(ii) a vehicle equipped with two or three wheels, foot pedals to permit muscular propulsion, and an independent power source providing a maximum of 2 brake horsepower. If a combustion engine is used, the maximum piston or rotor displacement may not exceed 3.05 cubic inches, 50 centimeters, regardless of the number of chambers in the power source. The power source may not be capable of propelling the device, unassisted, at a speed exceeding 30 miles an hour, 48.28 kilometers an hour, on a level surface. The device must be equipped with a power drive system that functions directly or automatically only and does not require clutching or shifting by the operator after the drive system is engaged.
Power-assist: Also known as pedal-assist bikes, these are the bicycle equivalents of hybrid cars: they're designed to be pedaled quite a lot of the time and electrically powered either when you're tired or when you feel like a bit of electric help (when you're going up hill, for example). Unlike full-power bikes, they don't have hub motors; instead, there's a separate electric motor mounted near the rear wheel and driving it either through the gear sprocket or simply by pressing against the rear tire. Where a hub motor is difficult or impossible to pedal without any power (because you're effectively turning it into a generator), power-assist motors turn easily with little or no resistance when you pedal. That gives power-assist bikes much greater range than hub-motor ones (as much as 80–145km or 50–90 miles).
Government regulation is written and administered with a broad, dull, painful axe. Regulations do not mix well with independent, maverick, DIY programs either. Vehicle regulations get started when there is either a visible tragedy, or a rising conflict with the status quo (like the SFO scooters program). The ebike community cannot afford a deadly accident especially if it involves others and the ebike or ebike rider are at fault. The Ebike community is up against a tough status quo that consists of pedestrians, motor vehicle traffic, the large well-funded and battle tested regular bicycle community, and the environment (especially for MTB riding and off-road use).
Electric motor assisted bicycles have been banned in the State of New York and are not permitted for on-road use.[50][51] It appears the only known allowance of an electric bicycle is if it is an electric powered moped, at this time. There is a proposed bill to allow ebikes. As of May 2009, Bill A2393("Defines the term electric assisted bicycle") has been passed in the NY State Assembly[52] and its corresponding Bill S4014, sponsored by Senator Thomas Morahan, is before the NY State Senate.[53]
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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Electric trikes have also been produced that conform to the e-bike legislation. These have the benefit of additional low speed stability and are often favored by people with disabilities. Cargo carrying tricycles are also gaining acceptance, with a small but growing number of couriers using them for package deliveries in city centres.[51][52] Latest designs of these trikes resemble a cross-between a pedal cycle and a small van.[53][54]

We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. With rechargeable, battery-powered pedaling assistance, electric bicycles offer an increasingly viable alternative to fossil-fueled commuting, and e-bikes enable riders of various abilities to extend their cycling range. But the street legality of these hybrid machines remains a contentious issue, so be sure to check current state and local laws governing their operation before you hit the road. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best electric bike on Amazon.
Some electric bikes claim to use a neat trick called regenerative braking. If you start pedaling the bicycle or going downhill, the spinning wheels turn the electric motor in the hub in reverse and start charging up the batteries. In practice, regenerative braking is nowhere near as useful on an electric bicycle as it is on an electric train or car. An electric bike has much less mass and velocity than either a train or car, so it never gains (or loses) anything like as much kinetic energy when it starts and stops. You'd have to go down an awful lot of hills to charge up the batteries completely and that's usually not practical. And what's the point in pedaling the wheels simply to charge the battery? You might as well have bought an ordinary bicycle to start with!
In general, more expensive bikes are better. However, this is just a trend. E.g. the "Kassensturz" Consumer program from our state TV found in a 2012 study confined to an engineering school, that "Supermarket" bikes, e.g. the 1400 CHF (1200 Euro) "Leopard" bike from COOP did very well. Evaluation is "good" (almost the same as the three times more expensive 25km/h Stromer). They also pointed out a very bad model from a discounter. In other words, you can find good cheap models, but read the tests first.
For many bikes, battery range is more important than total power (because they’re all pretty powerful). You want a bike that delivers a range long enough for your rides at the power levels you want. Most e-bikes will have three to five levels of assist that kick in anywhere from 25 percent of your pedal power to 200 percent. Consider how fast the battery takes to recharge, especially if you’ll be using your bike for long commutes.
After you decide which style of e-bike you want, consider the class. In the U.S., there are three classes defined by the type of assist and how fast the motor will propel you. Most electric bikes sold are class 1 or 3. Class 1 bikes have a motor (max 750w) that assists while you’re pedaling, up to 20 mph. Class 3, also known as “speed pedelec,” can also have up to a 750w motor, but it can assist you up to 28 mph. Both are allowed in most states and cities without requiring a license. Class 2 models have throttles that don’t require the rider to pedal in order to get a boost. They’re allowed on most streets, bike lanes, and paths, but are less popular than the other classes and not covered much here (because not only do we still love to pedal, we also prefer the greater distances that pedal-assist bikes can cover).
The second type of electric bike is a much smaller, often foldable unit designed for convenient urban (or suburban) commuting and for easy storage in minimal space. These compact electric bikes are perfect for trips of a few miles, and many are small and lightweight enough to be carried onto trains or buses, allowing their rider to make use of multiple types of transportation in a single trip, and to store their bike in a closet or even under a desk at work, at school, or at home.
There are two basic categories of electric bike, and their uses don't offer equal crossover value. The first category is essentially a normal bicycle that has been outfitted with an electric motor. These bikes are the same size as a standard bicycle, and handle almost identically, save for the obvious benefit of added motive power thanks to a motor and battery.
On the other hand, the battery doesn’t lock into the bike, which means you can’t just leave it on your bike when you park at the bike rack. Anyone could walk by and simply remove your battery. That seems like an oversight to me, though perhaps the designers assumed that such a small battery would just be easy to take with you. And it is. My wife could probably lose this battery in her purse.