Can I legally buy/build and ride an ebike that’s faster than 20 mph? Yes you can, but you need to know that the ebike is no longer considered equivalent to a bicycle and is subject to other state vehicular classifications. The definitions for electric bikes spanning 20-30mph, and 1-2 horsepower ranges, will vary from state to state, resulting in a no-man’s-land consensus about limits for motor vehicle definition. The common label for a 20-30mph, 2-wheeled vehicle with active pedals is a Moped. Other MVA labels include motor scooter, motorbike and dirt bike which may have equivalent power and speed performance, but do not have pedals to assist and move the vehicle.
"Bicycles" and "Electric Bicycles" are legally defined in the Texas Transportation Code Chapter 551., titled "Operation of Bicycles, Mopeds, and Play Vehicles" in Subchapter A, B, C, and D.[58] The following definition of electric bicycle was passed by the Texas legislature in 2001. "Electric bicycle" means a bicycle that is designed to be propelled by an electric motor, exclusively or in combination with the application of human power, cannot attain a speed of more than 20 miles per hour without the application of human power; and does not exceed a weight of 100 pounds. The department or a local authority may not prohibit the use of an electric bicycle[0] on a highway that is used primarily by motor vehicles. The department or a local authority may prohibit the use of an electric bicycle[0] on a highway used primarily by pedestrians. 

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.
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.
Even the humble bicycle hasn't escaped the clutches of modern technology. A whole herd of new e-bikes with electric motors are taking to our cities' streets. Adding a motor to a standard cycle does ramp up the price significantly, but it takes much of the effort out of cycling, making your commute to the office a sweat-free experience and allowing you to sit back and enjoy your suburban cruise. 

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.)
At 42 pounds for a size medium frame (exceptionally light for an urban e-bike), this step-through model’s silent, mid-drive Bosch Active Line motor provides pedal assist up to 20 mph. And its 400Wh battery lasts a claimed 30 to a whopping 110 miles, depending on mode, speed, terrain, rider weight, cargo—all the usual stuff. With 26-inch wheels, 2-inch tires, round aluminum tubes, a swept-back handlebar, Shimano Sora 9-speed components, and an 11-32 cassette, the Parkway looks like an everyday, non-motorized city bike at first glance. But with an array of Bosch e-components—motor, battery, and Purion display—it has the zip to take you farther faster.
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".
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.

Electric bikes are becoming a convenient and fun way to commute around a city, but they can be pricey. The average e-bike can cost $3,000, with some models getting up to $5,000 or more. But these prices are dropping, as new models come onto the market — and if you don’t mind giving up some of the glossier, high-tech features like embedded digital displays, retractable cable locks, and and theft tracking and recovery, you can find a really good quality e-bike for under $1,500.
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