Depending on local laws, many e-bikes (e.g., pedelecs) are legally classified as bicycles rather than mopeds or motorcycles. This exempts them from the more stringent laws regarding the certification and operation of more powerful two-wheelers which are often classed as electric motorcycles. E-bikes can also be defined separately and treated under distinct Electric bicycle laws.
State laws tend to intermix the source of power as either gasoline ICE or electric drive. This is unfortunate because that neutralizes the environmental advantage of an ebike over an ICE moped. It also misrepresents the contrast in power output levels between an ICE and electric motor system. 50cc gas mopeds/scooters have a 2.5-4 HP rating, while the 20+ mph electric bikes will be 1-2hp, and ride much closer to a normal bicycle compared to a gas powered, 2.5hp moped. E-mopeds will weigh 55-70lbs. Gas mopeds and scooters are typically over 120lbs. E-mopeds are still electric bikes that get valuable power assist from human pedal effort and are usually much quieter.
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In the theoretical electric bike we considered up above, we had the dynamo/motor driving the back wheel directly, simply by pressing on the tire. Most electric bikes work a different way. They have compact electric motors built into the hub of the back or front wheel (or mounted in the center of the bike and connected to the pedal sprocket). Take a look at the hub of an electric bike and probably you'll see it's much fatter and bulkier than on a normal bike. You can read more about how these motors work in our main article about hub motors.
The definition was clearly written with gasoline-powered pedalcycles in mind. The requirement of an automatic transmission is troublesome for those who just want to add an electric-assist motor to a bicycle, for almost all bicycles have transmissions consisting of chains and manually shifted sprockets. The registration form asks for a VIN, making it difficult to register some foreign-made ebikes. The fine for riding an unregistered electric bike is approximately $160.00 per event as of 2007.
Under Title 23, Chapter 316 of the code, bicycles and motorized bicycles are defined as follows: Bicycle—Every vehicle propelled solely by human power, and every motorized bicycle propelled by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels, and including any device generally recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or two rear wheels. The term does not include such a vehicle with a seat height of no more than 25 inches from the ground when the seat is adjusted to its highest position or a scooter or similar device. No person under the age of 16 may operate or ride upon a motorized bicycle. Motorized Scooter—Any vehicle not having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, designed to travel on not more than three wheels, and not capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on level ground.
Bicycle includes all vehicles propelled by the person riding the same by foot or hand power or a helper motor; and (3) "helper motor" means a motor having a capacity of less than fifty cubic centimeters piston displacement, rated not more than two brake horsepower, capable of a maximum speed of no more than thirty miles per hour and equipped with automatic transmission. Local jurisdictions can pass law at variance with the state law.
DIY Kit ebikes – Ebikes that are home built with a DIY kit, and exceed the 750W/20mph definition, are also allowed to be bought, build, and ridden. DIY kits are throttle activated. Some of the newer systems have PAS options. Ebike kits are not unilaterally prohibited or assigned motor vehicle status, but again, legal classification and road use falls under state law.
More powerful pedelecs which are not legally classed as bicycles are dubbed S-Pedelecs (short for Schnell-Pedelecs, i.e. Speedy-Pedelecs) in Germany. These have a motor more powerful than 250 watts and less limited, or unlimited, pedal-assist, i.e. the motor does not stop assisting the rider once 25 km/h has been reached. S-Pedelec class e-bikes are therefore usually classified as mopeds or motorcycles rather than as bicycles and therefore may (depending on the jurisdiction) need to be registered and insured, the rider may need some sort of driver's license (either car or motorcycle) and motorcycle helmets may have to be worn. In the United States, many states have adopted S-Pedelecs into the Class 3 category. Class 3 ebikes are limited to <=750 watts of power and 28 mph.
The 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic of the United Nations considers a bicycle to be a vehicle, and a person controlling a bicycle (whether actually riding or not) is considered an operator. The traffic codes of many countries reflect these definitions and demand that a bicycle satisfy certain legal requirements before it can be used on public roads. In many jurisdictions, it is an offense to use a bicycle that is not in a roadworthy condition.
The federal Consumer Product Safety Act defines a "low speed electric bicycle" as a two or three wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals, a top speed when powered solely by the motor under 20 mph (32 km/h) and an electric motor that produces less than 750 W (1.01 hp). The Act authorizes the Consumer Product Safety Commission to protect people who ride low-speed electric vehicles by issuing necessary safety regulations. The rules for e-bikes on public roads, sidewalks, and pathways are under state jurisdiction, and vary.
If you are a person who enjoys riding a bike casually at a typical bike path speed (10-15mph), and you like the idea of an ebike push up a hill, against the wind or to relieving a sore knee, then your market for a fully legally defined ebike is very broad and your practical use only has a few limitations. Most ebikes will meet your needs and expectation. I would estimate that 85% of the electric bikes on the market are 100% compliant meeting the federal definition. I encourage you to take the plunge and get a good quality ebike and ride more with assist. Do so with the confidence that electric bikes are here to stay. Coexisting with pedestrians and other cyclist will become a normal part of cycling life.
Another style is the recumbent bicycle. These are inherently more aerodynamic than upright versions, as the rider may lean back onto a support and operate pedals that are on about the same level as the seat. The world's fastest bicycle is a recumbent bicycle but this type was banned from competition in 1934 by the Union Cycliste Internationale.
Rose Heyer and Josie Tabor of Dept Tech, Department of State Information Center, the Secretary of State and the office of ROCK AND BORGELT, P.C., Attorneys at Law, 24500 FORD ROAD, SUITE 10 DEARBORN HEIGHTS, MI 48127-3106, determined electric bicycles are considered mopeds and need registered and licensed. In order to operate an electric bicycle on public streets, the driver must have a valid operator, chauffeur, or special moped license. However, not all electric bicycles are street legal unless they have the following safety equipment: operating brake light, headlight, and turn signals. The local police department must inspect the bicycle using Form TR-54 which is taken with proof of purchase to the DMV. The fee for the plate is $15 for a three year decal, whereas the fine for no decal is $150 per incident.
Chart: Electric bicycles are rapidly becoming popular. This chart shows the growth in sales of what the manufacturers refer to as "electric power-assisted cycles (EPACs)" in European countries over the last decade. Over 1.6 million electric bikes were sold in Europe in 2016 alone, which is about 7 percent of total European bicycle sales. What this chart doesn't reveal is that the bikes are much more popular in some countries than others: four countries accounted for 70 percent of all the sales (Germany, 36 percent; the Netherlands, 16 percent; Belgium, 10 percent; and France 8 percent). Data sourced from the report "European Bicycle Market: 2017", courtesy of CONEBI (Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry). These are the newest figures available at the time this article was last updated (September 2018).
There are individuals who claim to have lost considerable amounts of weight by using an electric bike. A recent prospective cohort study however found that people using e-bikes have a higher BMI. By making the biking terrain less of an issue, people who wouldn't otherwise consider biking can use the electric assistance when needed and otherwise pedal as they are able. This means people of lower fitness levels or who haven't cycled in many years can start enjoying the many health benefits E-bikes have to offer.