We rode the Vado through the gauntlet, including some of the steepest hills in Palo Alto, and it easily handled everything we threw at it, maintaining a steady 20 miles per hour even on the most daunting of ascents. The bike also handles well on downhills and is both nimble and quick on city streets and paved trails. It’s even comfortable to ride for extended distances, which is vitally important for any bike built for urban settings.
In conformance with legislation adopted by the U.S. Congress defining this category of electric-power bicycle (15 U.S.C. 2085(b)), CPSC rules stipulate that low speed electric bicycles (to include two- and three-wheel vehicles) are exempt from classification as motor vehicles providing they have fully operable pedals, an electric motor of less than 750W (1 hp), and a top motor-powered speed of less than 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) when operated by a rider weighing 170 pounds. An electric bike remaining within these specifications is subject to the CPSC consumer product regulations for a bicycle. Commercially manufactured e-bikes exceeding these power and speed limits are regulated by the federal DOT and NHTSA as motor vehicles, and must meet additional safety requirements. The legislation enacting this amendment to the CPSC is also known as HR 727. The text of HR 727 includes the statement: "This section shall supersede any State law or requirement with respect to low-speed electric bicycles to the extent that such State law or requirement is more stringent than the Federal law or requirements." (Note that this refers to consumer product regulations enacted under the Consumer Product Safety Act. Preemption of more stringent state consumer product regulations does not limit State authority to regulate the use of electric bicycles, or bicycles in general, under state vehicle codes.)
The two most common electric motor styles used in today’s e-bikes are hub motors and mid-drive motors. The Freedom uses a hub motor, which was located in the center of the rear wheel. Hub motors typically don’t offer the same natural maneuverability as the increasingly more common (and more expensive) mid-drive motors because their weight is concentrated in the rear of the bike. It can be jarring when the motor prevents you from going faster than the allotted speed, especially when cruising downhill, but 20 mph is the legal maximum for e-bikes in the US. (In the EU, it’s even lower: 25 km/h, or 15.5 mph.)
First, think about what you need your bike for -- if it's just for a short city commute, in among traffic, then consider a smaller frame that's easy to manoeuvre through cars. The GoCycle G3 (right) is impressively nimble and its electric assistance will help propel you up to 15 mph (24 kph). Better yet, it has built-in lights, automatic gears and you can customise the amount of power the motor provides using a phone app.
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.
Many newer or smaller companies only design and market their products; the actual production is done by Asian companies. For example, some 60% of the world's bicycles are now being made in China. Despite this shift in production, as nations such as China and India become more wealthy, their own use of bicycles has declined due to the increasing affordability of cars and motorcycles. One of the major reasons for the proliferation of Chinese-made bicycles in foreign markets is the lower cost of labor in China.
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.