Japanese government reacts to Chinese high-speed ebikes

Timpo

Well-Known Member
Here are some of the information I gathered, I'm not overly familiar with what's going on in Japan, so if anyone has any correction, please feel free to correct me.

Just recently, in the last year or so, Bafang powered ebikes have been suddenly popping up all over Japan. Believe it or not, although Bafang is popular in the U.S., not so (until very recently) in Japan, as Japanese ebike market have always been dominated by Bridgestone, Panasonic and Yamaha.
With Covid-19 pandemic, throttle activated, Bafang high-speed ebikes have been gaining sudden popularity and they have especially been popular with Uber Eats riders.

Unlike Japanese ebikes (restricted to 15mph/250W, no throttle permitted), Chinese ebikes are much faster, more powerful, and come with "Class 3 mode" or "Off Road Mode" with a throttle like a motorcycle.

Here are some of the ebikes that's gaining popularity in Japan.
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写真


This caught Japanese regulators' eyes, and so called "Class 3 mode" or "Off road mode" buttons didn't sit well with Japanese regulators, so they acted pretty quickly.
To make a long story short, as of July 2nd 2021, they now have retractable ebike license plate, with a mechanism to restrict performance when license plate is closed.
(You do not need this retractable license plate if your ebike is permanently locked to 250W/15mph like any other Japanese ebikes)

If license plate is retracted, it has a mechanism to restrict it to 15mph/250W, throttle will be deactivated. (making it an ebike by Japanese definition)
While the license plate is retracted (ebike mode) the rider is permitted to ride on bike lanes, bike path, bike trail, etc.

Unlike motorcycles, this way, you can still use your ebike as "bicycle" when you want to.
Motorcycles are never allowed on bicycle path, no matter the top speed / power restrictions.

電動バイクと自転車の切り替え=「モビチェン」を警察庁が認定…グラフィットのeバイク | レスポンス(Response.jp)
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However, when license plate is open, ebikers are allowed to use their Bafang high-speed ebikes as "Gentsuki Category 1"

So what's Gentsuki Category 1?
Looks like Japan has two "Gentsuki" categories, apparently they are below "motorcycle" but from what I gathered, here's what I found.

"Gentsuki Category 1" is a category that's often used on 50cc scooters.
"Gentsuki Category 2" is a highway capable 125cc scooters.

Gentsuki Category I
50cc Scooter
ヤマハ BW'S – フラットで扱いやすく元気に走るスクーター 試乗インプレ・レビュー 原付&ミニバイクならバイクブロス


Gentsuki Category 2
125cc Scooter
キムコ ダウンタウン125i 試乗レポート | 新車・中古バイク検索サイト GooBike.com


So I guess you're still NOT allowed to use one of those 8000W 60mph "ebikes" (that resembles dirtbike) with this license plate.
However, you can use it as a "Gentsuki Category 1" which is a performance similar to 50cc scooter??
 
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ElevenAD

Well-Known Member
Could be worse, I think most folks will just ride the way they want and when they see a cop flip the plate down...
 

VoltMan99

Well-Known Member
Region
Asia
City
Tokyo
My perspective from Tokyo is a bit limited, it obviously doesn’t cover countryside areas, but it’s my impression the laws are primarily aimed at making metropolitan / urban areas safe anyways. The new laws are extremely welcome and make me jump up and down with joy 🤩 because they will clean a lot of garbage and idiots off of the street.

Chinese bikes with hub motors and throttles have been on the streets of Japan as early as 2002. There was a lot of them until about 2012 when the cops decided to crack down hard on them. They pretty much cleaned them off the streets, and more importantly banned them from Amazon & online overseas sellers, and rarely do you see them now in regular bike form. Fat tire bikes & mini bike type frames started showing up about five years ago, and then people installed hub motors on them. Those are still illegal unless they were recently manufactured and registered under the new standards as a 50cc class vehicle.

The 50cc class of motorcycle/scooter was already amended several years ago for electrically powered motorcycle/scooters, mostly made by Honda and Yamaha. What the recent rules brought in is unassisted ebikes with hub motors and throttles as you’ve shown above. It also now includes stand up electric scooters (Lime style) and basically anything electrically powered with a throttle or no pedals. I think Segways fall under this too now. Same goes for electrical unicycles and “hoverboards” etc.. Four wheeled geriatric/disability mobility devices are a different class though.

The real gem in this law is the requirement that you must have a license tag, which means that the bike has to be registered by the manufacturer as a vehicle. There’s also a bunch of safety things that it’s required to have on it such as turn signals, brake lights, horn etc etc - so it needs to be a specially designed and produced bike. Because it has a license tag, it also means the driver needs a drivers license for 50cc, as well as insurance. And while it may seem trivial to fold up your license plate the real kicker is that you can’t own or operate that vehicle without a drivers license and insurance. Which also means if you get caught improperly operating that on the streets or in public places such as a sidewalk you’re in for a huge fine ($10,000) and possibly jail. It’s really a lever the cops can now use to crack down on them as well as limit the numbers of standup rental scooters. These types of vehicles also have to have dedicated parking spots - they can’t just be parked along the sidewalk like a bike. The upshot to this is again another cleanup operation because any hub motored Ebike is going to be scrutinized immediately by the ever present sidewalk lurking cops. Also as an example, if you have a few beers, drive this bike on the sidewalk, and get caught by the cops, you can face jail time, because legally it’s the same thing as drunk driving a car on the sidewalk.

As a car driver and regular bike rider I’m very happy about this because it makes the streets much safer.
 

rawlus

Active Member
Region
USA
@Ken M interesting development, i could see this come along in North America as well. Some form of overt control actually affecting the operation of the ebike. This is why i am careful about what i wish for.
 

VoltMan99

Well-Known Member
Region
Asia
City
Tokyo
ElevenAD said:
Could be worse, I think most folks will just ride the way they want and when they see a cop flip the plate down...
You think most folks are criminals? That's a bit pessimistic.
In reality people will quickly realize the folly of this tactic anyway after the third or fourth time the bike gets stopped & inspected and they have to empty their pockets for a drug and weapons search. Personally I think they’ll get tired of owning a cop magnet.
 

McApple

Member
It makes sense to me; if you want to ride a bike, flip down the bike plate. When you want higher speeds and more performance, flip up the bike plate....oh, and pay for a license and probably insurance as well.
 

JASmith

Member
Region
USA
Could be worse, I think most folks will just ride the way they want and when they see a cop flip the plate down...
Japanese are much more law abiding and altruistic than we are familiar with in the US. For example, in Japan they have automated diners / vending machine restaurants that rely in large part on the guests obeying the honor system and being clean patrons, something that say in Detroit would be looted and trashed within a weekend.

I think this is an excellent solution for Japan and well implemented, but sadly in Houston about a fifth of our population even on their cars already have fake paper license plates, no inspection, no registration, no insurance, and police that have given up on even trying to enforce it. In some parts of town, about one in three cars will have a fake paper plate now.
 

VoltMan99

Well-Known Member
Region
Asia
City
Tokyo
Well, the bike with the flipdown tag actually doesn’t achieve anything significant except avoiding motorcycle parking. When you flip the tag down it will become a regular non electric bicycle that you can park in bicycle parking, but in operation has to be driven under 50cc motorcycle rules. But that feature hasn’t even been implemented yet. Here’s a translation of the requirements on their website to ride one:


Precautions for purchase (please be sure to check)
- When the power is turned off, ordinary bicycles can run according to the Road Traffic Act only when the "Mobichen" mechanism, which will be announced at a later date, is attached.
> Click here for details
* Number registration required
Light vehicle tax return (report) and sign issuance application (number registration) is required.
* Mandatory liability insurance
You need to take out liability insurance.
Please apply at a store, convenience store, insurance agency, insurance company office, post office, etc.
Please carry your automobile liability document with you when driving.
* Helmet must be worn
Regardless of bicycle mode, electric bike mode, or hybrid mode, it will be treated as a first-class motorized bicycle.
Wearing a helmet is always mandatory.
* Required to carry a driver's license
You need a license to drive a first-class motorized bicycle.
Please carry your driver's license with you when driving.
* Driving is on the road
Regardless of bicycle mode, electric bike mode, or hybrid mode, it will be treated as a first-class motorized bicycle.
Driving on sidewalks and bicycle-only roads is prohibited.
Please drive on the road.
* Cannot run when the battery is dead
If the lights go out due to the battery running out, you will not be able to drive (even in pedal driving mode).
When the battery runs out, it cannot meet the standards for motorized bicycles (headlights on, blinkers blink when turning left or right), so it cannot run when the battery runs out (even in pedal driving mode).
* Please do not take any other actions that violate the Road Traffic Act.


So I really don’t get the point of this, other than obviously that when you flip the tag up you can store it in a regular bicycle rack, but only in the uncommon racks that can accommodate 20” wheels.
 

TNC

Member
Region
USA
I think a lot of this regulatory effort is just a waste of time and is often motivated by revenue schemes by local, state, and federal governments. We already have scooters, motorcycles, and automotive vehicles capable of speeds and unsafe behavior well above the posted speed limits...especially in heavy urban areas where this is an alleged problem. Notice I used the term "behavior".

So...you're on your fully licensed scooter, motorcycle, car, whatever, and you have your driver's license. You go out and speed, drive on sidewalks, run red lights...what happens? Eventually you're going to get slammed by the police and ticketed with hopefully an appropriate fine...punishment suitable to reckless driving vs. being 8 mph over the limit. So...you keep doing this, and you can lose your driver's license.

So...how does this apply to bicycles? Bicycles already have to obey the same traffic laws as registered vehicles have to obey. If you have an ebike or pedal-only you're not immune. Granted, you don't have a driver's license to lose in all cases, but this can be addressed by dealing with repeat offenders who can be easily identified in the same database as registered and licensed vehicle operators. Some law breaking schmuck without a DL who continues to operate his ebike can be prohibited from operating even a wheelbarrow on the streets if his behavior has netted him such a prohibition. This is simple legislation that is way more clear, concise, and transparent than these stupid motor power and other vague attempts at regulation.

A registered vehicle owner with a driver's license can lose their license because of behavior. If they continue to drive with a suspended DL, they can go to jail. The same can be applied to an ebike operator. Are there details in my scenario that would require "fleshing out"?...sure. But this constant pursuit by governing authorities to place vague and often unproveable motor power values on different ebikes is often a "lost in the weeds" feeble attempt. Concentrate on behavior with simpler legislation. Consider this...and this is neither a pro or con gun argument...governing authorities seem unable to deal with criminal behavior and go more in the direction of attacking "things" vs trying to modify or punish the criminal...and this doesn't just apply to firearms. They do it with drugs and other violent behavior of all kinds. This attempt to get into the minutia of motor power regulations instead of dealing with violater behavior is quite similar IMO.
 

VoltMan99

Well-Known Member
Region
Asia
City
Tokyo
I think a lot of this regulatory effort is just a waste of time and is often motivated by revenue schemes by local, state, and federal governments. We already have scooters, motorcycles, and automotive vehicles capable of speeds and unsafe behavior well above the posted speed limits...especially in heavy urban areas where this is an alleged problem. Notice I used the term "behavior".
It’s easy for someone from America to misinterpret probably. In Japan the government doesn’t make any money off of this. Actually what it accomplishes is to place people who drive these types of vehicles into the grasp of law by classifying these as motor vehicles. Then the police can use real criminal and traffic law versus simple regulations to control these types of vehicles. Penalties and punishments here are much stiffer than America, and definitely enforced. And it’s not like you get a license suspension, and then regain your license easily - it will cost you about $5000 in education costs and a fair amount of legal fees to get your license back. Additionally the Japanese “justice” system isn’t something you want to go through. And if you wind up in the penal system, well …. Google that one 😁.

The bottom line is these regulations will make it ridiculously hard to own and operate that type of bike, thus commercially they’ll be a flop. Which makes it a success and 95% of people are happy because they aren’t safe nor needed.
 

JASmith

Member
Region
USA
* Driving is on the road
Regardless of bicycle mode, electric bike mode, or hybrid mode, it will be treated as a first-class motorized bicycle.
Driving on sidewalks and bicycle-only roads is prohibited.
Please drive on the road.
Everything above makes sense to me except this part. I understood that in bicycle mode it would automatically flip to symbol of a bicycle and be restricted to 250w/15mph in the programming and be treated like any other bicycle, and then when "unlocked" would flip to a license plate and operate like any other moped which is smart.
 

McApple

Member
IMO, it is much easier to impose limits on the ability of a vehicle (bike) to perform a task, as opposed to how the operator of a vehicle makes use of it. In the first case, periodic monitoring of bikes using restricted trails would quickly weed out those that were non-compliant; in the latter, constant monitoring, speed traps, would be required to apprehend violators.

I cannot understand how allowing high-speed, 28+mph, bikes on multi-use trails, is good for e-cycling.
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
It’s easy for someone from America to misinterpret probably. In Japan the government doesn’t make any money off of this. Actually what it accomplishes is to place people who drive these types of vehicles into the grasp of law by classifying these as motor vehicles. Then the police can use real criminal and traffic law versus simple regulations to control these types of vehicles. Penalties and punishments here are much stiffer than America, and definitely enforced. And it’s not like you get a license suspension, and then regain your license easily - it will cost you about $5000 in education costs and a fair amount of legal fees to get your license back. Additionally the Japanese “justice” system isn’t something you want to go through. And if you wind up in the penal system, well …. Google that one 😁.

The bottom line is these regulations will make it ridiculously hard to own and operate that type of bike, thus commercially they’ll be a flop. Which makes it a success and 95% of people are happy because they aren’t safe nor needed.
Your comment prompted me to read a couple articles, one on National Geographic, about Japan's penal system. The prison system sounds pretty brutal.

The opening statement in this video kind of sums up my knowledge of that system. I know their crime rate is low, but I knew nothing really about Japan's justice system. BTW I don't know the channel or presenter on this short video. He seems to try to be fair. Eye opening for sure.

 

JASmith

Member
Region
USA
BTW I don't know the channel or presenter on this short video. He seems to try to be fair.
Obvious signs of a propaganda piece, as he uses a single many decades old anecdote to describe an entire system, no sources or statistics to back up any opinion he is delivering as if it were fact, casually mentions that crime in Japan is severely underreported without any evidence to back that up, while leading the audience with breadcrumbs to exactly what they should think. Impartial journalism collects and packages information in an easily digestible format and allows the viewer to form their own opinion without a transparent narrative.

For example, he indicates that anyone that is a criminal in Japan is a criminal for life, but with no numbers or basis for comparison to the rates in alternatives. A quick google-fu indicates that he can't possibly know, because the Japanese government doesn't publish these numbers. Singapore however does and has a notoriously harsh prison system with a high conviction rate, similar to Japan, and yet has a low 2-year recidivism rate of 27%. Compare this to the 2-year rate for Sweden which has one of the most ludicrously luxurious spa like prison system even experimenting with "open prisons" in which prisoners are greeted with a handshake as good friends showing them with affection and can sunbathe outside and are taken out for horseback riding and music lessons of 43%, or worse the United Kingdom that likewise has a less extreme but still somewhat casual prison system with recidivism rate of 45% (and a 9-year recidivism rate of 78%) and we can see that the presenters implication is baseless.

And Japan and Singapore's high conviction rate is partially based on the concept of saving "face" by not making suspicions public without first locking down irrefutable proof, but both are also surveillance states. Japanese and Singapore's community will without hesitation always report crime, the populations are very dense so there are eyes almost everywhere, and they likewise have cameras everywhere too. So if you're put on a watch list first and they wait until they have two dozen witnesses, hard evidence, and a dozen camera angles showing your crimes before nabbing you, of course that's why most are open and shut cases, not because they are just arresting random innocent people left and right.
 

VoltMan99

Well-Known Member
Region
Asia
City
Tokyo
Your comment prompted me to read a couple articles, one on National Geographic, about Japan's penal system. The prison system sounds pretty brutal.

The opening statement in this video kind of sums up my knowledge of that system. I know their crime rate is low, but I knew nothing really about Japan's justice system. BTW I don't know the channel or presenter on this short video. He seems to try to be fair. Eye opening for sure.

Actually I don’t really agree with the message his video mostly projects - He makes it seem like the prison is full of innocent people falsely accused. Which simply isn’t true. perhaps there’s a few outliers but the vast majority of them belong there. He is right about the conviction rate however - due to various reasons they are very good at prosecuting criminals here.

Here’s an interesting statistic on total prison population, the United States has about 50 times the number of prisoners but only 3 times the population.

Japan - 48,400
United States - 2,418,352

I don’t think people will serve any jail time for bicycle offenses either - usually the two or three weeks in custody with the police during investigations is enough and they’ll sign an apology and go home under a suspension and fine.
 

tomjasz

Well-Known Member
Wow! Bafang copies a Japanese designed mid drive and then turns around and peddles it back to Japan. It’s a funny world.
 

VoltMan99

Well-Known Member
Region
Asia
City
Tokyo
Wow! Bafang copies a Japanese designed mid drive and then turns around and peddles it back to Japan. It’s a funny world.
Yes but the high pricing makes it more economical and sensible to just get a Bridgestone with Yamaha drive and battery. Then you also get warranty and perks.
 

tomjasz

Well-Known Member
Sorry for the OT.
Yes but the high pricing makes it more economical and sensible to just get a Bridgestone with Yamaha drive and battery. Then you also get warranty and perks.
High pricing?
BBSxx series?
Less than either mentioned, and an actual parts stream. I have the right to repair.
Yamaha and give up my throttle and be unable to ride with younger friends?