Building an Electric Scooter That’s Street Legal, Even in Germany

Sometimes a successful project isn’t only about making sure all the electrons are in the right place at the right time, or building something that won’t collapse under its own weight. A lot of projects involve a fair amount of social engineering to be counted as a success, especially those that might result in arrest and incarceration if built as originally planned. Such projects are often referred to as “the fun ones.”

For the past few months, we’ve been following [Bitluni]’s DIY electric scooter build, which had been following the usual trajectory for these things – take a stock unpowered scooter, replace the rear wheel with a 250 W hub motor, add an ESC, battery, and throttle, and away you go. Things took a very interesting turn, however, when his street testing ran afoul of German law, which limits small electric vehicles to a yawn-inducing 6 kph. Unwilling to bore himself to death thus, [Bitluni] found a workaround: vehicles that are only assisted by an electric motor have a much more reasonable speed limit of 25 kph. So he added an Arduino with a gyro and accelerometer module and wrote a program to only power the wheel after the rider has kicked the scooter along a few times – no throttle needed. The motor stops after a bit, needing another push or two to kick it back on. A brake lever kills the motor, as does laying the scooter on its side. It’s quite a clever design, and while it might not keep the Polizei at bay, you can’t say he didn’t try.

[Bitluni] has quite a range of builds, from software-defined television to bad 3D-scanners to precision wine glass whacking. You should check out his stuff.

Thanks for the tip, [Baldpower].

46 thoughts on “Building an Electric Scooter That’s Street Legal, Even in Germany

  1. Clever idea.

    Here in Australia, some states mandate the same sort of things for electric bikes, so that the motor will only power the bike when the pedals are being cranked (rotated).

    As this rule does not apply to the state of Victoria, where I live, I built a Arduino based system, which used as small elector magnet, positioned next to the pedal crank rotation detector (a magnet is on one of the pedal cranks), so that the bike can be fooled into thinking the pedals are being turned when they aren’t.

    I could not connect directly into the sensor wires, easily, as it looks like its not a simple reed switch but some sort of hall effect sensor, and its all a sealed unit.

    1. for NSW, anything that hasn’t got peddles, brakes and a seat, cannot be used on the road, so a scooter is out. electric or otherwise.
      If its capable of self propelling, no more then 200w combined of active and inactive motors (so cant stuff a 1kw motor on and call say its for offroad use only whilst only having a 200w on the other wheel, or having a 1kw with a switch-over to a 200w controller), and 250w if its peddle assist (so needing that pedal crank sensor)

      All Internal Combustion Engine are out, even if you can get a simple 25/49cc engine only outputting 200w it cant be used since its easily modified to run at full power, and can self propel at or higher then posted road speeds.

      so yeah, i was going to build a bike with 450w motor and a 200w controller since I don’t like the idea of fully loading a motor at 100% workable capacity.

      but bugger it, let me get a cheap CT110 and call it a day there, since its a small motor and has compliance plate and required items to get it registered as a motorbike, and i’ll convert it to electric with 2x 1kw motors.

      just for informational reference on nsw laws: http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/documents/roads/safety-rules/standards/vsi-27-mopeds-power-assisted-pedal-cycles.pdf

      1. Sounds like the NSW regs are similar to the Vic ones, except I regularly see people riding these 2 stroke powered bikes around the place without them getting pulled over by the police.

        https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/cyclist-safety/power-assisted-bicycles

        I guess the main problem is that there is no one lobbying to change laws in favor of useful personal battery power transport, but the automotive industry probably lobbies government at many levels to ensure that competitors are kept out of the market (i.e personal electric transport)

  2. Too bad that only being assisted up tp 25 km/h isn’t enough here in Germany.. if it isn’t an authority-approved vehicle, you’re driving without a lincense, without insurance and will be fined quite a lot if you get caught…

      1. You dont in the UK and it’s an EU law which sets it at 25kph.
        Just low enough to be dangerous in traffic.
        Since you shouldn’t be riding on the pavement and bike paths are not everywhere.

        1. Well it’s not that easy… Up to 25km/h you are allowed to use an electric motor up to 250W to assist you. The motor must only be powered as long as you yourself power the bike as well. This form of e-bike doesn’t need a license. Up to 45km/h it’s considered an S-Pedelec with up to 450W of power and requires a license plate.If you vehicle only goes 6km/h it may be powered by a motor and doesn’t need a license plate.
          Problem with the scooter is: These rules only apply to bikes, the scooter is considered something different.
          And most important: A scooter needs a form of seat to have a chance to be legal so the scooter in this form can’t be road legal… Hopefully the law will adapt to new light vehicles.

          1. Well actually, there is another law that says that e-bikes that are locked up to 25Km/h are also allowed to have up to 1000w of power. it is the L1e-A law.

      2. I don’t think that vehicle is street legal in Germany. According to “Zweiundfünfzigste Verordnung
        zur Änderung straßenverkehrsrechtlicher Vorschriften, §63a” https://www.ziv-zweirad.de/fileadmin/redakteure/Downloads/PDFs/PM_2017_01.06._52-VO-Aender.-straenverkehrsrechtl-Vorschriften.pdf this vehicle seems to be classified as a bicycle because it is electrically powered.

        If that makes sense is another question. My guess is that such a vehicle never crossed the lawmakers’ mind.

        Anyway, a bicycle needs front and back lights at specific heights and front, back and wheel reflectors of specific sizes. Of course those lights and reflectors themselves have to abide by even more regulations.

          1. Actually … not only lights/reflectors, but the vehicle also requires breaks that work reliably. This vehicle is 100% illegal on public streets in Germany without any doubt.
            Even a vehicle with a limitation of 6km/h (not kph as written in the text) requires breaks, lights, reflectors …

      3. But what a bike is, is also regulated. Up to the number of light and having more can result in a fine.
        So it would not be strange, if the “e-bike loophole” doesn’t work for not-bikes

      4. He might be aiming for it, but if the German laws are similar to the Dutch ones he’s missed by a mile. Since it doesn’t have a seat it’s not a bike, therefor it’s a different powered vehicle with different laws. In the Netherlands you are only allowed to drive an electrical scooter (Step in dutch,a scooter is a certain type of moped) that doesn’t exceed 18 km/h and is approved by the authorities. I assume Germany has similar laws. If you want to go faster it has to be approved, you have to wear a helmet, it has to have the proper lighting and it must be insured.

    1. Very nice build but the legal problems have been pointed out above. What hasn’t been is the seriousness of the offence. That’s on par with driving without license and insurance, which is quite a big deal in Germany. Definitely not worth it! But hey, the Polizei isn’t always looking, right?

      1. It’s quite funny, pretty much all of the new electrically powered toys that even remotely qualify as any sort of vehicle are illegal in germany.

        They need lighting, reflectors, reliable brakes, handles and a seat. This law was made for bicycles basically. The only exception that has been made legal are Segways, but you still need a license and insurance for them.

        Operating anything else is pretty much exactly operating an unregistered and uninsured vehicle. And in the case of kids roaming around on those “hover”boards it’s also a case of operating a vehicle without a drivers license.

          1. Now that I had time to read the law:
            The MobHV law is so narrow that it most likely only applies to Segways and vehicles that violate (or license) Segway patents.

            It applies only to vehicles that have two parallel wheels, are self-balancing, have a platform for a standing driver, and a handle bar that allows steering by shifting one’s center of gravity. And even if you build something like that, paragraph 2 still forces you to get explicit approval for your design before you are allowed to drive it on the streets of Germany. Well, the bicycle paths of Germany to be exact.

    2. Regardless of whether this is legally a bike, it’s technically not possible to make a DIY pedelec, because you cannot prove to the authorities that it adheres to regulations.

      There has to be a type/model paperwork of some kind that specify which components are being used and in what way, so the authorities can check that the device actually in use adheres to its specifications and hasn’t been illegally modified.

      A DIY e-bike, unless made out of a kit, cannot be legal because it lacks any sort of type/model documentation and anyone can simply make their own boiler plate to claim that a 1000 W motor is actually 250 W (with a secret switch to enable full power/speed).

  3. Wouldn’t be easier to detect movement by using a small motor as a dynamo and measure the generated voltage? And for safety, a simple tilt sensor (e.g., ring and chain)?

    I know that from a learning point of view the accelerometer method is much more interesting. But from a safety point of view, simple might be better.

  4. A friend of mine in the Netherlands has a electric powered monocycle and he ran into comparable issues with local law enforcement. Great thing he found out however is that a monocycle doesn’t register as a vehicle at all because it has less than two wheels. So legally his device is nothing and therefor it’s not forbidden.

    1. Unfortunately your friend is WRONG. A powered monocycle IS a motor vehicle (motorrrijtuig) according to the law
      (For a complete summary see: http://www.airwheel-nederland.nl/wetgeving/). While it doesn’t meet any of the standard definition in the sub paragraphs that doesn’t mean it’s allowed, that means that it falls under the catch all article where it has to be specifically allowed by the minister for transport.

  5. I have a E-bike here in Canada.
    The speed limit for E-bike is 32 km Hr. And a max of the motor is 450w.
    1 Big problem is there is a 400 hundred ft ( We call a Mountain.) but its a big Hill.
    A 450 w motor just will not get up the roads. And most of them are single lane roads.
    AND NO bike lanes yet on all but one.
    Hamilton has about 800,000 people in it.
    I did change the motor in my e-bike and upped the batteries to 32 amp hours.
    It was 25 km to the job I was at. There and back would kill the battery by the time I got home.
    The Bike saved me a lot of money even at the time I spent over $2000 on the bike.
    Most of the savings was from the $100 a month on parking.
    Here in Canada you have to pay for parking at hospitals. And a monthly pass at the time was just under $100 a month.
    And it only took 5 minutes longer then car.

    1. On the technically illegal front though, most bikes and ebikes are not road legal as they are sold brand new in Ontario… .there’s still a law on the book for WWII blackout regulations that says you have to have the front forks and back half of the rear mudguard painted white.

    2. >”A 450 w motor just will not get up the roads.”

      If a 250 Watt human gets up the hill, I don’t see why the motor won’t, unless it’s only nominally that at some insane RPM and your actual power output is diminished.

    1. It’s a German passion. Either ranting about too much regulation, or ranting why something isn’t regulated yet.
      Like talking about the weather, we can discuss about the those rules with total strangers.

      Btt: a downside of such a control mechanism is, that in case you oversee a car while pushing, it may recognize a wish to accelerate, while you only wish to brake.
      Could be dangerous…
      There should be an algorithm, that detects a sudden deceleration as a wish to brake.

    2. First of all thanks for the article, I love you guys!
      I hope I didn’t cause a shit storm here. Electric stuff on german streets seems to be a red flag and cause always big controversy. I used the phrase “somewhat” legal in my video since I didn’t want to get sued for that nitpicking.
      The commenters are right about the missing lights and brakes that’s. If it’s considered a bike it has to have those. That is just another topic and common sense.
      The regulations will be updated by the the end of the year and the drive doesn’t dive like an asshole no one will say a word. Just don’t drive on the main streets and piss off people. In German: “Wo kein Kläger da kein Richter”

      There still is the 6km/h option :-P
      just set the SPEED_MAX constant in the code to 100 and you will be safe :-D

  6. The situation in Germany ist absolutely terrible when it comes to traffic laws and experimental vehicles. Tickets for speeding, running red lights and parking in front of hydrants or in handycapped-spots are ridiculously “cheap”, but if they catch you with completely harmless toys like monowheels, hoverboards or homemade eBikes all hell breaks loose.
    If you get “busted” with a electric monowheel; and the cops who bust you have a bad day; you pay thousands of euros and lose all your driving licenses.

  7. Typical European reaction: Regulate the hell out of everything to feed the bureaucracy! Anybody who has ever had to work with getting a product certified for the market there knows exactly what I am talking about… Its very sad that they restrict things in such a manner… This is a great case study about over-burdensome government regulation. While I understand the need for some rules and sensible regulations to prevent all out chaos, at some point it does become excessive, and you really do need to let people take responsibility for their own safety!

    That being said, great hack, some clever ideas to ‘try’ and conform to the law. Not going to hold my breath, but One can hope that things will change for the better in the future, as far as regulations go, to allow more stuff like this to be built and experimented with, thus enabling more innovation to take place.

    1. Only in Germany and Austria its that bad. In almost all other countries of the EU nobody gives a sh*t about stuff like that. Look at videos of normal street life in Paris, Rome, Prague, Athens. Plenty of “illegal” electric transportation action and nobody gets molested by the authorities.

  8. most of the ebike controllers have a ‘regenerative braking ‘ option , so when you enable the brake switch, power gets fed back into the batterypack (althou not balanced, just trough its power providing, not the charge-wires). most ebay-china controllers have this function not brought out, but stil have it. you have to find and connect the (pcb marked) solder pad from inside , to the brake’s switch, to the brake sensing wire for it to work. once installed, its a reliable way to slow down an electric scooter, unless the battery is freshly charged ( the first 500 meters , it provides noticeably lesser braking) i’m in belgium , have built one with a hoverboard 350 watt wheel and an ebike battery. as far as i know, its legal on the road, just like hoverboards are if it doesnt go over 18kmph and your familial insurance covers them ( some do, some don’t )

  9. furthermore, the electric scooter tops out exactly on 18 kmph with the hoverboard wheel, so a lucky conincidence. but for my ebike, i’ve also used one of these chinese controllers, and it goes over 25 kmph topspeed with it. i plan to disconnect the pas pedelec pedal sensor’s data wire with a relais and an arduino, when the arduino senses more magnet pulses per second than 25 kmph brings, trough an external magnet on the wheel. can anuone help me with the code for the arduino, i’ve never used one ever before. reprogramming the controller ‘s IC itselve seems near impossible, they’re undocumented. all the aruidno would have to do, is click the relais, when the speed sensed is more than 25kmph

  10. as for the brake disengagin the motor, can do better – most of the ebike controllers have a ‘regenerative braking ‘ option , so when you enable the brake switch, power gets fed back into the batterypack (althou not balanced, just trough its power providing, not the charge-wires).
    most ebay-china controllers have this function not brought out, but stil have it. you have to find and connect the (pcb marked) solder pad from inside , to the brake’s switch, to the brake sensing wire for it to work. once installed, its a reliable way to slow down an electric scooter, unless the battery is freshly charged ( the first 500 meters , it provides noticeably lesser braking)
    i’m in belgium , have built scooter with a hoverboard 350 watt wheel and an ebike battery. as far as i know, its legal on the road here , just like hoverboards are if it doesnt go over 18kmph and your familial insurance covers them ( some do, some don’t )
    furthermore, the electric scooter tops out exactly on 18 kmph with the hoverboard wheel, so a lucky conincidence.
    but ,for my ebike, i’ve also used one of these chinese controllers, and it goes over 25 kmph topspeed with it. i plan to disconnect the pas pedelec pedal sensor’s data wire with a relais and an arduino, when the arduino senses more magnet pulses per second than 25 kmph brings, trough an external magnet on the wheel. can anyone help me with the code for the arduino, i’ve never used one ever before. reprogramming the controller ‘s IC itselve seems near impossible, they’re undocumented. all the arduino would have to do, is click the relais, when the speed sensed is more than 25kmph

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.