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. 

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.

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.

State and Local Laws dictate your use, but cannot constitutionally supersede the federal law – Any ebike purchased within the 750W/20mph limits has no fear of being under federal motor vehicle classification, nor can any state classify them a motor vehicle. The ebike is considered a ‘bicycle’ for consumer purposes. However, the State Laws on local bike paths and local thruways may prohibit or limit ebike access. When bike path signs use word such as ‘motor vehicles’ and ‘motorbikes’ , the laws are likely referring to gas-ICE motorbikes/dirt bikes/scooters, and not ebikes. Other references to ‘motorized bicycles’ or ‘motorized vehicles’ sound more inclusive and probably are intended for either ebikes or gas mopeds. If in doubt, you always have the option to pedal unassisted by completely powering your bike down. Even though Federal law grant ebikes a bicycle status, the common consensus found in my research allows local and state law to add additional regulation to pathway and road access, just because “it has a motor”. So the Federal laws protects the consumer from the burden of motor vehicle requirements, but not the restrictions to local and state right of ways enjoyed by all non-motored bicycles.
Thanks for your feedback Joe! I personally find black on white to be high contrast and abrasive. Instead, this dark gray scheme is meant to be relaxing… but if it’s uncomfortable to you or difficult to read there are ways to change your browser and even your operating system to be more comfortable using the accessibility options. Here’s a list by device type and for some browsers https://goo.gl/voKTnW hope it helps!
So first off, it isn’t fair to compare the power of a Chinese rear hub motor watt for watt with a 250W Bosch or Brose or even a Shimano or Yamaha mid-drive motor. There just isn’t even close to the amount of torque or power on a per watt basis and that’s before we get to controllers. However, comparing the Rattan’s 350W motor to the Ancheer’s 250W motor seems more proportionally correct. Where as I could make it about a third of the way up my driveway hill from a cold start on Ancheer throttle, I made it about 2/3rds of the way with the Rattan, or another 100 feet. On a flat surface, again with throttle only, I hit 20 mph in about 10 seconds with the Rattan. It takes me another 5+ seconds to get there on the Ancheer. One note, the battery gauge does bounce around a bit depending on how much it is working. At full throttle you might lose a bar or 2 only to get it back once you coast.
China has experienced an explosive growth of sales of non-assisted e-bikes including scooter type, with annual sales jumping from 56,000 units in 1998 to over 21 million in 2008,[72] and reaching an estimated fleet of 120 million e-bikes in early 2010.[2][73] This boom was triggered by Chinese local governments' efforts to restrict motorcycles in city centers to avoid traffic disruption and accidents. By late 2009 motorcycles are banned or restricted in over ninety major Chinese cities.[72] Users began replacing traditional bicycles and motorcycles and e-bike became an alternative to commuting by car.[2] Nevertheless, road safety concerns continue as around 2,500 e-bike related deaths were registered in 2007.[73] By late 2009 ten cities had also banned or imposed restrictions on e-bikes on the same grounds as motorcycles. Among these cities were Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Changsha, Foshan, Changzhou, and Dongguang.[72][73]
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.[102] One of the major reasons for the proliferation of Chinese-made bicycles in foreign markets is the lower cost of labor in China.[103]
The definition was clearly written with gasoline-powered pedalcycles in mind. The requirement of an automatic transmission is troublesome for those who just want to add an electric-assist motor to a bicycle, for almost all bicycles have transmissions consisting of chains and manually shifted sprockets. The registration form asks for a VIN, making it difficult to register some foreign-made ebikes. The fine for riding an unregistered electric bike is approximately $160.00 per event as of 2007.
Electric trikes have also been produced that conform to the e-bike legislation. These have the benefit of additional low speed stability and are often favored by people with disabilities. Cargo carrying tricycles are also gaining acceptance, with a small but growing number of couriers using them for package deliveries in city centres.[51][52] Latest designs of these trikes resemble a cross-between a pedal cycle and a small van.[53][54]
A response to an inquiry made to the Mass DOT/RMV indicates that Massachusetts does recognize the federal low speed electric bicycle Federal Law (15 U.S.C. § 2085) and interprets that to mean these ebikes do not require license or registration. However, some of the materials available on the RMV website do not distinguish between "Motorized Bicycle" and low power ebikes. One form, Bicycle Conversion to Motorized Bike, does document the exemption of low power ebikes.[100]
There are many possible types of electric motorized bicycles with several technologies 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. The power levels of motors used are influenced by available legal categories and are often limited to under 750 watts.
Both the Stromer and the Stoeckli are very nice looking designs and easy to handle. Reliability for both does not seem to be up to Swiss standards, e.g. some of the 2012 Stöcklis seem to have bad contacts. However, as of 2013, most of these problems should be fixed. The Cube got criticized for its battery/saddle system, but this has probably been fixed in more recent edition and it has less "punch" then the other's since the motor is smaller (324W?). I don't know about the BH Neo Nitro. Given the relatively low price of the BH Nitro, it may be the best buy in this category if you plan to cover smaller distances (the battery is limited to 9Ah, and Spain's industry does need some help ;) Anyhow, all of these models come with a variety of motors and country-specific modifications. E.g. in France, the BH Nitro comes with a 350W motor and is electronically limited to 25km/h, whereas in Switzerland you either can get a 500W - 45 km/h version or a 250W? - 25km/h version.
However, each country is free to allow faster s-pedelecs if they go through collective or individual type approval. Typically, an S-Pedelec can be associated with "mofas" or "mopeds" or "light scooters". Germany has such a solution: S-pedelecs have max. 500W motors, max 45km/h, max 300% support, can drive up to 20Km/h without pedalling, plus other constraints regarding security, and are associated with Mopeds. In the City you can't use bicycles paths, but you can in the country side.
For years, riders have been making fun of others who mount mudguards, a rack and a fixed headlight on their bikes. Admittedly, these home-built creations usually aren’t very attractive, but there is a reason why many riders do it anyway. For them, their bike is more than just a piece of sports equipment or a status symbol. They use it in their day-to-day lives and for that, above all else, it has to be practical. Ever more manufacturers are catching on and offering complete, everyday eMTBs, which, compared to trekking bikes, are well suited for light off-road use too. On top of that, the wider tyres and longer travel of the new breed of SUV bikes offer additional safety in urban environments e.g. on kerbs, railway tracks or on wet, dirty roads. Oh, and they look really good too, as proven by the SCOTT Axis eRide we recently reviewed! The most prominent representative of this new breed is Haibike’s new FLYON series.
(2) BICYCLE.--Every vehicle propelled solely by human power, and every motorized bicycle propelled by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels, and including any device generally recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or two rear wheels. The term does not include such a vehicle with a seat height of no more than 25 inches from the ground when the seat is adjusted to its highest position or a scooter or similar device. No person under the age of 16 may operate or ride upon a motorized bicycle.
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.
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter ones can travel up to 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), depending on local laws, while the more high-powered varieties can often do in excess of 45 km/h (28 mph). In some markets, such as Germany as of 2013, they are gaining in popularity and taking some market share away from conventional bicycles,[1] while in others, such as China as of 2010, they are replacing fossil fuel-powered mopeds and small motorcycles.[2][3]
Great question… a real world situation from someone doing their best to follow the law but also be realistic about time/distance. What follows is my opinion on the matter based on lots of electric bike riding experience, this is not legal advice. You can probably ride with electric assist across the dirt way with no issues and avoid any negative response that might arise as long as you’re polite to other cyclists and pedestrians and pedal along without going too fast. If someone called you out about it you could easily hop off, walk your bike and explain that you use the assist to help make your commute possible or possibly, like me, you have a knee injury and it’s difficult to pedal through softer terrain like gravel. Another different approach might be to shut the bike off completely before entering the gravel section, you could even take the battery off and put it in a backpack or as mentioned earlier… just walk the bike. Imagine if you had a motorized dirt bike and were just pushing it along a sidewalk… this kind of vehicle definitely is not allowed on sidewalks or most gravel paths like the one you’re describing but if you were escorting it carefully, you’d be honoring the spirit of the law and if an officer or pedestrian jumped out and started questioning you about your “motorized vehicle” it is my feeling that a genuine explanation and apology or request for guidance would go very well. I personally have never had issues riding electric bikes in part because I am thoughtful about how I use them. I do occasionally switch them off and sometimes I get off and walk. I have asked police in many cities across the US what they thought about ebikes and in every case I have received positive interest and support with guidance to ride safe with a helmet and follow traffic laws in the street. I hope this helps and I wish you well, it’s nice that you care enough to ask and I hope you’re treated well by others out on the road. The flip side of this response is that I have been harassed, yelled at and even swerved at by automobiles when riding bicycles and electric bikes. This usually happens in the evening after work lets out when traffic is heavy and I’m riding on the shoulder or in the street (where marked to do so) and I believe it has to do with territory, testosterone and socio-economic standing more so than laws or anything like that.
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The pedals on a motorised bicycle must be the primary source of power for the vehicle. If the motor is the primary source of power then the device cannot be classed as a motorised bicycle. For example, a device where the rider can twist a throttle and complete a journey using motor power only without using the pedals, would not be classed as a motorised bicycle.
Power assisted bicycles are classified in two categories in Saskatchewan. An electric assist bicycle is a 2 or 3-wheeled bicycle that uses pedals and a motor at the same time only. A power cycle uses either pedals and motor or motor only. Both must have engines with 500 watt power or less, and must not be able exceed 32 km/h (20 mph), i.e., electric motor cuts out at this speed or cycle is unable to go this fast on a level surface. The power cycle has to meet the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) for a power-assisted bicycle. The power cycle requires at least a learner's driving licence (class 7), and all of the other classes 1–5 may operate these also. The electric assist bicycle does not require a licence. Helmets are required for each. Both are treated as bicycles regarding rules of the road. Gas powered or assisted bicycles are classified as motorcycles regardless of engine size or if using pedals plus motor. Stickers identifying the bicycle's compliance with the Federal classification may be required for power cycles by some cities or municipalities.[31]

Both land management regulators and mountain bike trail access advocates have argued for bans of electric bicycles on outdoor trails that are accessible to mountain bikes, citing potential safety hazards as well as the potential for electric bikes to damage trails. A study conducted by the International Mountain Bicycling Association, however, found that the physical impacts of low-powered pedal-assist electric mountain bikes may be similar to traditional mountain bikes.[68]
Photo: Left: The hub motor of an electric bike. Right: If you took off the casing, this is the kind of thing you'd see. It's a simple brushless motor from a PC cooling fan, but it works in broadly the same way as a bike's hub motor. There's a static part made up of four electromagnet coils (left) and a rotating part (right) made from a permanent magnet (the gray ring) that clips onto it. When the coils are energized in sequence, they generate a magnetic field that makes the permanent magnet and fan spin around. At a glance, a hub motor looks much like an ordinary bicycle hub, but look closer and you'll find it's a lot more bulky.
Electric mountain bikes have garnered a lot of attention for their ability to help riders go higher, further, and faster on the trail. As a result, there have been some impressive new eMTB models to hit the market in recent years, making it easier than ever to head off-road. Our favorite is the Haibike SDURO HardNine, which comes equipped with a 350-watt Bosch Performance CX drive and a 500 watt-hour battery. This gives it a range of up to 70 miles, along with a top speed of 20 mph, which is plenty fast on singletrack.

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.


On October 22, 2014 PA house bill 573 passed into law, which is Act 154, which changes the definition of "pedalcycle" (bicycle) in the PA state vehicle code. "Pedalcycle" is now defined as a vehicle propelled solely by human-powered pedals or a "pedalcycle" (bicycle) with electric assist( a vehicle weighing not more than 100 pounds with two or three wheels more than 11 inches in diameter, manufactured or assembled with an electric motor rated no more than 750 watts and equipped with operational pedals and travels at speeds less than 20 mph). This bill allows the usage of pedal assisted bicycles in PA that follow the adopted state guidelines.
I would add that the point of the article seems to encourage ebikers to “know the state laws” and be confident within those boundaries. To D McCarthy’s question, if your state has a definition for ebikes and classifies them as bicycles and affords access as bicycles, AND, your particular ebike is built within those specifications, then you should be able to ride that section of road with confidence. Just my 2C.
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.
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