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.

(15.5) "Electric assisted bicycle" means a device with two or three wheels which has a saddle and fully operative pedals for human propulsion and also has an electric motor. For such a device to be considered an electric assisted bicycle, it shall meet the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, as set forth in 49 C.F.R. Section 571, et seq., and shall operate in such a manner that the electric motor disengages or ceases to function when the brakes are applied. The electric motor in an electric assisted bicycle shall:
In Opinion No. 2007-00602 of the Attorney General, Jim Hood clarified that a "bicycle with a motor attached" does not satisfy the definition of "motor vehicle" under Section 63-3-103. He stated that it is up to the authority creating the bike lane to determine if a bicycle with a motor attached can be ridden in bike lanes. No specifications about the motor were made.
My homeowners (State Farm) covers bikes , but assumes $500 per bike. They will add the bikes as personal property, but the premium is excessive (about $300/year per bike, and we have four bikes). I did increase our personal umbrella liability coverage, and it covers us if family members any sort of accident on our e-bikes that injures us or others or others' property, though only covers $500 each for our own bikes (under the homeowners coverage). It was not very expensive to increase the umbrella policy (as it resulted also in a reduced rate on our car insurance).
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.
The two most common types of hub motors used in electric bicycles are brushed and brushless. Many configurations are available, varying in cost and complexity; direct-drive and geared motor units are both used. An electric power-assist system may be added to almost any pedal cycle using chain drive, belt drive, hub motors or friction drive. BLDC hub motors are a common modern design. The motor is built into the wheel hub itself, and the stator fixed solidly to the axle, and the magnets attached to and rotating with the wheel. The bicycle wheel hub is the motor. The power levels of motors used are influenced by available legal categories and are often, but not always limited to under 750 watts.
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).
Speaking of which, if you're used to non-electric cycles, be aware that e-bikes are heavy and capped at 25kph or 15.5mph. In many cases, that means the bike starts to feel like its actively fighting against you, if you try to push the speed higher than that by pedalling. That's especially true with heavier bikes, for obvious reasons, and can take a while to get used to. 
Stöckli E.T. Urban Confort, made in Switzerland. It has SwissGoDrive motors and Samsung batteries. There is a 500W/17.6Ah combo that seems to be ideal for commuters, i.e. it has a 50km range using full assistance. In the USA, a similar product is available as Currie eFlow e3 Nitro (different motor and electronics). This model doesn't have a front wheel suspension, but comes with "balloon" tires that somewhat absorb shocks. Options are available through types: "simple"/Urban/CROSS and man/confort models. E.g. the Cross model has a front suspension, a 500W motor and no equipment like lights, fenders, etc. However, paying extra, you can compose your own configuration. If you commute using bumpy roads, then get a front suspension.
On October 22, 2014 PA house bill 573 passed into law, which is Act 154, which changes the definition of "pedalcycle" (bicycle) in the PA state vehicle code. "Pedalcycle" is now defined as a vehicle propelled solely by human-powered pedals or a "pedalcycle" (bicycle) with electric assist( a vehicle weighing not more than 100 pounds with two or three wheels more than 11 inches in diameter, manufactured or assembled with an electric motor rated no more than 750 watts and equipped with operational pedals and travels at speeds less than 20 mph). This bill allows the usage of pedal assisted bicycles in PA that follow the adopted state guidelines.

As long as you can do without some of the perks that pricier models offer—like a detailed display unit, integrated lights, and a torque-sensor motor—the August Live! LS is a solid, stable, comfortable, and really freakin’ cute (have you see those polka-dot fenders?) e-bike. Its 8-speed twist shifter, chopper-style handlebar, Touch Down Geometry (for a more laid-back ride), and three levels of assist keep this bike within the realm of “cruiser.” But with a 250-watt Bafang rear-hub motor, a top pedal-assisted speed of 20 mph, and reliable disc brakes, the August is no joke. It’ll get you to the top of relatively steep climbs without forcing you out of the saddle, and it feels super stable on the way back down. It has a battery range of 20 miles, but that’s enough to take it where it’s happiest: tootling along at the beach, around town, and through the park.
E-bikes are typically offered in 24V, 36V and 48V configurations. Higher voltage generally means higher top speed – but that may not always be the case. Since the efficiency of a motor and drive system can have an effect on power and speed, a 24V setup could have the same top speed as a 36V setup. Generally you can expect 15-18 mph on a 24v setup, 16-20 mph on a 36V setup and 24-28 mph on a 48V setup. Although it far exceeds Federal laws, some conversion kits can even be run at 72V for speeds of 35+ mph! However, this puts significant stress on bicycle components. Consider that even the fastest athletes only travel 17-18 mph on a conventional bicycle, so 20 mph feels very fast to most riders. Anything over this speed can be unsafe and exceeds law regulations.
The other shout-out goes to Paul Bogaert who decided to close the Bike Doctor after 27 years and instead cycle tour the world with his wife. Paul had an early role in Vancouver bicycle advocacy and at bringing cycle riding to a less elitist/athletic and more everyday commuter crowd through their shop.  They were among the early shops to embrace family friendly cargo bikes and  appreciated the role that electric would play in making cycling more broadly appealing.
I found that by sticking it on 'Turbo' or 'Sport' mode (the upper 2 of the 4 electrical assistance levels) and leaving it in a middle gear, the Centros felt zippy when in full flight, but able to pull away from the lights with no problems. Less lazy riders than me might want to actually use the 10 gears, and will find that in the top gear, it's quite easy to push past the mandated 15.5mph electrical limit.
E-bikes mostly use motors and battery options from a few major suppliers: Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano, and Brose. A few other brands exist, but are less reliable or powerful. Some, like the Yamaha system, have more torque, and others, like Bosch’s Active Line, are nearly silent. But, generally, all four make good options. Look for motor output (in torque), which will give you an idea of total power. Just like car engines, more torque equals more power off the line and more boost to your pedaling. But watt hours (Wh) is perhaps a more important figure to use—it takes into account battery output and life to give a more accurate reflection of power (higher Wh equals bigger range).

In the 1890s, electric bicycles were documented within various U.S. patents. For example, on 31 December 1895, Ogden Bolton Jr. was granted U.S. Patent 552,271 for a battery-powered bicycle with "6-pole brush-and-commutator direct current (DC) hub motor mounted in the rear wheel". There were no gears and the motor could draw up to 100 amperes (A) from a 10-volt battery.[5]
E-bikes mostly use motors and battery options from a few major suppliers: Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano, and Brose. A few other brands exist, but are less reliable or powerful. Some, like the Yamaha system, have more torque, and others, like Bosch’s Active Line, are nearly silent. But, generally, all four make good options. Look for motor output (in torque), which will give you an idea of total power. Just like car engines, more torque equals more power off the line and more boost to your pedaling. But watt hours (Wh) is perhaps a more important figure to use—it takes into account battery output and life to give a more accurate reflection of power (higher Wh equals bigger range).

The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) also has a specific Technical Committee, TC333, that defines European standards for cycles. Their mandate states that EN cycle standards shall harmonize with ISO standards. Some CEN cycle standards were developed before ISO published their standards, leading to strong European influences in this area. European cycle standards tend to describe minimum safety requirements, while ISO standards have historically harmonized parts geometry.[55]
On October 22, 2014 PA house bill 573 passed into law, which is Act 154, which changes the definition of "pedalcycle" (bicycle) in the PA state vehicle code. "Pedalcycle" is now defined as a vehicle propelled solely by human-powered pedals or a "pedalcycle" (bicycle) with electric assist( a vehicle weighing not more than 100 pounds with two or three wheels more than 11 inches in diameter, manufactured or assembled with an electric motor rated no more than 750 watts and equipped with operational pedals and travels at speeds less than 20 mph). This bill allows the usage of pedal assisted bicycles in PA that follow the adopted state guidelines.
"Electric power-assisted bicycle" means a vehicle that travels on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground and is equipped with (i) pedals that allow propulsion by human power and (ii) an electric motor with an input of no more than 1,000 watts that reduces the pedal effort required of the rider. For the purposes of Chapter 8 of this title, an electric power-assisted bicycle shall be a vehicle when operated on a highway.[65]

Electric motorized bicycles can be power-on-demand, where the motor is activated by a handlebar mounted throttle, and/or a pedelec (from pedal electric), also known as electric assist, where the electric motor is regulated by pedaling. These have a sensor to detect the pedaling speed, the pedaling force, or both. An electronic controller provides assistance as a function of the sensor inputs, the vehicle speed and the required force. Most controllers also provide for manual adjustment.

"Electric power-assisted bicycle" means a vehicle that travels on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground and is equipped with (i) pedals that allow propulsion by human power and (ii) an electric motor with an input of no more than 1,000 watts that reduces the pedal effort required of the rider. For the purposes of Chapter 8 of this title, an electric power-assisted bicycle shall be a vehicle when operated on a highway.[142]


In Israel, persons above 16 years old are allowed to use pedal-assisted bicycle with power of up to 250W and speed limit of 25 km/hour. The bicycle must satisfy the European Standard EN15194 and be approved by the Standards Institution of Israel. A new law, effective January 10, 2019, states that riders under 18 who have no automobile license will need a special permit. [51] [52] Otherwise, no license or insurance is required. Other motorized bicycles are considered to be motorcycles and should be licensed and insured as such.[53] The maximum weight of the e-bike itself cannot exceed 30 kg.[54]
This year was busy at Haibike’s EUROBIKE stand. The reason: the new FLYON series, which we could only admire behind glass. The new bikes are the spearhead of Haibike’s eMTB development with an exciting and unprecedented level of integration and connectivity. They have a specially developed display, their own remote and, thanks to a 5,000 lumen headlight, are able to turn night into day. To make the rider visible at all times, taillights are neatly integrated into the frame. The bikes also come with the most powerful motor currently available on the market, from TQ Systems. We are sure that many will buy this bike not only for its performance but also as a status symbol.
EU: EN15194 (EPAC – Electrically Power Assisted Cycles) defines the use pedal-assisted less than 25k/h bikes: "Cycles 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.”
An electric bicycle is a bicycle with an electric motor used to power the vehicle, or to assist with pedaling. In many parts of the world, electric bicycles are classified as bicycles rather than motor vehicles, so they are not subject to the same laws as motor vehicles. Electric bicycles are one type of motorized bicycle. However, electric bicycles are defined separately and treated as a specific vehicle type in many areas of legal jurisdiction.
Electrically-assisted cycles are usually classified as either pedelecs or e-bikes. Under European Union regulations adopted in the UK in June 2003, only power-assisted cycles meeting the pedelec classification are considered to be pedal cycles. The maximum power allowed in the European Union for (pedelec) electric bicycles is 250 W, with a maximum assisted speed of 25 km/h.[15]. To meet the pedelec specification the electric motor must be activated by the rider's pedalling effort and the power must cut out completely whenever the rider stops pedalling. Control of the motor by pedalling is often the key difference between a pedelec and e-bike.
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.[63] The rules for e-bikes on public roads, sidewalks, and pathways are under state jurisdiction, and vary.
×