State legislatures have begun to grapple with how to differentiate and define e-bikes and regulate their operation and equipment standards on roadways and trails in their respective states. One challenge is the distinction between other motorized vehicles such as scooters and mopeds, and the burgeoning market and interest in e-bikes as a cost-effective and environmentally friendly transportation option.
As defined by the federal government, electric bike is 'A two - or three - wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph'. However, state traffic laws and vehicle codes remain the sole domain of states and state legislatures. In other words, the manufacturing and first sale of an e-bike is regulated by the federal government, but its operation on streets and bikeways lies within a state's control.
Twenty-six states in the US have created a three-tiered e-bike classification system intended to differentiate between models with varying speed capabilities. These states have almost identical defining language for e-bikes, as well as similar safety and operation requirements.
Class 1 Electric Bike:
A bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
Class 2 Electric Bike:
A bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
Class 3 Electric Bike:
A bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour and is equipped with a speedometer.
But something that should be noticed is that in the rest of the states in the US, electric bikes still lack specific definitions and may be included as 'moped' or 'motorized bicycle'.
Assuming the continued robust growth of the e-bike industry, state legislatures will likely continue to grapple with defining e-bikes, clarifying operation, safety and equipment standards and further distinguishing them from motorized vehicles such as mopeds and scooters.
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