This is an unofficial guide to the laws governing electric bicycles in the United States as of 2016. It was contributed by a guest writer The Smart Ped`aleck who was paid and remains unaffiliated with any electric bicycle company. It may be updated ongoing and is cited throughout with reference links and attributions at the end. It is designed to be an entertaining starting point for understanding the space, digging deeper and in turn choosing the best electric bike platform for your needs.
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.
Visually, the Pedego City Commuter Classic Electric Bike is stunning – a smart blend of yesteryear's style and today's technology. Pleasantly high handlebars, a sprung seat, and lovely Schwalbe Fat Frank tires make it very comfortable. Stopping is taken care of by powerful disk brakes, front and rear. Lights are included, as is a useful cargo rack. From an e-bike standpoint, the Pedego Classic City Commuter sports a reliable, hub-mounted motor driven by a 36-volt, 10-amp battery. There's a digital display with a trip computer, odometer, speedometer, pedal assist level, and battery charge information.
In Quebec power-assisted bicycles are often classified similarly to standard pedal bicycles. They do not have to meet the conditions defined within the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (they are not classed as "motor vehicles"), but they do have to comply with federal regulations that define Power Assisted Bicycles. The Quebec Highway Safety Code defines a power-assisted bicycle as a bicycle(2 or 3 wheels that touch the ground) with an electric motor with a maximum power of 500W and a top speed of 32 km/h bearing a specific compliance label permanently attached by the manufacturer. PABs are permitted on the road in the province of Quebec, but riders have to be 14 and over to ride the electric bicycle and if they're under the age of 18, must have a moped or scooter license.
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.
As the managing editor of Ars Technica, one of my duties is to monitor the daily torrent of news tips and PR emails. The overwhelming majority of them is deleted after a glance, and the news tips and story ideas are passed along to the appropriate writer. Sometimes a product announcement will catch my eye, and I will follow up. Once in a blue moon, I'll say, "please send me one so that I may review it." And that's how I ended up riding an electric bike around the Chicago suburbs for two weeks.
But electric bicycles—e-bikes—are new territory for me. Broadly speaking, there are two basic options in e-bike land: power-on-demand and pedal-assist. With the former, the rider can control the speed with a throttle instead of just pedaling. Think moped but with an electric motor instead of internal combustion. Pedal-assist, by contrast, requires the rider to do some of the work. The electric motor won't engage unless the rider is pedaling.
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.
Most European bike rules are tight and restrictive. Right now the California state ebike rules in AB 1096 provide the clearest and cleanest format, and they support ebike riding. No other U.S. regulations come close. The big brand ebikes (Giant, Specialized, Trek) are selling bikes that fit within European rules (250w-300w motors). This gives them economies of scale.
A new European product safety standard EN 15194 will be published in 2009. EN 15194 contains several new requirements for ebikes to be sold in European Union and European Economic Area, including weight and voltage limitations. EN 15194 also defines a specific name for EU approved electrically-assisted cycles, EPAC - "Electrically Pedal Assisted Cycle".
A KS LEV Integra dropper post, 130mm of front and rear travel, 27.5-inch wheels, and trail-grabbing 2.8-inch tires make this pedal-assist mountain bike a great option if you want to climb farther to shred longer, but don’t want to lug your bike uphill for ages. The 250-watt motor, placed slightly farther forward than most other bikes to optimize weight distribution and handling, provides a nice boost so you can enjoy the ride up and not be too gassed when you get to the top.
Equipped with a powerful motor, a portable Li-ion Battery, and all the other magic that goes into building a LightSpeed Electric Bicycle… It’s lighter than it looks, strong yet agile, and feels like flying.This beast is truly larger than life. To bring it home, you need a special invite. Follow this space for more information on how to get invited.
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.
If you're taking your bike inside, consider one that folds up. The Cyclotricity Wallet has a motor in the front wheel, which takes you up to speed either by assisting your pedalling, or you can sit back and use the throttle by itself. Its folding design makes it slightly easier to get in and out of a building, but its hefty weight means you still won't find it easy to carry onto public transport.
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 "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.” The definition became part of Norwegian vehicle legislation in 2003. A more detailed specification will become effective when the new European ebike product safety standard EN 15194 is published in 2009.
Because the power is applied through the chain and sprocket, power is typically limited to around 250–500 watts to protect against fast wear on the drivetrain. An electric mid-drive combined with an internal gear hub at the back hub may require care due to the lack of a clutch mechanism to soften the shock to the gears at the moment of re-engagement. A continuously variable transmission or a fully automatic internal gear hub may reduce the shocks due to the viscosity of oils used for liquid coupling instead of the mechanical couplings of the conventional internal gear hubs.
The motor isn’t insanely powerful, but it gets you up to full speed quickly enough. I never felt like the bike was underpowered. The motor does make more noise than a lot of other hub motor bikes I’ve ridden though. There’s a definite whirrr to the motor caused by the internal plastic gears. While all geared motors will have some level of gear noise, this one stuck out more to me than others.
This 150mm-travel e-mtb tackles big descents, shines on flowy trails, and provides the boost you need for the trip back. Pedal assist comes from Shimano’s 6.2-pound STePS E8000 motor with a 20mph boost. Shifting is motorized too, with Shimano’s exemplary XT Di2 drivetrain providing the most precise and consistent shifts a mountain bike can have. The fun comes from the E-Core’s 150mm of front and rear travel courtesy of a RockShox Yari fork and Deluxe RT shock. Both can be locked out for long, fire-road type climbs, though on an e-bike that feature feels less necessary.
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.   Otherwise, no license or insurance is required. Other motorized bicycles are considered to be motorcycles and should be licensed and insured as such. The maximum weight of the e-bike itself cannot exceed 30 kg.
Built around a heavy-duty alloy frame, the GSD eschews many of the traits of other cargo bikes: long wheelbases, bigger wheels, and especially, an unwieldy ride. Yet it boasts an extensive capacity, nimble handling—even fully loaded, thanks to a short wheelbase and 20-inch wheels—and enduring range in a package not much bigger than most non-cargo e-bikes. The stout frame holds a 250-watt Bosch motor that gives up to 275 percent of your power back to the pedals and reaches 20 mph. The GSD has room for two battery packs, extending the batteries’ combined range to a claimed 150 miles and making the Tern one of the longest-lasting e-bikes on the market. A laundry list of accessories and a (claimed) 396-pound carrying capacity round out the GSD’s status as an epic day-tripper.
They also served to teach the industrial models later adopted, including mechanization and mass production (later copied and adopted by Ford and General Motors), vertical integration (also later copied and adopted by Ford), aggressive advertising (as much as 10% of all advertising in U.S. periodicals in 1898 was by bicycle makers), lobbying for better roads (which had the side benefit of acting as advertising, and of improving sales by providing more places to ride), all first practiced by Pope. In addition, bicycle makers adopted the annual model change (later derided as planned obsolescence, and usually credited to General Motors), which proved very successful.
Hmm, I think it depends on the forest. My experience has been that if you have a Class 1 ebike and are riding respectfully, most places allow it. I have a sensitive knee and carry a doctor’s note citing disability laws in Colorado and have never been approached or asked by a ranger or fellow rider about the legality of my bike. That said, I have been using the really quiet and hidden Brose motor and I ride carefully and am friendly with everyone
Oregon Law (ORS 801.258) defines an electric assisted bicycle as an electric motor-driven vehicle equipped with operable pedals, a seat or saddle for the rider, no more than three wheels in contact during travel. In addition, the vehicle must be equipped with an electric motor that is capable of applying a power output of no greater than 1,000 watts, and that is incapable of propelling the vehicle at a speed no greater than 20 miles per hour on level ground.
I called Geico earlier today. They could insure me with Renters Insurance, but … I would need to have a Renter's Policy first, before the secondary insurance company they deal would insure my two bikes (Surly Long Haul Trucker and Yuba Sweet Curry custom eBike). BUT … unfortunately …. The company that would insure my bicycles will NOT insure me because we have a Pitbull !!! Can you believe that … !!!
The Riese & Müller Load Touring HS is billed as “the ultimate minivan of e-bikes,” and it holds up to that claim. With a low center of gravity (aided by the 20-inch front and 26-inch rear wheels), the Load is easy to handle. Tektro hydraulic disc brakes add control, and front and rear suspension provide comfort. The Bosch motor offers an assist up to 275 percent of your effort until you hit 28 mph, when it cuts out. Two 500Wh batteries give you 12 hours or more of range at full power. It’s capable of toting up to 220 pounds of pets, people, and less-animate cargo. R&M also sells a double child seat for kids up to age 6 and a child-seat fastener for your youngest passengers.
Play it Safe, Make it Easy – E-bike manufacturers will offer you a large variety of styles, types, colors and utility, but the base specifications will be a bike producing less than 750 watts of power (1 horsepower = 746W) , and have its speed limited to 20mph on motor power alone. The majority of US ebikes meet that specification. Manufacturers do this for their own liability. Going this route assures you that your bike was built and sold legally. As a result, you will have about every privilege that a normal bicycle can expect. However, state and local laws may dictate reduced speeds and limited access to bike paths.
The Domane+ e-road bike is the electric version of Trek’s popular Domane. It’s designed for riders who appreciate that bike’s reliable comfort and IsoSpeed technology but want the added fun and function of e-assist. It’s also the ideal companion for anyone coming back from injury, slower riders who want to mix it up with a speedy group, and couples with different fitness levels. A Bosch Performance Line Speed motor provides a very welcome 28 mph of pedal assist, and the 500Wh Powertube battery sleekly integrates into the down tube. Also integrated: front and rear lights, which are powered by the battery—no charging required.