By 1898 a rear wheel drive electric bicycle, which used a driving belt along the outside edge of the wheel was patented by Mathew J. Steffens. Also, the 1899 Template:US Patent by John Schnepf depicted a rear wheel friction “roller-wheel” style drive electric bicycle. Schnepf's invention was later re-examined and expanded in 1969 by G.A. Wood Jr. with his Template:US Patent. Wood’s device used 4 fractional horsepower motors; each rated less than ½ horsepower and connected through a series of gears.
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.
I have been able to find ebikes of all speeds out in the wild and after years of riding and a reflective posture for the law, I see that lawmakers were thinking less about me and my practical wants as the user, and more about the mass motor vehicle driving public, their perceptions and expectations of ‘typical bicycle speeds’ on the roads and paths. So the laws were made to bicycle NORMS, not the potential performance limits for users.
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".
Before you start shopping around for a new e-bike, the first thing you should ask yourself is, “how do I plan on using an electric bicycle?” How far do you plan on traveling? What type of terrain will you be traveling on? How much assistance do you need? Do you plan on pedaling – or do you want the bike to do all the work? Is this bike for daily commuting or casual riding? How fast do you need to go?
The Ohio Revised Code 4511.01  distinguishes motorized bicycles and mopeds from motorcycles or scooters by describing them as "...any vehicle having either two tandem wheels or one wheel in the front and two wheels in the rear, that is capable of being pedaled and is equipped with a helper motor of not more than fifty cubic centimeters piston displacement that produces no more than one brake horsepower and is capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of no greater than twenty miles per hour on a level surface." One brake horsepower converts to 0.75 kW, or (rounded) 750W. Thus, a bicycle with an electric helper motor operating under 750W, and not propelling the bicycle over 20 mph, does not qualify to be registered under Ohio state law. Local jurisdictions may have other regulations.
The bicycle's invention has had an enormous effect on society, both in terms of culture and of advancing modern industrial methods. Several components that eventually played a key role in the development of the automobile were initially invented for use in the bicycle, including ball bearings, pneumatic tires, chain-driven sprockets and tension-spoked wheels.
"Bicycle" means either of the following: (1) A device having two wheels and having at least one saddle or seat for the use of a rider which is propelled by human power. (2) A device having two or three wheels with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (one horsepower), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden, is less than 20 miles per hour.
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. The rules for e-bikes on public roads, sidewalks, and pathways are under state jurisdiction, and vary.
Rose Heyer and Josie Tabor of Dept Tech, Department of State Information Center, the Secretary of State and the office of ROCK AND BORGELT, P.C., Attorneys at Law, 24500 FORD ROAD, SUITE 10 DEARBORN HEIGHTS, MI 48127-3106, determined electric bicycles are considered mopeds and need registered and licensed. In order to operate an electric bicycle on public streets, the driver must have a valid operator, chauffeur, or special moped license. However, not all electric bicycles are street legal unless they have the following safety equipment: operating brake light, headlight, and turn signals. The local police department must inspect the bicycle using Form TR-54 which is taken with proof of purchase to the DMV. The fee for the plate is $15 for a three year decal, whereas the fine for no decal is $150 per incident.
Range is a key consideration with e-bikes, and is affected by factors such as motor efficiency, battery capacity, efficiency of the driving electronics, aerodynamics, hills and weight of the bike and rider. Some manufacturers, such as the Canadian BionX or American Vintage Electric Bikes, have the option of using regenerative braking, the motor acts as a generator to slow the bike down prior to the brake pads engaging. This is useful for extending the range and the life of brake pads and wheel rims. There are also experiments using fuel cells. e.g. the PHB. Some experiments have also been undertaken with super capacitors to supplement or replace batteries for cars and some SUVS. E-bikes developed in Switzerland in the late 1980s for the Tour de Sol solar vehicle race came with solar charging stations but these were later fixed on roofs and connected so as to feed into the electric mains. The bicycles were then charged from the mains, as is common today. While ebike batteries were produced mainly by bigger companies in past, many small to medium companies have started using innovative new methods for creating more durable batteries. State of the art, custom built automated precision CNC spot welding machines created 18650 battery packs are commonly used among Do-it-yourself ebike makers.
Riding a pedal-assisted road bike may seem counterintuitive but during longer training sessions, the minimal addition of power helps prevent overall muscle fatigue and injury. Similarly, those looking to enjoy longer scenic routes will appreciate the general boost an electric drive provides. With a top speed of 28 mph, the Road E+1 uses three power modes to give you ultimate control over your ride and assistance level. A four-point sensory system monitors the pedaling force allowing the motor to amplify your movements seamlessly.
Unrelated to the show but also of local interest. The BC government is soliciting input on what is meant by "active transportation" which could hopefully help to direct policy and regulation governing not just ebikes but all kinds of human scaled transport. If you think electric skateboards should be on their radar or faster S-Pedalec class ebikes then this is a chance to have your voice heard. Electric bicycles have been an entirely grass roots phenomenon for most of their trajectory and it's encouraging to see the entire scope of personal mobility finally being acknowledged and discussed at this level.
No person may drive either a two-wheeled or a three-wheeled motorcycle, or a motor-driven cycle unless such person has a valid driver's license specially endorsed by the director to enable the holder to drive such vehicles. No driver's license is required for operation of an electric-assisted bicycle if the operator is at least sixteen years of age. Persons under sixteen years of age may not operate an electric-assisted bicycle. Persons operating electric-assisted bicycles shall comply with all laws and regulations related to the use of bicycle helmets. Electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters may have access to highways of the state to the same extent as bicycles. Electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters may be operated on a multipurpose trail or bicycle lane, but local jurisdictions may restrict or otherwise limit the access of electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters, and state agencies may regulate the use of motorized foot scooters on facilities and properties under their jurisdiction and control.
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.
There are individuals who claim to have lost considerable amounts of weight by using an electric bike. A recent prospective cohort study however found that people using e-bikes have a higher BMI. By making the biking terrain less of an issue, people who wouldn't otherwise consider biking can use the electric assistance when needed and otherwise pedal as they are able. This means people of lower fitness levels or who haven't cycled in many years can start enjoying the many health benefits E-bikes have to offer. 
The frame itself incorporates a series of mounts allowing you to easily trick-out the Road E+1 with a rack, fenders, or panniers to more aptly meet your touring requirements. Again, most touring purists will certainly scoff at the mere notion of pedal-assistance, however, individuals looking for more of a guided tour and less of a tour de force will swoon over the Road E+1.
The Footloose has no chain, however -- it's entirely electrically driven. It takes very little effort to get to your destination, meaning you arrive at work without having broken a sweat. The downside is that when you run out of power, you're not going anywhere. And pedalling from a standstill, waiting for the motor to kick in, is an odd sensation that takes some getting used to.
The definition was clearly written with gasoline-powered pedalcycles in mind. The requirement of an automatic transmission is troublesome for those who just want to add an electric-assist motor to a bicycle, for almost all bicycles have transmissions consisting of chains and manually shifted sprockets. The registration form asks for a VIN, making it difficult to register some foreign-made ebikes. The fine for riding an unregistered electric bike is approximately $160.00 per event as of 2007.
"Bicycles" and "Electric Bicycles" are legally defined in the Texas Transportation Code Title 7, Chapter 551 entitled "Operation of Bicycles, Mopeds, and Play Vehicles" in Subchapter A, B, C, and D. Under Chapter 541.201 (24), "Electric bicycle" means a bicycle that is (A) designed to be propelled by an electric motor, exclusively or in combination with the application of human power, (B) cannot attain a speed of more than 20 miles per hour without the application of human power, and (C) does not exceed a weight of 100 pounds. The department or a local authority may not prohibit the use of an electric bicycle on a highway that is used primarily by motor vehicles. The department or a local authority may prohibit the use of an electric bicycle on a highway used primarily by pedestrians.
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.