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.
When I finally had the ability drive this thing in my city, it feels fantastic, you're cruising easily. But the minute it starts going up a hill, you also gotta peddle to help it go up. Which is okay because the little engine helps a lot so you're not straining yourself. But, being that the wheels are so small, after a while, you feel your legs get swore. I guess the size of the wheel
Step-throughs were popular partly for practical reasons and partly for social mores of the day. For most of the history of bicycles' popularity women have worn long skirts, and the lower frame accommodated these better than the top-tube. Furthermore, it was considered "unladylike" for women to open their legs to mount and dismount—in more conservative times women who rode bicycles at all were vilified as immoral or immodest. These practices were akin to the older practice of riding horse sidesaddle.
I would advocate you ride legal within the laws of your state. I would also look into some kind of liability rider or umbrella policy with your home owner’s policy, which covers your personal liability and theft. Get your bike registered; wear your helmet, eye protection, whatever is required by state law so that if an accident occurs and you are at fault, there is no legal recourse. Even if you own a 750W/20mph ebike that meets the definition of a bicycle, any at-fault cyclist may still be denied coverage by stingy insurance companies who want to support their clients. Your health insurance will usually cover your medical bills, but the costs of an expensive ebike may be lost.
We need to support and put our purchasing power behind ebikes sold in the U.S. that are trying to comply with the California rules which allow 500w and 750w nominal motors and establish 3 classes. If these bikes can create a big enough footprint in the market then future U.S. bike rules may universally adopt these standards. It is better than engaging in regulation showdowns without any standardized and unified proposal on the part of the Electric Bike Community.
The Freedom’s motor gives you five different levels of boost, and the 36-volt battery offers up to 35 miles of range. You can track your power level and speed, as well as your battery life, on a digital display mounted to the handlebar. I have to admit I spent nearly all my time on the Freedom riding in the highest level, where I could pedal up to 19 mph to 20 mph without even breaking a sweat.
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.
The basic shape and configuration of a typical upright or "safety bicycle", has changed little since the first chain-driven model was developed around 1885. However, many details have been improved, especially since the advent of modern materials and computer-aided design. These have allowed for a proliferation of specialized designs for many types of cycling.
This Class 3 (28 mph), utilitarian, road e-bike is smooth and torquey thanks to its Bosch Performance Speed motor. With a drop bar and traditional road-bike position and handling, the CrossRip+ is more suited to longer rides on mixed terrain than navigating congested city streets. It comes with a rear rack—for mounting bags, not for attaching cargo directly—full fenders, a kickstand, and integrated front and rear lights (which are powered by a Bosch 500Wh battery). It features a SRAM Force 1x11 drivetrain, hydraulic disc brakes, and wide 700x38mm tires.
Available products (motors, senors, batteries, control systems. etc.) change fast since the e-bike market shows a strong growth. In principle, get a rear motor if you want a lot of raw power and acceleration (e.g. for a 500W motor). Middle motors are more energy efficient and less subject to problems (e.g. overheating). Middle motors usually are combined with integrated rear hub gears, and rear motors with derailleurs. Both have advantages and disadvantages. E.g. the former require less maintenance, are easy to use in go-and-stop traffic, but require taking off weight on pedals when shifting. Therefore the latter (derailleurs) are better for speedy overland and hills cycling.
E-bike usage worldwide has experienced rapid growth since 1998. In 2016 there were 210 million electric bikes worldwide used daily. It is estimated that there were roughly 120 million e-bikes in China in early 2010, and sales are expanding rapidly in India, the United States of America, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. A total of 700,000 e-bikes were sold in Europe in 2010, up from 200,000 in 2007 and 500,000 units in 2009.
The bicycle is also used for recreational purposes, such as bicycle touring, mountain biking, physical fitness, and play. Bicycle competition includes racing, BMX racing, track racing, criterium, roller racing, sportives and time trials. Major multi-stage professional events are the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France, the Vuelta a España, the Tour de Pologne, and the Volta a Portugal.
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.
The second type of electric bike is a much smaller, often foldable unit designed for convenient urban (or suburban) commuting and for easy storage in minimal space. These compact electric bikes are perfect for trips of a few miles, and many are small and lightweight enough to be carried onto trains or buses, allowing their rider to make use of multiple types of transportation in a single trip, and to store their bike in a closet or even under a desk at work, at school, or at home.
Speed Pedelec ebikes – A new classification of bikes called ‘Speed Pedelecs’ have emerged which technically meet the bicycle definition for a 20 mph ebike. These ebikes are designed to max out at 28 mph. Pedelecs are pedal activated vs throttle activated. The weasel words within the definition says, “20mph on motor alone”. Thus, a person who adds their leg power to the motor assist and happens to cruise at 28mph is NOT doing it by motor alone, and therefore the bike is considered to be compliant with the Federal Law. If the rider stops pedaling, the speed pedelec cannot maintain speed. Speed Pedelecs are becoming more popular in Europe and America, which means more models are being offered.
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.
"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.
European Union directive 2002/24/EC exempts vehicles with the following definition from type approval: "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 25km/h (15.5mph) or if the cyclist stops pedaling." This is the de facto definition of an electrically assisted pedal cycle in the EU. As with all EU directives, individual member countries of the EU are left to implement the requirements in national legislation.
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.
Storage space: it’s one of the primary disadvantages to biking versus driving. A simple solution is attaching a basket or storage case to your bike’s frame or handlebars, giving you a convenient place to keep your essentials while you ride. A pannier rack is a useful option as well, which allows you to connect special pannier bags to your bike to create even more storage capacity.
In a friction drive motor, a small, solid wheel rotates against the side of the tire in order to drive it. The first motorcycles used the same concept, with a motor mounted above the front wheel. The problem is that the drive rubs at the side of the tire. It's inefficient, and it quickly wears the sidewall away. Tires need to be replaced every couple hundred miles. For this reason, you'll seldom see electric bikes with this type of drive anymore.
Many countries have enacted electric vehicle laws to regulate the use of electric bicycles. Countries such as the United States and Canada have federal regulations governing the safety requirements and standards of manufacture. Other countries like the signatories of the European Union have agreed to wider-ranging legislation covering use and safety of their term EPAC (electric vehicles)
Earlier UK regulations required that the motor has an average power output limited to 200 W (250 W for tricycles and tandems) and weight limited to 40 kg (60 kg for tricycles and tandems). These regulations must come in-line with the EU regulations by (find deadline). For models sold before June 2003, e-bikes conforming to the speed, weight and power limits may also be considered pedal cycles. Electric bikes with higher power outputs, or those not meeting the "pedelec" definition are now treated as motorcycles and require a license.
At the top end, the 20mph speed limit isn't an absolute, like the speed of light. It's just the most you'll get from the motor. I was able to get it up to 28mph on a flat road (there are no other roads where I live) in Turbo mode and 8th gear, but it took hard work to get there and maintain the speed. The easiest comparison is my mountain bike, where I've hit 23mph on that same stretch of road—and that took a heck of a lot of effort. Exactly how much effort does it take to ride? I have a 15-mile route that I ride on both my mountain bike and cyclecross bike. According to my Apple Watch, I generally burn around 1,400 or so calories on a brisk ride. I'll probably average around 13mph or so on my Marlin and between 16 and 17.5mph on my XO2. I averaged 14.9mph and burned a hair over 1,000 calories with the Bulls Cross E8.
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.
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.
A "class 1 electric bicycle," or "low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle," is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour. (2) A "class 2 electric bicycle," or "low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycle," is a bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour. A "class 3 electric bicycle," or "speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle," is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, (no throttle) and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour, and equipped with a speedometer. Local government ordinances are allowed to permit or ban any class of electric bicycles on dedicated bicycle paths and trails, with Class 1 & 2 permitted, and Class 3 banned, by default.
What we especially love is how quiet this e bicycle is. If you’re riding down the street or through the park, the gentle hum of the motor is unnoticeable. This is because it’s hidden by the sound of your smooth pedaling. If you’re not into flashy gadgets, any ordinary person would assume you’re riding a conventional peddle bike. This is a great commuter bike.
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.
Across Europe, where e-bikes were embraced by the public long before the rest of the world, e-bike growth has averaged in excess of 20 percent each year between 2014 and 2017, with a whopping 25.3 percent growth to a total of two million e-bike sales in 2017. Analysts predict that strong growth will continue, with worldwide e-bike sales expected to hit $23.83 billion by 2025. A lot of that growth will be right here in the US.
There are two main categories when choosing an e-bike: a pre-built electric bike or a custom e-bike conversion. Prefab electric bikes come in a wide variety of setups and styles and are designed specifically as electric bicycles. With unique characteristics and design qualities, most meet the law requirements which limit power and speed. There is also a variety of options to choose from equipped with different design and different motor and battery configurations to suit different riding styles and preferences: cruisers, commuters, mountain bikes and more. Pre-built e-bikes are clean and sleek in design with all of the wiring and electrical components built directly into the bike. For most people, production e-bikes work great and there’s no need for a custom conversion.
Saddles also vary with rider preference, from the cushioned ones favored by short-distance riders to narrower saddles which allow more room for leg swings. Comfort depends on riding position. With comfort bikes and hybrids, cyclists sit high over the seat, their weight directed down onto the saddle, such that a wider and more cushioned saddle is preferable. For racing bikes where the rider is bent over, weight is more evenly distributed between the handlebars and saddle, the hips are flexed, and a narrower and harder saddle is more efficient. Differing saddle designs exist for male and female cyclists, accommodating the genders' differing anatomies and sit bone width measurements, although bikes typically are sold with saddles most appropriate for men. Suspension seat posts and seat springs provide comfort by absorbing shock but can add to the overall weight of the bicycle.
Bicycles and horse buggies were the two mainstays of private transportation just prior to the automobile, and the grading of smooth roads in the late 19th century was stimulated by the widespread advertising, production, and use of these devices. More than 1 billion bicycles have been manufactured worldwide as of the early 21st century. Bicycles are the most common vehicle of any kind in the world, and the most numerous model of any kind of vehicle, whether human-powered or motor vehicle, is the Chinese Flying Pigeon, with numbers exceeding 500 million. The next most numerous vehicle, the Honda Super Cub motorcycle, has more than 60 million units made, while most produced car, the Toyota Corolla, has reached 35 million and counting.
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.
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries, electric motors and some form of control. Battery systems in use include sealed lead-acid (SLA), nickel-cadmium (NiCad), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) or lithium-ion polymer (Li-ion). Batteries vary according to the voltage, total charge capacity (amp hours), weight, the number of charging cycles before performance degrades, and ability to handle over-voltage charging conditions. The energy costs of operating e-bikes are small, but there can be considerable battery replacement costs. The lifespan of a battery pack varies depending on the type of usage. Shallow discharge/recharge cycles will help extend the overall battery life.
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...
To operate a motorized/electric-assisted bicycle on the streets or highways a person must have a valid driver’s license or a motorized bicycle permit. A person under the age of 16 operating a motorized/electric-assisted bicycle under a motorized bicycle permit is subject to restrictions of no passengers (a parent or guardian my ride if the motorized/electric assisted bicycle is equipped with a seat and footrests for a passenger), no night driving, driving on any highway marked as an interstate, must wear a helmet, foot rests for passengers (if designed for passenger(s). A motorized bicycle permit is available to persons of at least 15 years of age who have passed the motorized bicycle test or passed a motorized bicycle course. A motorized bicycle would need the same coverage as a motorcycle would in this state. An electric-assisted bicycle would not need coverage.