Electric bikes may use electricity for power, but they’re not the same as mopeds and motorcycles.
While they share a few similarities, the differences are important to know:
Here’s Whether Electric Bikes Are Considered Mopeds or Motorcycles:
Most electric bikes aren’t considered mopeds, motorcycles, or motor vehicles. Sure, they use a motor to help you pedal, but the speed limit on most of them is 20 miles per hour, much slower than cars and trucks.
How Are Electric Bikes Categorized?
Electric bikes are grouped into three primary categories.
First, you have class 1 eBikes, which can reach up to 20 miles per hour (mph), and are pedal-assisted up to that speed. The motor will help you pedal at speeds lower than 20 mph, but you’ll have to do all the work to go faster.
Class 2 electric bikes also have a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph. However, you can use the pedal assist or the throttle to reach that before needing to pedal on your own to reach higher speeds.
The last big class of electric bikes is class 3, which is very similar to class 1. Its biggest difference is that these bikes offer pedal assist up to 28 mph, and like class 1, they don’t have a throttle.
You may also come across the term class 4 electric bike. These bikes are similar, but they’re the start of moped territory, so they’re not quite the same as the previous classes.
Are Electric Bikes “Mechanically-Propelled” Vehicles?
You can consider electric bikes to be mechanically-propelled vehicles because they’re powered by electricity.
However, one definition only includes motor vehicles in this category.
Regardless of an eBike’s power source, they haven’t considered motor vehicles until you reach class 4. So most electric bikes you’ll see, or purchase won’t fall under that definition.
Are Electric Bikes Categorized as Motor Vehicles?
Most electric bikes aren’t considered motor vehicles because they don’t reach the same high speeds as motor vehicles.
While you can ride them in many of the same places as you can drive a car, you have to let cars pass you on the road.
However, some higher-speed and higher-power electric bikes are considered motor vehicles. They can top 20 mph or 28 mph that the class 1 through class 3 eBikes can reach.
These class 4 electric bikes are motor vehicles and must comply with the same regulations as cars, trucks, and other vehicles.
When Does an Electric Bike Become a Moped?
An electric bike is a moped if it can top 28 mph without the pedal assist stopping. Any eBike labeled a class 4 bike will fall into this category.
However, an electric bike is either a moped, or it’s not one.
Even if you pedal a class 1 bike fast enough to where pedal assists shut off, it’s still considered a standard eBike.
What Traffic Rules Should Electric Bikes Follow?
Electric bike riders should follow the same traffic rules as regular bike riders.
You must obey the posted speed limit and stay on the side of the road so that cars can pass you.
If you need to pass another cyclist or a pedestrian, signal accordingly. You can speak or use a bell so that people in front of you can hear you coming.
And whenever you need to make a turn, use your arms to signal your intent. This is particularly important when turning left since you may need to ride in front of cars.
Pay attention to any signs on the road, and review local laws. That way, you can ensure you keep yourself and others safe when you’re on the road.
Do Electric Bikes Go on the Road or on Bike Paths?
Electric bikes can go almost anywhere that regular bikes can go, including the road and bike paths.
Now, you shouldn’t ride an electric bike on all roads, such as highways or freeways.
However, you should be able to safely ride your bike around town. Consider how and where you see cyclists ride to get an idea of where you can go.
Most bike paths allow electric bikes, but some might not. Check for a list of rules at the path’s start to ensure you can ride there.
Even if you can ride an electric bike on a bike path, stick to a lower speed limit. Then, you can keep other cyclists safe and reduce the chance of getting in an accident.
Do You Need a License to Ride an Electric Bike?
You don’t need a license to ride an electric bike.
You also don’t need to register your bike with your state or obtain vehicle insurance coverage.
These rules apply to class 1, 2, and 3 electric bikes since they’re not motor vehicles. However, buying a class 4 electric bike may require a license, depending on where you live.
You also might have to register the eBike with your state and invest in an insurance policy.
While that can make using a class 4 eBike more logistically difficult, it’s worth it for your safety and protection.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Ride an Electric Bike?
You can ride a class 1 or class 2 electric bike regardless of age.
You can safely operate it if you know how to pedal and keep the bike moving.
If you want to ride a class 3 electric bike, you’ll most likely have to be 16 or older, depending on where you live. This age restriction helps kids stay safe when riding an eBike.
Since a class 3 eBike can reach up to 28 mph with pedal assist, you must understand the risks of going faster. Riding at a higher speed can increase the chances of you getting injured.
Even if your child is old enough, ensure they know to keep their speed in check. That way, they can enjoy riding an electric bike while staying safe.
What Is the Speed Limit for an Electric Bike?
The speed limit for class 1 and class 2 electric bikes using pedal assist or the throttle is 20 mph.
Technically, you can go faster if you can pedal fast enough on your own, in which case the speed limit is the same as that for cars.
If you buy a class 3 electric bike, the speed limit of the pedal assists motor will be 28 mph. Like other electric bikes, you could reach higher speeds by pedaling manually.
Class 4 electric bikes can go faster than 28 mph, but the exact speed depends on the motor. For example, bikes with a 1000W motor can go as fast as 35 mph.
This is the maximum speed for eBikes in a few US states.
On the other hand, if a bike features a 5000W motor, it could top 65 mph. For better or worse, these bikes are only allowed in Mississippi and Florida.
Electric bikes may be considered mopeds or motorcycles if they reach certain speeds.
This often applies to class 4 eBikes, but classes 1, 2, and 3 aren’t mopeds.
They can only go so fast, so they don’t have to follow the same legal requirements as motor vehicles.
Instead, you can ride these slower eBikes in many of the same places as regular bikes.