But the good times of the stealthy ebike existence will not endure forever. The ebike market is growing steadily and more so, technology is driving performance up and costs down. The market for a green, lifestyle friendly, transportation technology, with GPS, theft ID, cell service and probably skim lattes is alive and driving an emerging market. It is a matter of time before we all must face and respond to the legal demands of the state and local laws. Not to be over obligatory about being legal and duty oriented, but I do call on my fellow ebikers to ride legal, whether ebike, moped or other. Go ahead and build the 1200W ebike of your dreams, but get it insured and licensed if you must. Such compliance will set the precedence for public acceptance of ebikes in general, and build a track record for expansion and mainstreaming of moped-speed ebikes for commuter value driven needs of the future.
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter ones can travel up to 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), depending on local laws, while the more high-powered varieties can often do in excess of 45 km/h (28 mph). In some markets, such as Germany as of 2013, they are gaining in popularity and taking some market share away from conventional bicycles, while in others, such as China as of 2010, they are replacing fossil fuel-powered mopeds and small motorcycles.
First, think about what you need your bike for -- if it's just for a short city commute, in among traffic, then consider a smaller frame that's easy to manoeuvre through cars. The GoCycle G3 (right) is impressively nimble and its electric assistance will help propel you up to 15 mph (24 kph). Better yet, it has built-in lights, automatic gears and you can customise the amount of power the motor provides using a phone app.
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.
Electric bikes are considered motorcycles in Hong Kong, and therefore need type approval from the Transport Department, just as automobiles. All electric bikes available in Hong Kong fail to meet the type approval requirement, and the Transport Department has never granted any type approval for an electric bike, making all electric bikes effectively illegal in Hong Kong. Even if they got type approval, the driver would need a motorcycle driving license to ride. As a side note, Hong Kong doesn't have a moped vehicle class (and therefore no moped driving license), and mopeds are considered motorcycles too.
Under New Jersey law a motorized bicycle is "a pedal bicycle having a helper motor characterized in that either the maximum piston displacement is less than 50 cc, the motor is rated at no more than 1.5 brake horsepower, or it is powered by an electric drive motor and the bicycle is capable of a maximum speed of no more than 25 miles per hour on a flat surface." This would include E-bikes, meaning they must be titled and registered. However, only Mopeds approved by Motor Vehicle Services can be titled and registered.