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.
Unrelated to the show but also of local interest. The BC government is soliciting input on what is meant by "active transportation" which could hopefully help to direct policy and regulation governing not just ebikes but all kinds of human scaled transport. If you think electric skateboards should be on their radar or faster S-Pedalec class ebikes then this is a chance to have your voice heard. Electric bicycles have been an entirely grass roots phenomenon for most of their trajectory and it's encouraging to see the entire scope of personal mobility finally being acknowledged and discussed at this level.
Eight provinces of Canada allow electric power assisted bicycles. In all eight provinces, e-bikes are limited to 500 W output, and cannot travel faster than 32 km/h (20 mph) on motor power alone on level ground. In Alberta prior to July 1, 2009, the limits were 750 W and 35 km/h (22 mph), but presently match federal legislation. Age restrictions vary in Canada. All require an approved helmet. Regulations may or may not require an interlock to prevent use of power when the rider is not pedaling. Some versions (e.g., if capable of operating without pedaling) of e-bikes require drivers' licenses in some provinces and have age restrictions. Vehicle licenses and liability insurance are not required. Generally, they are considered vehicles (like motorcycles and pedal cycles), so are subject to the same rules of the road as regular bicycles. In some cases, regulatory requirements have been complicated by lobbying in respect of the Segway PT.
In Norway, e-bikes are classified as ordinary bicycles, according to the Vehicle Regulation (kjøretøyforskriften) § 4-1, 5g. Hence, e-bikes are not registered in the Vehicle Registry, and there is no demand for a license to drive them. Still, there are constraints on the bicycle construction. The maximum nominal motor power output can be no more than 250 watts and the maximum performance speed of the vehicle when the engine is running is 25 km per hour (15 mph). A function that reduces motor power when vehicle speed exceeds 25 km per hour is mandatory. However, if the motor is not running, the e-bike, or any other bike, answer only to the constraints of the ordinary speed limits.
On a trip to Palo Alto last year, we had the chance to ride Specialized’s pedal-assisted Turbo Vado and the model is still our favorite ebike on the market. Utilizing a 350-watt motor and 604-watt-hour lithium-ion battery, the Turbo Vado is capable of traveling a whopping 80 miles on a single charge, which should be more than enough for any daily commute with plenty of miles left over.
The new Electric Bike Kit Owners group on Facebook has taken off within the first week of its creation. Around 400 people have joined the online group with new members being added every day. E-bike riders are sharing the various ways that they have converted their bikes using the E-BikeKit Complete Electric Bike Conversion System. Each one of the electric bike conversions is more unique than the next. Some e-bike converters have added flashy lights, flags, and other features to make their electric bikes fit their personalities. One electric bike conversion kit was even used to build a three-seat electric...
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter ones can travel up to 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), depending on local laws, while the more high-powered varieties can often do in excess of 45 km/h (28 mph). In some markets, such as Germany as of 2013, they are gaining in popularity and taking some market share away from conventional bicycles, while in others, such as China as of 2010, they are replacing fossil fuel-powered mopeds and small motorcycles.
Operators are subject to driving rules and equipment requirements (if applicable) when operated on the public streets or highways (which includes the main traveled portion of the road, shoulder and sidewalk). This means that an operator could be cited for speeding, failure to signal, unsafe change of course, driving on the sidewalk, DWI (this would apply to anywhere in the state and not just the streets/highways), and all other driving rules contained within state law that would apply. They may also not ride more than two abreast and may not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. On a laned roadway, they must operate within a single lane.
I purchased version 2.0 of this device and the manufacturer has been listening to comments from users and making running changes such as the three speeds and the rear suspension. I am an XL size user (6'2", 230lbs) and recently returned from a 26 day cruise around Europe. I rode this little scooter on cobblestones, miles and miles through the Vatican, inside ancient cities and all over the streets of San Juan upon our return stateside. There was only one time it was less than ideal and that was going uphill, on slick tile that was wet from a drizzle. It still make it, just had to lean way forward to get weight on the front wheel.