Are eBikes Considered Motorized Vehicles? : A Legal Perspective

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Introduction

Technology has transformed our lives to a great extent. Transport is not an exception when we talk about the technological revolution. The latest trend in evolving transportation technologies is that of e-bikes. While e-bikes are getting popular day by day, the regulations and licensing associated with them are also getting more and more important.

We’ll try to take a look at this aspect related to e-bikes and answer the frequently asked question “Are e-bikes considered motorized vehicles?”

Background

While the e-bike market is growing all over the world, the different aspects related to it are still being discovered with the growing user experience. For example, one issue related to e-bikes is the safety of road users. This issue makes the legislation related to the use of e-bikes all the more important.

Classification of e-bikes

Since the US is the largest consumer of everything, particularly of equipment and machines. E-bikes are no exception when it comes to consumerism and the US. As the US is a federation of different states, each state has different legislation imposed in different areas of life. The same is the case with e-bikes.

One of the aspects related to e-bikes is their definition. At present, 48 states of the US have an active definition of e-bikes.

Some states have a three-tiered classification for e-bikes. This is explained as follows :

  1. Class 1 e-bike is a bike that has a top speed of 20 mph. This bike is not capable of working with only motor power. The motor works in collaboration with pedaling (pedal assist).
  2. Class 2 e-bikes are the ones that come with a motor that is actuated through a throttle. This implies that the motor must cease to assist the bike as soon as the speed crosses the critical barrier of 20 mph.
  3. A bike is considered class 3 type only when the speed of the bike crosses 28 mph and the motor stops assisting the pedal drive conditioned with the breach of this barrier.

Apart from the above-mentioned points, the following two points form the basis of US legislation pertaining to e-bikes :

The e-bike will be categorized as a bicycle only when

  1. The motor disengages with the application of brakes.
  2. The motor power is less than 750 Watts or 01 Horsepower.

Implications

It is quite evident from the above points that the top speed for an e-bike should not be more than 28 mph with the motor-assisted drive mode. Also, for an e-bike to be categorized as a bicycle the motor power must be less than 750 Watts and the motor must disengage with the application of brakes.

This forms the basis of our question in focus viz. Are e-bikes considered motorized vehicles? The answer is clearly evident from the above facts and that is “Yes, but conditionally”. If the conditions stipulated above against the bicycle are met, the vehicle is to be categorized as a bicycle otherwise it will be treated as an e-bike.

In my opinion, the bikers who take out their bikes for a ride quite often must be aware of such regulations no matter what part of the world they are driving in. This is important because in many regions (including many states of the US) a license is required to drive an e-bike but the same is not true for bicycles.

There might be different contributing reasons for it such as the general fact that the bicycles as per traditional definition rely on pedal assist and therefore their top speed is quite low due to being dependant on the physical activity imposed by the rider. The bikes on the other hand are capable of driving at higher speeds and therefore are a cause of concern for any regulatory authority or the state since these bikes at higher speeds may cause significant damage to not only the other road users such as bikers and pedestrians etc. but the safety of the rider himself might be compromised in some cases.

Summary 

Ebikes are getting popular day by day. To tackle the problems emerging with their increasing use, it is necessary to introduce the appropriate legislation to address these problems. To address some of these questions related to the safety of road users, it might be a good idea to address the question “Are e-bikes considered motorized vehicles?” by defining the e-bikes and bicycles separately in the respective (applicable) law/code of vehicles.

Karan

Karan

Karan, an eBike specialist, brings a unique blend of technical expertise and passion for sustainable transport. He boasts three years in the electric mobility sphere, with hands-on experience in various eBike brands. Beyond his work, he loves embarking on outdoor adventures riding his eBike.

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