Federal law in the United States states that an electric bicycle must have a top speed under 20 mph and a motor which produces less than 750 watts/1 hp. They are not considered motor vehicles by the federal government and are subject to the same consumer safety laws as unassisted bicycles. Their legality on public roads is under state jurisdiction, and varies. See the main Electric bicycle laws article for details on the law in individual states.
The rest of the bike is equally impressive. Integrated lights in the front and the rear run directly off the main battery, so you’re never replacing coin cells or AAA batteries. And the disc brakes give you plenty of stopping power. The 36-volt battery attaches to the down tube and is designed to be easily removed for recharging. A key-lock at the top of the mount ensures that no one can steal your battery if your bike is left in a public place. And a built-in alarm system, activated with a car-like key fob, is ear-splitting enough to keep thieves away altogether. (Miller promises the alarm’s sensitivity is tuned so it shouldn’t go off if the bike is jostled at a public bike rack, but I didn’t have the bike long enough to test this out.)
State law defines a motorized pedalcycle as a motor-driven cycle equipped with operable pedals, a motor rated at no more than 1.5 brake horsepower, a cylinder capacity not exceeding 50 cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission, and a maximum design speed of no more than 25 miles per hour. Subchapter J of Publication 45 spells out the vehicle requirements in full.
There are many possible types of electric motorized bicycles with several technologies 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. The power levels of motors used are influenced by available legal categories and are often limited to under 750 watts.
The federal law will not prohibit a motor vehicle label and additional restrictions given by the state. States will typically define e-mopeds in the 1000W range (1.5 hp) and speeds attainable to 30mph, and include a few requirements such as a helmet, eye protection, and a driver’s license. States may also require title, registration, and insurance for mopeds.
Attitudes to electric bikes have changed in recent years. For a long time they were seen by cyclists as 'cheating' and by non-cyclists as being just like a bike, but uglier and far more expensive. This new breed of best-in-class electric bikes feel more natural, look more normal, and people are coming around to the idea that a ride with the convenience of a bike but without all the sweat and effort is a Very Good Thing.
Again, these are base level components here. The Shimano/TX55 gearing is fine for this application level but I have lost my chain a few times in a few weeks. The frame is surprisingly solid aluminum alloy which feels stiffer and lighter than last year’s Ancheer. The supplied front 10W light is very bright, however the back light is charged via USB and has a push button rather than being wired into the controller. The disc brakes are the same no-name brand as the Ancheer but appear to be a size bigger. The fork, while not amazing, is a big improvement in stiffness and give over the Ancheer’s, which scared me a bit.
The "Dandy horse", also called Draisienne or Laufmaschine, was the first human means of transport to use only two wheels in tandem and was invented by the German Baron Karl von Drais. It is regarded as the modern bicycle's forerunner; Drais introduced it to the public in Mannheim in summer 1817 and in Paris in 1818. Its rider sat astride a wooden frame supported by two in-line wheels and pushed the vehicle along with his or her feet while steering the front wheel.
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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.
However, each country is free to allow faster s-pedelecs if they go through collective or individual type approval. Typically, an S-Pedelec can be associated with "mofas" or "mopeds" or "light scooters". Germany has such a solution: S-pedelecs have max. 500W motors, max 45km/h, max 300% support, can drive up to 20Km/h without pedalling, plus other constraints regarding security, and are associated with Mopeds. In the City you can't use bicycles paths, but you can in the country side.
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. Latest designs of these trikes resemble a cross-between a pedal cycle and a small van.
But two other concerns are also front and center when it comes to biking: cost and convenience. Not many people have showers at their places of employment, and who wants to show up to work coated in sweat and stinky for the rest of the day? Electric bikes solve the convenience problem by making the process almost effortless; you can bike for miles—even up and down hills—without breaking a sweat.
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 … !!!
In some countries mixed systems, i.e. pedaling and/or using a throttle is legal. In EU countries and Switzerland this is not the case. I.e. you can buy an electric scooter, but this is not considered to be an e-bike in the moped / light scooter category. That kind of hack is probably more difficult, unless the original design has been modified to fit with (s)Pedelec specs. E.g. The Ezee models are of that kind and modifications to revert to the original does not seem to be too difficult...