By Max Shumpert: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best e-bikes available for those who are interested in new technology combined with traditional bikes. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best electric bicycles currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.

In the United States electric bikes have seen slow but steady growth since the late 90’s and as a result, in 2001 congress was lobbied and passed the first and only bill to define ebikes in federal law. This law, 107-319, exempts electrified bicycles with operating pedals using motors under 750 watts limited to 20 mph from the legal definition of a motor vehicle.2.
Being member of European Economic Area (EEA), Norway implemented the European Union directive 2002/24/EC. This directive defined legal ebikes for all EU and EEA countries to cycle "with pedal assistance which are equipped with an auxiliary electric motor having a maximum continuous rated power of 0.25 kW, of which the output is progressively reduced and finally cut off as the vehicle reaches a speed of 25 km/h or if the cyclist stops pedaling." The definition became part of Norwegian vehicle legislation in 2003.[41] A more detailed specification will become effective when the new European ebike product safety standard EN 15194 is published in 2009.
In Norway, e-bikes are classified as ordinary bicycles, according to the Vehicle Regulation (kjøretøyforskriften) § 4-1, 5g. Hence, e-bikes are not registered in the Vehicle Registry, and there is no demand for a license to drive them. Still, there are constraints on the bicycle construction. The maximum nominal motor power output can be no more than 250 watts and the maximum performance speed of the vehicle when the engine is running is 25 km per hour (15 mph).[40] A function that reduces motor power when vehicle speed exceeds 25 km per hour is mandatory. However, if the motor is not running, the e-bike, or any other bike, answer only to the constraints of the ordinary speed limits.
Historically, women's bicycle frames had a top tube that connected in the middle of the seat tube instead of the top, resulting in a lower standover height at the expense of compromised structural integrity, since this places a strong bending load in the seat tube, and bicycle frame members are typically weak in bending. This design, referred to as a step-through frame or as an open frame, allows the rider to mount and dismount in a dignified way while wearing a skirt or dress. While some women's bicycles continue to use this frame style, there is also a variation, the mixte, which splits the top tube laterally into two thinner top tubes that bypass the seat tube on each side and connect to the rear fork ends. The ease of stepping through is also appreciated by those with limited flexibility or other joint problems. Because of its persistent image as a "women's" bicycle, step-through frames are not common for larger frames.
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).
At the top end, the 20mph speed limit isn't an absolute, like the speed of light. It's just the most you'll get from the motor. I was able to get it up to 28mph on a flat road (there are no other roads where I live) in Turbo mode and 8th gear, but it took hard work to get there and maintain the speed. The easiest comparison is my mountain bike, where I've hit 23mph on that same stretch of road—and that took a heck of a lot of effort. Exactly how much effort does it take to ride? I have a 15-mile route that I ride on both my mountain bike and cyclecross bike. According to my Apple Watch, I generally burn around 1,400 or so calories on a brisk ride. I'll probably average around 13mph or so on my Marlin and between 16 and 17.5mph on my XO2. I averaged 14.9mph and burned a hair over 1,000 calories with the Bulls Cross E8.
Some US companies, notably in the tech sector, are developing both innovative cycle designs and cycle-friendliness in the workplace. Foursquare, whose CEO Dennis Crowley "pedaled to pitch meetings ... [when he] was raising money from venture capitalists" on a two-wheeler, chose a new location for its New York headquarters "based on where biking would be easy". Parking in the office was also integral to HQ planning. Mitchell Moss, who runs the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management at New York University, said in 2012: "Biking has become the mode of choice for the educated high tech worker".[66]
Photo: Zap Electric's power-assist kit turns a conventional bike into an electric one. There's a bolt-on DC electric motor (weighing just over 3kg or 7lb) just above the back wheel, behind the police officer's foot, pressing against the tire and driving it by simple friction. The motor's powered by a compact lead-acid battery (weighing about 5.5 kg or 12 lb) inside a protective nylon bag. This kit adds quite bit of weight to the bike, but gives extra range and speed when needed. Photo taken in Santa Rosa, California by Rick Tang courtesy of US DOE/NREL.
An itinerant wordsmith with a broad constellation of interests, Lydia Chipman has turned iconoclasm into a livelihood of sorts. Bearing the scars and stripes of an uncommon diversity of experience -- with the notable exceptions of joining a religious order or becoming an artist -- she still can’t resist the temptation to learn something new. Lydia holds a master of arts in English from Georgia Southern University, and a bachelor of arts cum laude in integrative studies from Clayton College. Her expertise is in the areas of robotics, electronics, toys, and outdoors and computer equipment.
In the United States electric bikes have seen slow but steady growth since the late 90’s and as a result, in 2001 congress was lobbied and passed the first and only bill to define ebikes in federal law. This law, 107-319, exempts electrified bicycles with operating pedals using motors under 750 watts limited to 20 mph from the legal definition of a motor vehicle.2.

However, laws and terminology are diverse. Some countries have national regulations but leave the legality of road use for states and provinces to decide. Municipal laws and restrictions add further complications. Systems of classification and nomenclature also vary. Jurisdictions may address "power-assisted bicycle" (Canada) or "power-assisted cycle" (United Kingdom) or "electric pedal-assisted cycles" (European Union) or simply "electric bicycles". Some classify pedelecs as distinct from other bikes using electric power. Thus, the same hardware may be subject to many different classifications and regulations.
Federal law defines the limits of a low speed electric bike, equating it to a bicycle, and bypassing the definition of a motor vehicle only “For purposes of motor vehicle safety standards…” which means that the manufacturers of these bicycles don’t have to meet federal equipment requirements, and are instead governed by the manufacturing requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Act. There is no mention of exemption from other federal, state, and local traffic laws, or exemption from the definition of a motor vehicle for other purposes.3 This means the law applies to the manufacturer’s product and sale, avoiding federal safety requirements applying to a motor vehicle such as brake lights, turn signals and braking specifications. The goal of the law was to give businesses a legal framework to define and sell low speed electric bikes without the more stringent Federal classification of a motor vehicle. Ebikes that meet the criteria are considered a “bicycle”, do not meet the definition of a motor vehicle, and will be regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The law also grants the commission authority to add safety requirements to this product. The Federal law supersedes all state laws that equate bicycles to ebikes where the state law is more stringent (lower limits) on power and speed.
Most of you are likely here for the electric bits, though. Those consist of a 500Wh user-swappable Bosch Powerpack battery and a 250W Bosch Active Line Plus motor that delivers 37lb-ft (50Nm) of torque and speeds of up to 20mph (32km/h). The battery takes up to 4.5 hours to reach a 100-percent charge and offers a range of up to 134 miles. With the battery and motor, it's markedly heavier than a comparable urban bike, weighing in at 46lb (20.8kg).

The electric bike revolution has officially crossed into the arena of off-road motorbikes. For those who prefer riding in nature, Cake introduced a product which not only respects the environment but other riders, as well. Cake’s Kalk is a silent off-road motorbike that releases no emissions into the atmosphere. Additionally, its electric motor means no gear changing or clutching — a silent motorbike that won’t detract from the experience of others. Perhaps the best part is Cake avoided any sacrifice in performance. The Kalk reaches speeds of fifty miles per hour and features three distinct driving modes: Discover, Explore, and Excite.
Most of you are likely here for the electric bits, though. Those consist of a 500Wh user-swappable Bosch Powerpack battery and a 250W Bosch Active Line Plus motor that delivers 37lb-ft (50Nm) of torque and speeds of up to 20mph (32km/h). The battery takes up to 4.5 hours to reach a 100-percent charge and offers a range of up to 134 miles. With the battery and motor, it's markedly heavier than a comparable urban bike, weighing in at 46lb (20.8kg).
This article did a good job of trying to justify the assist speed limits but fell short of detailing how that can ever be effectively enforced. In reality the only enforcement that is going to work is applied speed limits to use of bikes and ebikes. For example, it makes sense that a bike lane on a street that the speed limit of vehicles is the speed limit of the bikes/ebikes. On sidewalks and shared pedestrian paths the speed limit probably does need to be in the 15-20mph range to match traditional bikes speeds on those paths.
For people wanting to push the effects of Statorade to the max, the Australian made Hubsinks can clamp on to your motor shell and provide additional cooling fins to shed heat to ambient air. These fit our new MXUS Cassette motors, and the 9C, Crystalyte H, and many others. These are listed on our new store category for motor cooling mods. And like other small products, we try to  keep a stock of 10mL Statorade syringes on Amazon for easy shipping to US customers. They are sold out now but another shipment is inbound. 
Power assisted bicycles are classified in two categories in Saskatchewan. An electric assist bicycle is a 2 or 3-wheeled bicycle that uses pedals and a motor at the same time only. A power cycle uses either pedals and motor or motor only. Both must have engines with 500 watt power or less, and must not be able exceed 32 km/h (20 mph), i.e., electric motor cuts out at this speed or cycle is unable to go this fast on a level surface. The power cycle has to meet the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) for a power-assisted bicycle. The power cycle requires at least a learner's driving licence (class 7), and all of the other classes 1–5 may operate these also. The electric assist bicycle does not require a licence. Helmets are required for each. Both are treated as bicycles regarding rules of the road. Gas powered or assisted bicycles are classified as motorcycles regardless of engine size or if using pedals plus motor. Stickers identifying the bicycle's compliance with the Federal classification may be required for power cycles by some cities or municipalities.[31]
In Manitoba Electric Bikes can be classified as a scooter or a moped/mobility vehicle depending on the power of the engine used and its top speed. If the engine on the Electric Bike is less than 50cc and it cannot exceed 50 km per hour the rider is not required to have a motorcycle licence or any specific training.[26] Electric Bikes can be driven by anyone with a Class 5 driver's licence in any stage of the graduated licensing process.[27] A Class 5 Learners Licence requires one to be age 16 (parents consent if under 18) and a visit to a licensing office to pass a vision test and a written knowledge test about the rules of the road and traffic signs.[28]
As of 2008 a standard class C license, proof of insurance, and registration (annual fee: $9.00) are required for operation of any motorized pedalcycle in Pennsylvania. Additionally, there are strict equipment standards that must be met for operation, including: handlebars, brakes, tires/wheels, electrical systems/lighting, mirrors, speedometer, and horns/warning devices.[127]
Bicycle brakes may be rim brakes, in which friction pads are compressed against the wheel rims; hub brakes, where the mechanism is contained within the wheel hub, or disc brakes, where pads act on a rotor attached to the hub. Most road bicycles use rim brakes, but some use disk brakes.[49] Disc brakes are more common for mountain bikes, tandems and recumbent bicycles than on other types of bicycles, due to their increased power, coupled with an increased weight and complexity.[50]

Power assisted bicycles are classified in two categories in Saskatchewan. An electric assist bicycle is a 2 or 3-wheeled bicycle that uses pedals and a motor at the same time only. A power cycle uses either pedals and motor or motor only. Both must have engines with 500 watt power or less, and must not be able exceed 32 km/h (20 mph), i.e., electric motor cuts out at this speed or cycle is unable to go this fast on a level surface. The power cycle has to meet the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) for a power-assisted bicycle. The power cycle requires at least a learner's driving licence (class 7), and all of the other classes 1–5 may operate these also. The electric assist bicycle does not require a licence. Helmets are required for each. Both are treated as bicycles regarding rules of the road. Gas powered or assisted bicycles are classified as motorcycles regardless of engine size or if using pedals plus motor. Stickers identifying the bicycle's compliance with the Federal classification may be required for power cycles by some cities or municipalities.[31]
It is important to note that if a vehicle has an electric motor greater than 500 watts and is capable of powering the vehicle when traveling at a speed greater than 32 km/h and it does not have a CMVSS compliance label it cannot be registered unless the owner can prove, by having the vehicle certified by an engineer, that it is safe for operation on NB highways. Also, not all vehicles are suitable for operation on NB highways and it could be that the vehicle in question may not be a motor driven cycle or a bicycle and cannot be operated on the highway at all.
Conversion kits, on the other hand, are sold and installed separately on traditional bicycles. They are harder to setup and conceal, and require some basic mechanical ability and a little bit of ‘elbow grease’ to install. The advantage of conversion kits is that you can choose almost any standard bicycle, and you have the freedom to change or upgrade components as you go. A conversion kit will also allow you to achieve higher power and speed ratings that are not possible on most pre-built electric bike models. Kits are great for tall or heavy riders because they can opt for a larger bike, with higher power and weight carrying capacity. People living in hilly terrain may require the additional torque to handle extremely large inclines. For people who prefer a specific bike model or just love to go faster, a conversion kit offers enormous flexibility.

FuroSystems is a London-based startup that is launching two new full carbon fiber electric bikes, a folding e-bike and a mountain e-bike. FuroSystems’ ambition was to design very stylish, ultra-light electric bicycles with strong carbon fiber frames that encase all electronic parts and cables – and to sell them at a very competitive price. Both of these e-bikes feature high quality, mid-drive motors and offer great range.


A response to an inquiry made to the Mass DOT/RMV indicates that Massachusetts does recognize the federal low speed electric bicycle Federal Law (15 U.S.C. § 2085) and interprets that to mean these ebikes do not require license or registration. However, some of the materials available on the RMV website do not distinguish between "Motorized Bicycle" and low power ebikes. One form, Bicycle Conversion to Motorized Bike, does document the exemption of low power ebikes.[100]
Thanks for your feedback Joe! I personally find black on white to be high contrast and abrasive. Instead, this dark gray scheme is meant to be relaxing… but if it’s uncomfortable to you or difficult to read there are ways to change your browser and even your operating system to be more comfortable using the accessibility options. Here’s a list by device type and for some browsers https://goo.gl/voKTnW hope it helps!

Staring up the bike path of the Manhattan Bridge on a recent frigid February morning, I feel the familiar dread when confronted with a steep, uphill climb. There are few things more discouraging to a city biker — especially a fair-weather one like me — than an arduous, sweaty ascent in work clothes. But before my thighs can cramp up, I remember that I’m riding a new electric bicycle from a company called Wing.


I'm one of the hardcore cyclists at Ars, along with Jay Timmer and his new-as-of-last-fall road bike as well as copyeditor Kerry Staurseth. I love cycling, and it was a major factor in my dropping 120lb over a 12-month period starting in the summer of 2009. My daily rider/errand-runner is a 1998 Gary Fisher Marlin mountain bike. For longer rides, I use my 2009 Trek XO2 cyclecross bike. I've made a few modifications to it, including removing the bumpy cyclecross tires and swapping out the front 46-tooth chainring for a 50-tooth one. I went with a cross bike over a road bike because I'm still a Clydesdale, and I like the slightly longer wheelbase of a cross bike. I've also briefly owned a 2011 Trek Madone 5.9, which I sold not long after I bought it due to severely screwing up my right knee.
Would an e-bike that used a trailing generator to power the electric motor still be considered an e-bike? The purpose of the generator is allow greater distances to be traveled and all day riding. The gen-set that I am looking at uses a 49 cc gas engine with a 12 volt generator, this would be from the ground up build using a 1 hp electric motor. This seems to stay within the state laws of AZ. where I reside. Thanks for your thoughts.
The recommendation depends a lot on what you plan to use the bike for and how you plan to ride. That said, I would recommend at least a 750 (if not 1,000) watt motor, and, if you want reasonable range, 48 or 52v cells with a minimum rating of 19ah. For shorter rides, you can use a smaller battery. Multiply battery voltage by amp hour rating to get battery watt hours. Divide the watt hours by the motors power rating to get a general idea of how many hours of heavy use you might get. I’d also recommend a mid drive as opposed to a hub drive, or to find a hub drive wheel rated to take your and the bicycle's combined weight.

Photo: Zap Electric's power-assist kit turns a conventional bike into an electric one. There's a bolt-on DC electric motor (weighing just over 3kg or 7lb) just above the back wheel, behind the police officer's foot, pressing against the tire and driving it by simple friction. The motor's powered by a compact lead-acid battery (weighing about 5.5 kg or 12 lb) inside a protective nylon bag. This kit adds quite bit of weight to the bike, but gives extra range and speed when needed. Photo taken in Santa Rosa, California by Rick Tang courtesy of US DOE/NREL.
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.
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