This is an unofficial guide to the laws governing electric bicycles in the United States as of 2016. It was contributed by a guest writer The Smart Ped`aleck who was paid and remains unaffiliated with any electric bicycle company. It may be updated ongoing and is cited throughout with reference links and attributions at the end. It is designed to be an entertaining starting point for understanding the space, digging deeper and in turn choosing the best electric bike platform for your needs.
As electric bike options continue to expand, more brands are integrating the battery more seamlessly. That makes them look sleeker (and more like a real bike). Batteries are expensive, so make sure there’s a good way to lock the battery to your bike if you’ll be keeping it outside. Overall weight is important. Some battery and motors can add 15 pounds or more to the bike. With assist, you won’t feel that much when you’re riding, but you will if you have to carry your bike up stairs or lift it onto a bike rack.
Mid-mounted system means that the electric motor is not built into the wheel but is usually mounted near (often under) the bottom bracket shell. Mid-drive systems tend to feel more like a normal bike, since they drive the pedals, just like your legs, and those who frequently climb long, steep hills tend to prefer mid-drive systems for their ability to handle long climbs. As they can leverage the bicycles lowest gears for climbs, mid drive systems can also leverage the high gears to reach higher speeds on flat areas than a hub system. The mid-drive motor drives the crank, instead of the wheel itself, which multiplies its power and allows it to better take advantage of the bike’s existing gears. If the rider changes the gears appropriately, the motor can turn closer to its ideal rotations per minute which makes a huge difference while climbing hills, so this is a perfect option for those who love mountain biking.
On the other hand, the battery doesn’t lock into the bike, which means you can’t just leave it on your bike when you park at the bike rack. Anyone could walk by and simply remove your battery. That seems like an oversight to me, though perhaps the designers assumed that such a small battery would just be easy to take with you. And it is. My wife could probably lose this battery in her purse.