An e-bike is identified as a "motor assisted cycle" (MAC) in British Columbia, which differs from electric mopeds and scooters, which are "limited-speed motorcycles." Motor assisted cycles must: have an electric motor of no more than 500 W; have fully operable pedals; not be capable of propelling the device at a speed greater than 32 km/hr [19.9 mph]. The engine must disengage when (a) the operator stops pedaling, (b) an accelerator controller is released, OR (c) a brake is applied. A driver's license, vehicle registration, and insurance are all not required. A bike helmet must be worn.
Photo: Could solar power be the future of electric bicycles? The large solar panel mounted over the back wheel of this experimental bike powers an electric motor connected by a chain drive to the back wheel, helping the rider when he doesn't feel like pedaling. Using clean, green solar power would remove the problem of having to charge electric bikes with electricity generated from fossil fuels—and help to extend their range significantly. Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy of US DOE/NREL.
In general, more expensive bikes are better. However, this is just a trend. E.g. the "Kassensturz" Consumer program from our state TV found in a 2012 study confined to an engineering school, that "Supermarket" bikes, e.g. the 1400 CHF (1200 Euro) "Leopard" bike from COOP did very well. Evaluation is "good" (almost the same as the three times more expensive 25km/h Stromer). They also pointed out a very bad model from a discounter. In other words, you can find good cheap models, but read the tests first.
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.