Each country and state has its own set of electric bicycle laws, but some basic requirements are quite common to most countries.
In most countries, electric bicycles are treated as regular bikes, as long as some specific limitations being followed.
In most countries there are limitations on the motor continues power, and on the bicycle speed at which the power from the motor must be cut out automatically (the cyclist may exceed this limit by using his or her own power).
Here you will find general information on electric bicycle laws in the US and in Europe, where electric bicycles are most popular. At the bottom you can find a summary table of laws in more countries.
If you are interested in detailed and updated electric bicycle laws, I would suggest getting this information from a reliable source such as Wikipedia.
The United States does not define an electric bicycle as a motor vehicle, so they are not subject to the same laws as motorcycles or power scooters. Each state has adopted its own electric bicycle laws.
The U.S. Federal Government has enacted two primary federal laws regarding electric bicycles: they must be 750 watts or less, and the maximum speed of an electric bicycle cannot exceed 20 miles per hour for low-speed, electric bicycles.
There are separate laws for higher speed electric bicycles, but these bicycles have no Federal required wattage or speed on record. In addition, all states consider electric bicycles zero emission vehicles.
The following is a list of general rules and approximate ranges regarding e-bike laws in the United States:
- Helmet – Most states do not require a helmet to ride an electric bicycle. California, Iowa, and Tennessee are the only states which require a helmet for all riders. Georgia, New Hampshire, and Oregon require a helmet for riders under age 16. All other users in all other states have no helmet requirements, but a helmet is definitely recommended.
- Age Requirement – Most states do not have a minimum age requirement to operate an electric bicycle. Electric bicycle laws in California, Illinois, Iowa, and Oregon require drivers to be 16 years or older. In Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Tennessee drivers must be 14 years of age or older, and in Oregon if you’re under age 10 a permit is required. In D.C. you must be at least 18, and no other states have an age requirement to operate an electric bicycle.
- License – Alabama, Arkansas, DC, Maryland, and Tennessee all require a specific license to operate an electric bicycle, but no other states have electric bicycle laws requiring a license to operate an electric bicycle.
Europe is home to one of the largest population of cyclists in the world.
Did you know...?
Did you know that electric bicycles can regulate their own speed?
Almost all electric bicycles will automatically cut off power output when a certain speed is reached (e.g. 20 miles an hour) to prevent users from exceeding the legal speed limit. This gives you a sense of security when riding your e-bike around town.
Electric bicycle laws in Europe are relatively friendly but there are significant differences between various European countries.
In Europe and the UK in general, electric bicycles are treated like non-electric bicycles in the sense that there are no restrictions in forms of mandatory license, road tax or insurance. In addition, users of electric bicycles do not need to wear a helmet or other protective gear that is normally associated with motorcycles.
Electric bicycle laws in Europe are based on the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles Regulations of 1983, which was recently amended by a 2004 directive.
- Power - Maximum motor power 250w
- Speed - Maximum speed under power 15.5mph (25kph)
- Assistance - In most parts of Europe, the motor is considered to be legally working only when the pedals are turning.
- Weight - Maximum weight for standard bicycles is 40kg. Maximum weight for a tandem bicycle or tricycle is 60kg.
- Legal age - The minimum legal age is 14
- Brakes - When the brakes are applied, the power to the motor must be cut immediately.
Electric Bicycle Conversion Kits
Many electric bicycle conversion kits that allow users to exceed the limits set out by the electric bicycle laws. However, to bypass these regulations they are often classified as off-road use. This means they are treated like mopeds and users must obtain things like insurance and license to use them on highways. It is important to note that some European countries like Germany and Switzerland have a separate class of electric bicycles that are subjected to less intense regulations. In such cases, the bikes are allowed to reach around 30mph.
Pedal Power Vs. Throttle
According to electric bicycle laws in Europe, the motor cannot be used to independently power the bicycle.
Also, the motor must be completely shut down when you travel above the legal speed limit. This means that bikes which feature an "off-road" switch that allows you to switch from throttle-control only mode to the standard "legal" mode (pedal power in addition to the motor power) are in a legal grey area.
However, bicycles produced on or before 1999 may have open throttles. However, bikes produced from 2004 with open throttles are classified as mopeds inside European territories.
The law is not strictly enforced but if you do get involved in an accident, expect very serious consequences. If you do plan on using your electric bicycle extensively on public roads or even highways, then it would be safer to get the necessary insurance and license requirements. In the future, electric bicycles laws may become less severe due to the growing popularity of bicycles amongst the general public.
Electric Bicycle Laws in Selected Countries
- Each state or city may have different laws.
- Tricycles or tandems might have different regulations
- Regulations may change. Always check updated regulations.
- These regulations are partial. Check detailed regulations of each country.
- Examples for additional regulations not listed are - pedals may be required, motor auto shut off may be required when speed is exceeded, etc.
Books About Electric Bicycles
More information about electric bicycles can be found on several informative books. Take a look:
Last Word About Electric Bicycle Laws
While many electric bicycle laws in different countries are very similar, it's important to check out the laws in your local area to make sure you're electric bicycle complies with the law. Also, if you don't know electric bicycle laws in your area, consider this: the police probably don't know the exact rules either. As long as you're driving safely and wearing a helmet, the police will probably leave you alone.