up to speed it's self balancing just like a bike, as long as your holding the steering arm. But personal experience seems to hold little weight against "official reports".

When we spoke about the general availability of pure electric vehicles in Australia Chris pointed to the number of electric bicycles limited to 200w, which in my mind is not pure electric but instead hybrid human / electric powered. And also does not have the important benefit of being able to easily combine with public transport. You might get an e-bike on a train but definitely not a bus. And you'd be up for an extra fare on a train anyway. Not so with a electric foot scooter, which would leverage the existing public transport system nicely, while still maintaining the important benefits of full electric transport. Including not having to have a shower at your destination because of all the sweat you'd work up on an e-bike.

Currently I'm looking at getting a proper registered scooter, although it's painful to do so seeing as an electric foot scooter is far cheaper and more appropriate for the distance and terrain I need to commute over. I will continue to poke and prod the government for information about the situation, hopefully at least raising the awareness of how the current laws are not what everyone wants. Ideally I'd like to unearth the real decision makers in the government so that we can lobby effectively as a community for change.
Public Private
30/11/2005 5:55am
Yes limits of 1 third HP or 1 man power (old 1900's spec mostly assoiciated with steam) is going 2 hold us back , my scoot has 10 inch wheels and rides more like a sk8brd never had a handleing issue with it cept for the hopless turning circle and it is heavy all those batt's ill conyinue riding my illeagal unregisterd machine cause its to much fun.As for the rally cars I think we will learn more from Top Fuel dragsters as they are most like EV's in there power and transmission types.
06/07/2006 1:42am
I Have the same feelings on this matter as yourself:I own an electric scooter and no longer use it because of the ban.However i wish to purchase a petrol/electric pedal assisted moped,but have found no dealers in motorbikes stock them in australia why is this i don:t know.They are sometimes seen on EBAY,however these are mostly old 1950, 1960 models mostly in other states other than SYDNEY.And i wish to buy a rather newer model ,can some one tell me why mopeds arn,t populer in australia they are very much so in other countries like europe and america but not here .PLEASE HELP ME. My email address is greg I Wouldbe most greatfull for any comment .THANKS GREG.
06/07/2006 2:32am
I have given up fighting with the RTA over this and went and got my riders license, and when the car sells I'll buy a registerable scooter that I can ride wherever. The RTA won't be able to ban them forever, I expect that some years from now the pressure from the public to provide cheap short range urban transport will build to a point where change happens. Or at least I hope so.

As for finding such a vehicle I can't help much. You'd need a licence anyway which might defeat your purpose. All I'd do is set up a fravorite search in ebay and sit and wait.
Andy Dent
02/01/2007 3:09am
I think you are vastly under-estimating the danger of stand-on scooters and their ability to suffer wheel deflection from road irregularities, with horrible consequences in traffic.

Why not lobby the manufacturers for more stable designs so negotiations could start again!
02/01/2007 4:24am
I actually wanted to ride an electric scooter on a bike path, made of very flat concrete. Completely safe, very environmentally friendly and very expensive if you get caught.
20/01/2007 11:12am
Lets face it everyone in electric scooter world. as long as the "government" has profit in selling oil related products then there is no way they will give the ok for electric vehicles of eny sort. Have you not seen (Who killed the electric car)
It explains our hopeless fight for cleaner air......
Only when its to late will this change.
10/03/2007 4:18am
Interesting to read the comments. I'm a Viet vet and have to use crutches to walk. These are killng my elbow and wrist joints and I have been looking for an alternative way to get around

I was just about to buy an electric scooter last year when the WA government changed the regs to make the use of any powered vehicle (other than road registered vehicles)illegal except on private property. The only exception is a bicycle with peddles which can have a electric or petrol motor

For me an electric scooter was perfect espacially the new Go 2000X which weighs a measly 8.8 kilos. Fold it up, throw it in the boot and down to the bike paths at the beach, river, city wherever. Do the cafe strip and leave it outside on the bike rack. I'm going to Italy this year and could have taken it with me to get around Venice

I've asked the Transport Commission if I could get an exception and got the proverbial "in your dreams". I understand one of the principal reasons for banning the scooters is to get rid of the mini super bikes that all the kids have been using on the footpaths and suburban roads. Strikes me as a bit of an overkill! and anyway why not allow exceptions for the disabled or those unable to drive cars

I'm so incensed about the bureaucratic nonsense of it all that I'm going to defy the regs and see what happens - I'll mount a press campaign when they fine me

Anybody know how I can get one of the 2000Xs into Australia - without having to fly to the US???
26/03/2007 8:25am
Getting a 2000X - have you tried asking the US-based sellers ship it over to you?

What studies have been used to support the 200W limit?
Brian Strempel
26/03/2007 10:59am
Unfortunately the US manufacturers don't ship outside mainland USA which is not unusual for a lot of American firms

Even if they did Australian Customs (which enforce the product specs for imports) may refuse access to the shipped item

The US firm has told me they have a French agent so I may be able to pickup a scooter in France or have them ship me one to Italy when I get there

Then the fun will be getting it home!

I don't know about the studies supporting the 200kw limit but I would guess the bureaucrats were aiming at simply speed capacity

I have written to the WA Minister responsible for these vehicle regs and the Minister for Disability Services. The latter has responded positively but that's from a narrow view and doesn't cover the wider issues of environment (especially air pollution), traffic congestion and inner suburb commuting

But then who says politicians are ever at the cutting edge .....

27/02/2009 8:42pm
Yeah I never understood what the big deal was. Been selling these for many years on our site, and actually heard of many people getting fined on bikeways, hmmm...
04/03/2009 8:04am
I totally agree with idea of using small electric vehicles (not petrol powered variants as they are noisy and polluting) such as e-foot scooters, e-skateboards, etc as a means of inexpensive and clean transportation.

It frustrates me how the government doesn't pay much attention to positive environmental and individual financial factors related to these e-transportation options, or, even worse, if the government really is deliberately banning the use of these transportation options as a means to gain taxation from petrol/oil. Extremely infuriating.

I would gladly participate, along with family and friends, should anyone decide to form a petition against the ban.

Pop me an email when that petition happens.
Email (optional): (Will be HTML encoded to evade harvesting)
Remember username and/or email in a cookie.
Notify me of new posts in this thread via email.