News Treehugger Voices Simon Cowell May Sue Electric Two-Wheeled Vehicle With Pedals Company And the e-bike manufacturers should sue the British tabloids for calling it a bike. By Design Editor University of Toronto Lloyd Alter is Design Editor for Treehugger and teaches Sustainable Design at Ryerson University in Toronto. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Lloyd Alter Published December 16, 2020 11:22AM EST Bike: Swind/ Simon: Tibrina Hobson/WireImage/ Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices Simon Cowell is back in the tabs in Britain, with the news that he may be suing the manufacturer of the electric whatever that he was thrown from, severely injuring his back. According to The Sun, a whistleblower formerly employed at the company that built the machine, A Swind EB-01, warned his employers that “That thing is a death trap and should never have been sold to Simon without him being taught how to use it.” The source also noted, “They knew at the factory this was extremely dangerous and it was discussed. The only way to stop the bike flipping is to put your whole body over the front wheel.” USA Today Headline, Aug 10, 2020. Screen capture The reason I am so circumspect in the title about what to call this thing, a two-wheeled electric vehicle with pedals, is that it kind of defies definition. When the story broke in August, 2020, I complained that all the newspapers were calling it an e-bike, which it most definitely was not; they are limited by regulation to a motor size of 750 watts maximum in the USA where Cowell was riding, and to 250 watts nominal power in Europe. This thing had 15,000 watts of power. No wonder you have to hang out over the front end to keep it on the ground. I was concerned that calling this an e-bike would cause all kinds of confusion, which, judging by the USA Today headline it clearly did. I wrote at the time: "I know that e-bikes are relatively new to North America, but these journalists are doing the e-bike industry a huge disservice. For the next 10 years we are going to hear that e-bikes are dangerous, 'look what happened to Simon Cowell.' It's just nuts." Screen Capture, Daily Mail It was a controversial post, getting well over 800 comments arguing about semantics, about what to call this thing. I thought it should be called an electric motorcycle, and the motorcycle people got mad and said "it has pedals!" Others called it a moped, but they are limited by regulation to 150 cc displacement in gas engines. Bike expert Carlton Reid called it a motorbike. Simon Cowell himself called it an "electric trail bike" which is probably why they stuck pedals on it. The UK Bicycle Association said “This vehicle has, misleadingly in our opinion, been described as an ‘electric bike’ or ‘e-bike.’” Sun Headline, 12 December 2020. Screen Capture Notably, both the Sun and the Mail avoid the use of the term "E-bike" this time around, calling it an electric bike or electric bicycle, the term used by the manufacturer Swind. So Who Cares? Electric Dirt Bike. HBmallin on Wikipedia Clearly, lots of people, judging by the comments last time. It's all so confusing. There are a lot of electric motorcycles out there now (like the Brammo, shown racing above) often called electric dirt bikes or electric trail bikes. I would have put the Swind into this category, except for the silly pedals. Scooter or whatever in Toronto. Lloyd Alter And of course, there are the e-scooters, sort of electric Vespas with teeny pedals, like the one above. I see a lot of that in the bike lanes. The vendor of this one calls it an electric bike. Riese and Muller Speed Pedelec. Sanger on Wikimedia Commons Oh, and there are also Speed Pedelecs, a whole other category. This description from the Government of the Netherlands is totally confusing me in just one paragraph. "A speed pedelec (or high-speed e-bike) is an electric bicycle with a maximum speed of 45 km/h. Due to the speeds they can reach, speed pedelecs are subject to the same regulations as mopeds. This means that a speed pedelec must be fitted with a moped registration plate in order to be able to use public roads, and the rider must have a moped driving licence." It's an e-bike! It's a pedelec! It's a moped! It is all and none of the above. It's Time We Figured This Out. Hulton Archives/Getty Images Perhaps we need a big international meeting to come up with standard classifications and definitions, so that people know what they are getting into, so that governments can come up with less confusing regulations, so that we know what is allowed in bike lanes and what isn't, and so that people do not fall off overpowered rockets that are called bicycles. Everyone has to know where they belong; otherwise, this whole e-bike revolution will not end well.