No, we’re not talking about going back to school here. Ebikes are designated by government into classes depending on specifications like power, whether assist or throttle, and the maximum speed the power assistance can help you to attain.
Legislation surrounding ebikes varies around the world, so in this simple article we are going to concentrate on the USA and UK and the European Union, though much of the law pertaining to ebikes is similar throughout the world. It is always wise though to double-check you are ebike riding legally wherever you are in the world by keeping up to date on specific local legislation.
Remember, laws are not created to confound, obstruct, or take away the pleasure of your ebike activity, they are made with a genuine purpose of keeping you, the ebike user, as safe as possible, and also to protect the rest of the general public from a minority of reckless cyclists endangering themselves and others.
More general questions and answers on ebikes here.
USA Ebike Classes
Class 1 – This is a pedal assist class which means that the motor will help you along till you reach the speed of 20 miles per hour. At this speed assistance from the motor will cut out, therefore to increase speed you will have to exercise more. In class 1, a range of power options are available, usually from 250 watts upwards to a maximum of 750 watts.
Class 2 – A class 2 ebike can include a throttle that can negate pedalling from the ebike user. The other restrictions of class 1 apply, so the motor will cease to provide assistance on attaining 20 mile per hour. The main benefit of a class 2 ebike over a class 1 is the fact that it can be used without any exercise from the rider at all, though, of course, pedalling is always available for either exercise, or to assist in extending range by placing less strain on the motor and batteries.
Class 3 – Class 3 ebikes tend to be more powerful though as with class 1, it is a pedal assist classification. The main difference is the maximum speed you can attain with assistance is now 28 miles per hour. With the tendency of class 3 ebikes to have more powerful motors, they are more attractive in hilly areas, or if you have a propensity to carry weight on your rides, e.g., camping equipment. Some cities forbid the use of class 3 ebikes on cycle paths because of the increased permitted speed.
Throttle or pedal assist article here.
UK & EU Classification
UK and European law is very similar at this moment in time, though with the UK leaving the European Union, there may be a diversion of legislation in the future. An ebike is classed as an ‘Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle’ (EAPC), a ‘Pedelec’, or simply an ‘ebike’, if it has pedals and the motor will only assist up to 15.5 miles per hour (25 Kilometres per hour). Ebikes that meets this criteria can be legally used anywhere a traditional bicycle can be used.
In the UK you are permitted to own more powerful, or faster ebikes, and use throttle controls, though these will only be permitted for use off road, or have to be registered as a motorcycle would, to enable their legal use on public roads. Registering an ebike as such though would require legal obligations such as having a licence, and insurance, wearing a motorcycle helmet, and perhaps having to pay road tax.
Some Youtube videos that offer up some detailed information in both the USA & UK:
More information relating to specific states in the USA here.
Wherever you are it is wise to stick to the laws of the region you live whenever you take out your ebike. In most cases, staying legal also means staying safe. It is also advisable to wear a helmet; this may or not be a legal requirement, but it is a sensible thing to do to avoid a serious head injury.
7 Dec 2020