At first, there were pedal bikes, then we saw motorbikes, and now since the late 90s, we have seen in increase in the trend of electric bikes. As a response to the growing popularity of E-bikes Congress responded by introducing a federal law. This new law stated that any electric bike with top speed, under motor power, below 20 miles per hour driven by a motor producing less than 750 watts and still had traditional pedals, falls outside of normal motor vehicle law.
While federal law has left the use of e-bikes fairly loosely governed most states have different takes on how to handle the way these bikes are legally managed. While the federal law will dictate the manufacturing standards of e-bikes, those of which are under 750 watts will be managed by Consumer safety standards and those over managed by motoring safety regulations. Before purchasing an e-bike, you should read up on your states local laws just to check there aren’t any further restrictions but the Federal Law is a good starting point.
Stronger Powerful e-bikes
While the there is a great variation of e-bikes on the market running at less than 750 Watts (1bhp) there are also alternatives with a little more kick. Many manufacturers will also offer bikes capable of traveling between 20-30 miles per hour and producing double the horsepower. While these bikes now fall under motor vehicle safety regulations, they may also be under further scrutiny from local law. When using a more powerful model, double check the law as it may limit your use of normal cycle lanes and require you to more adhere to the highway code. It is also worth noting that as the power increases on the the bike, it can fall into the same legal category as mopeds and other gas powered bikes. This will require you to carefully consider licensing and insurance before purchasing a higher end e-bike.
As e-bikes are a relatively new technology and rapidly developing, there are many gray areas in the law to consider. Off-road e-bikes that are more powerful need to be kept for exactly that, off-roading and private property. They fall under similar regulations to “dirt bikes” and are often not road legal. If you need a bike that can top 20 mph but is concerned about legal requirements you can look into the Speed Pedelec e-bikes which will travel at up to 28 mph by combining pedal and motor power. As this sub 30 mph speed is achieved by not motor power alone, you will still fall into the first classification of the e-bike.
How can you use this information?
If you are looking for something to substitute your normal pedal power without extra-legal concerns, we recommend purchasing an e-bike that falls below the federal limits and meets your local state law. If you are looking for a greener alternative to two-wheeled motor transportation, then a more powerful electronic bike could well suit your needs if you can meet your local legal requirements.