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.
Beginning January 1, 2017, manufacturers and distributors of electric bicycles will be required to apply a label that is permanently affixed, in a prominent location, to each electric bicycle, indicating its class. Should a user "tamper with or modify" an electric bicycle, changing the speed capability, they must replace the label indicating the classification.
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?
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.
Battery – in combination with the motor, this determines how far you can get before your bike needs a recharge. Some don’t provide adequate support on even gentle hills, while the best will comfortably take the strain as the gradient shoots up. Range also varies, with the best e-bike systems we’ve tested able to take you nearly twice the distance of lesser models.
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.
If you are a person who enjoys riding a bike casually at a typical bike path speed (10-15mph), and you like the idea of an ebike push up a hill, against the wind or to relieving a sore knee, then your market for a fully legally defined ebike is very broad and your practical use only has a few limitations. Most ebikes will meet your needs and expectation. I would estimate that 85% of the electric bikes on the market are 100% compliant meeting the federal definition. I encourage you to take the plunge and get a good quality ebike and ride more with assist. Do so with the confidence that electric bikes are here to stay. Coexisting with pedestrians and other cyclist will become a normal part of cycling life.
However, laws and terminology are diverse. Some countries have national regulations but leave the legality of road use for states and provinces to decide. Municipal laws and restrictions add further complications. Systems of classification and nomenclature also vary. Jurisdictions may address "power-assisted bicycle" (Canada) or "power-assisted cycle" (United Kingdom) or "electric pedal-assisted cycles" (European Union) or simply "electric bicycles". Some classify pedelecs as distinct from other bikes using electric power. Thus, the same hardware may be subject to many different classifications and regulations.
Electric-assisted bicycles are treated as human-powered bicycles, while bicycles capable of propulsion by electric power alone face additional registration and regulatory requirements as mopeds. Requirements include electric power generation by a motor that cannot be easily modified, along with a power assist mechanism that operates safely and smoothly. In December 2008, The assist ratio was updated as follow: