Photo: Left: The hub motor of an electric bike. Right: If you took off the casing, this is the kind of thing you'd see. It's a simple brushless motor from a PC cooling fan, but it works in broadly the same way as a bike's hub motor. There's a static part made up of four electromagnet coils (left) and a rotating part (right) made from a permanent magnet (the gray ring) that clips onto it. When the coils are energized in sequence, they generate a magnetic field that makes the permanent magnet and fan spin around. At a glance, a hub motor looks much like an ordinary bicycle hub, but look closer and you'll find it's a lot more bulky.
There's no question that electric bikes are far better for the environment than petrol-powered car engines. But that doesn't mean they're completely perfect. Making and disposing of batteries can be very polluting. Not only that, but an electric bicycle is still using energy that has to come from somewhere. You may think you're using clean green power, but the electricity you use for getting about might have come from a filthy old, coal-fired power plant or one driven by nuclear energy. (If you're lucky, of course, it might have come from solar panels or a wind turbine!) Electric bikes are nowhere near as environmentally friendly as ordinary push bikes, but nothing is ever perfect—and, as people often say, "the perfect is the enemy of the good." Electric bikes are certainly a step in the right direction. If everyone used them to get about instead of cars, global warming might be less of a problem, and the world would be a far cleaner and healthier place!
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.
In the early 1860s, Frenchmen Pierre Michaux and Pierre Lallement took bicycle design in a new direction by adding a mechanical crank drive with pedals on an enlarged front wheel (the velocipede). This was the first in mass production. Another French inventor named Douglas Grasso had a failed prototype of Pierre Lallement's bicycle several years earlier. Several inventions followed using rear-wheel drive, the best known being the rod-driven velocipede by Scotsman Thomas McCall in 1869. In that same year, bicycle wheels with wire spokes were patented by Eugène Meyer of Paris. The French vélocipède, made of iron and wood, developed into the "penny-farthing" (historically known as an "ordinary bicycle", a retronym, since there was then no other kind). It featured a tubular steel frame on which were mounted wire-spoked wheels with solid rubber tires. These bicycles were difficult to ride due to their high seat and poor weight distribution. In 1868 Rowley Turner, a sales agent of the Coventry Sewing Machine Company (which soon became the Coventry Machinists Company), brought a Michaux cycle to Coventry, England. His uncle, Josiah Turner, and business partner James Starley, used this as a basis for the 'Coventry Model' in what became Britain's first cycle factory.
The two most common electric motor styles used in today’s e-bikes are hub motors and mid-drive motors. The Freedom uses a hub motor, which was located in the center of the rear wheel. Hub motors typically don’t offer the same natural maneuverability as the increasingly more common (and more expensive) mid-drive motors because their weight is concentrated in the rear of the bike. It can be jarring when the motor prevents you from going faster than the allotted speed, especially when cruising downhill, but 20 mph is the legal maximum for e-bikes in the US. (In the EU, it’s even lower: 25 km/h, or 15.5 mph.)
Found a good mix of premium and budget-friendly models to include. Ensured that every e-bike included on the list features a reliable motor and charging system. Removed the Swagtron Swagcycle Pro because it didn't have any pedals so was unable to be used as a traditional bike if the rider desired. Also removed the Cyclamatic CX4 Pro due to the many user complaints of unreliable performance.
Oklahoma defines an Electric-Assisted Bicycle in 47 O.S. 1-104  as "Two or three wheels; and Fully operative pedals for human propulsion and equipped with an electric motor with a power output not to exceed one thousand (1,000) watts, incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than thirty (30) miles per hour on level ground, and incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power alone is used to propel the device at a speed of thirty (30) miles per hour or more. An electric-assisted bicycle shall meet the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards as set forth in federal regulations and shall operate in such a manner that the electric motor disengages or ceases to function when the brakes are applied."
Alberta identifies e-bikes as "power bicycles" and is consistent with the federal definition of "power-assisted bicycle" in MVSR CRC, c 1038 s 2. Motor output must not exceed 500 W (0.671 hp) and e-bikes cannot travel faster than 32 km/h (20 mph). Fully operable pedals are required. No driver's license, vehicle insurance, or vehicle registration is required. Operators must be 12 years of age or older. All operators are required to wear a motorcycle helmet meeting the standards set in AR 122/2009 s 112(2). A passenger is permitted only if the e-bike is equipped with a seat designated for that passenger.
In Israel, persons above 16 years old are allowed to use pedal-assisted bicycle with power of up to 250W and speed limit of 25 km/hour. The bicycle must satisfy the European Standard EN15194 and be approved by the Standards Institution of Israel. A new law, effective January 10, 2019, states that riders under 18 who have no automobile license will need a special permit.   Otherwise, no license or insurance is required. Other motorized bicycles are considered to be motorcycles and should be licensed and insured as such. The maximum weight of the e-bike itself cannot exceed 30 kg.
Electric bicycle fits under the definition of "moped" under Kentucky law. You don't need tag or insurance, but you need a driver's license. "Moped" means either a motorized bicycle whose frame design may include one (1) or more horizontal crossbars supporting a fuel tank so long as it also has pedals, or a motorized bicycle with a step-through type frame which may or may not have pedals rated no more than two (2) brake horsepower, a cylinder capacity not exceeding fifty (50) cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission not requiring clutching or shifting by the operator after the drive system is engaged, and capable of a maximum speed of not more than thirty (30) miles per hour Helmets are required.
Government regulation is written and administered with a broad, dull, painful axe. Regulations do not mix well with independent, maverick, DIY programs either. Vehicle regulations get started when there is either a visible tragedy, or a rising conflict with the status quo (like the SFO scooters program). The ebike community cannot afford a deadly accident especially if it involves others and the ebike or ebike rider are at fault. The Ebike community is up against a tough status quo that consists of pedestrians, motor vehicle traffic, the large well-funded and battle tested regular bicycle community, and the environment (especially for MTB riding and off-road use).
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.
Electric bicycles are considered as "bicycles" under Montana law as the law defines bicycles in a two part definition where the first part of the definition describes a conventional bicycle propelled solely by human power and the second part of the definition describes a bicycle equipped with an independent power source for propulsion in addition to foot pedals to permit muscular propulsion. (Montana Code 61-8-102).
Flyer Vollblut. A new rear motor bike from one of the most reliable E-bike makers. This model doesn't look as "heavy" as most other Flyer models. The Vollblut 500 has the 500W new Panasonic rear motor, front fork suspension, 28 inch wheels. It is in the same price range as the Stöckli and the Stromer. Flyer is known for top service and reliability, but it's a new model with a new motor ....
However, laws and terminology are diverse. Some countries have national regulations but leave the legality of road use for states and provinces to decide. Municipal laws and restrictions add further complications. Systems of classification and nomenclature also vary. Jurisdictions may address "power-assisted bicycle" (Canada) or "power-assisted cycle" (United Kingdom) or "electric pedal-assisted cycles" (European Union) or simply "electric bicycles". Some classify pedelecs as distinct from other bikes using electric power. Thus, the same hardware may be subject to many different classifications and regulations.
E-bikes are typically offered in 24V, 36V and 48V configurations. Higher voltage generally means higher top speed – but that may not always be the case. Since the efficiency of a motor and drive system can have an effect on power and speed, a 24V setup could have the same top speed as a 36V setup. Generally you can expect 15-18 mph on a 24v setup, 16-20 mph on a 36V setup and 24-28 mph on a 48V setup. Although it far exceeds Federal laws, some conversion kits can even be run at 72V for speeds of 35+ mph! However, this puts significant stress on bicycle components. Consider that even the fastest athletes only travel 17-18 mph on a conventional bicycle, so 20 mph feels very fast to most riders. Anything over this speed can be unsafe and exceeds law regulations.
First off we want to apologize for the longer than normal response time and email backlog as much of our team was busy both in the preparation and attendance at the Taipei Cycle Show this past week. We'll be working hard to catch up on that in the coming days and thank your patience and understanding. To all the dealers, vendors, manufacturers, component partners, and general industry friends we met at the show, what a great time and we look forward to exciting pursuits ahead.
To operate the bike, you have to pedal for a second or so before the thumb throttle becomes active. This is often a cost and energy-saving measure designed into electric bicycles and scooters. Being able to start the motor from rest requires extra sensors and higher battery power. Starting the motor while it is in motion removes the need to install extra sensors in the motor (and thus removes one more possible failure or maintenance issue) and also eeks more range out of the battery by putting the energy intensive initial startup responsibility solely on the rider.
Some countries require child and/or adult cyclists to wear helmets, as this may protect riders from head trauma. Countries which require adult cyclists to wear helmets include Spain, New Zealand and Australia. Mandatory helmet wearing is one of the most controversial topics in the cycling world, with proponents arguing that it reduces head injuries and thus is an acceptable requirement, while opponents argue that by making cycling seem more dangerous and cumbersome, it reduces cyclist numbers on the streets, creating an overall negative health effect (fewer people cycling for their own health, and the remaining cyclists being more exposed through a reversed safety in numbers effect).
In general, more expensive bikes are better. However, this is just a trend. E.g. the "Kassensturz" Consumer program from our state TV found in a 2012 study confined to an engineering school, that "Supermarket" bikes, e.g. the 1400 CHF (1200 Euro) "Leopard" bike from COOP did very well. Evaluation is "good" (almost the same as the three times more expensive 25km/h Stromer). They also pointed out a very bad model from a discounter. In other words, you can find good cheap models, but read the tests first.
It’s a topic that many eMTBers are interested in: fast charging. What has long been a reality with electric cars is now also being partly improved for ebikes with high amperage chargers. Bosch has presented a 6A charger this year that can charge a 500 Wh battery in 3 hours, more than a third faster than the standard charger. The new benchmark next year, however, will probably be the 10A charger presented by Haibike and BMZ. It is claimed to be capable of charging a 630 Wh battery in just 1.5 hours.
Under the statute, mopeds must be registered. To be registered under Hawaii law a moped must bear a certification label from the manufacturer stating that it complies with federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS). A moped must also possess the following equipment approved by the D.O.T. under Chapter 91: approved braking, fuel, and exhaust system components; approved steering system and handlebars; wheel rims; fenders; a guard or protective covering for drive belts, chains and rotating components; seat or saddle; lamps and reflectors; equipment controls; speedometer; retracting support stand; horn; and identification markings.
In addition to this, however, you’re going to want to invest in additional safety gear if you don’t want to end up as a statistic. This must include a helmet, as your skull is incredibly vulnerable when moving along at biking speeds. There are even some helmets that have lights and turn signals integrated into their design, giving you greater visibility for drivers.
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.
Electric bicycles use batteries as a source of power and a quiet DC motor as a driving mechanism. On most e-bikes the motor is built directly into the wheel (known as a hub motor) and the batteries are discreetly hidden in the rear rack or frame. Electric bikes can be operated just like normal bicycles, but they can also be power-driven by a throttle or pedaled with the help of pedal-assist (PAS or pedelec).
Every bike on this list has been thoroughly evaluated and vetted by our team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience riding these bikes to determine the best options. Our team of experienced testers spent many hours and miles using these bikes for their intended purpose. We’ve commuted to and from work on them, used them to stock up on groceries and beer, tested their passenger-hauling capability, ridden them on questionable terrain (just to see how they’d handle), and run their batteries down to officially see how long they last on one charge. We evaluated them on performance, price, comfort, handling, value, reliability, fun, and overall e-factor to come up with this list of bikes that will best serve the needs of anyone looking to add a little pedal assist to their ride.