Electric bikes in the United States are divided into three categories – Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3.
Class 1 and Class 2 electric bikes can reach a maximum speed of 20 mph with motor assistance, while Class 3 eBikes can attain a speed of 38 mph with the motor doing the majority of the work.
It is important to note that while the motor provides assistance, the speed of the electric bike can be increased through manual pedaling. However, the top speed is limited for various reasons, primarily for the safety of the rider and others on the road.
In this article, we will explore why electric bikes have slow top speeds, and why it is essential to not push their limits:
Here’s Why Electric Bikes are So Slow and Speed Limited:
Electric bikes are slow and speed limited to protect the rider and others on the road. The speed limit can also discourage illegal use of the eBike, which can further protect users and bystanders.
How Fast Exactly can Electric Bikes Go in the U.S.?
Electric bikes in the U.S. come in three categories: class 1, class 2, and class 3.
Class 1 and class 2 electric bikes can reach up to 20 miles per hour (mph) with the motor.
If you get a class 3 eBike, you can ride up to 38 mph with the motor doing most of the work. Class 1 and 3 electric bikes are pedal-assisted, while class 2 eBikes use a throttle to assist the motor.
Regardless of your electric bike class, you can ride faster if you pedal fast enough.
However, the motor can only make the bike go so fast.
Why Are Electric Bikes Engineered with Slow Top Speeds?
Electric bikes have slow maximum speeds for various reasons – most being safety – while others help keep people from mistreating the bikes.
Before you invest in an electric bike, consider why you can only ride one so fast.
Then, you’ll understand why it’s important not to push the limits of your new eBike:
One of the most significant reasons why electric bikes can’t go faster than 20 or 28 mph is to get people to pedal manually.
If your bike can go faster than that, you may treat it more like a car or another motor vehicle.
Sure, many people use eBikes as alternatives to cars, but they aren’t an exact substitute. A better comparison is of electric bikes to regular bikes.
When you use an electric bike, the motor is merely a tool to help you reach your destination.
Limiting the speed can remind you of this and get you to pedal to help yourself stay active.
Keeping the speed at or below 20 mph can also stop people from illegally using electric bikes.
People may be tempted to use a bike for joyriding, racing, or other illegal acts when a bike can go faster.
Partaking in these things is dangerous for the people involved and bystanders. Using eBikes at faster speeds may also contribute to noise pollution, which can be annoying to the community.
By restricting the speed limit, manufacturers can ensure people use electric bikes for their intended purpose.
Then, as the rider, you can help keep your community safe and avoid getting in legal trouble.
The Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) considers electric bikes to be consumer products.
If bikes could go faster than they already do, they’d fall under the category of motor vehicles.
Then, that would mean eBikes would have to meet another set of safety standards. Bikes that can go faster pose a bigger safety risk to riders because you could easily lose control and crash.
Another issue with faster electric bikes is that the motor could catch on fire. The speed limit is a huge way the government helps protect anyone looking to ride an eBike.
Set a Standard
Another safety-based reason for the speed limit is that it sets a standard across all electric bike manufacturers.
You won’t find a set speed limit for bikes on most city roads.
So by making bikes that can’t go faster than 20 or 28 mph, bike manufacturers are essentially setting up a speed limit. That can help keep you, and other cyclists stay safe when riding.
Most drivers know that bikes can’t go as fast as cars, so they expect to have to pass bike riders.
Knowing that all bikes will be going a bit slower helps drivers know to pass, which can help keep you safe when riding.
When you ride a bike of any kind, you face a higher risk of severe injuries in the event of an accident.
Whether you’re riding a regular or electric bike, it’s not always the safest choice.
Riding an electric bike at a faster speed increases the chance of you crashing and getting hurt. A speed limit can reduce the risk of injuries and keep you and other cyclists safer on the road.
Plus, it keeps you from feeling like you’re competing with cars that can go faster.
When you ride any kind of bike, you can stay off to the right to let cars pass you safely.
All electric vehicles can be better for the environment than gas cars.
However, electric cars and bikes still contribute to global emissions, especially at top speeds.
Restricting how fast an electric bike can go with the motor as the power source can help you reduce emissions further. That way, you can do more to protect the environment.
You’ll be able to help your city have better air quality, especially if you use your electric bike as your primary mode of transportation.
Do Electric Bikes go Faster in Other Countries?
Every country can set the maximum speed for eBikes with similar laws to the CPSA.
However, the U.S. allows electric bikes to go faster than some other countries.
For example, in the U.K. and other parts of Europe, the maximum speed for an eBike is only 25 kilometers per hour. That comes out to around 15.5 mph.
Canada is the same as the U.S., with eBike speeds topping out at 32 kph, or just under 20 mph. The E.U. has some bikes similar to American class 3 eBikes, so they can reach about 28 mph.
No matter where you live, if a bike can go faster than 20 or 28 mph, it’s generally classified as a motor vehicle.
That means you’ll have to register and obtain insurance and a license to operate the bike.
Are Electric Bikes Speed Limited?
Most electric bikes will be speed limited by the manufacturer to comply with local laws.
As annoying as these speed limits are, they can help keep you safe.
If you were to ride an electric bike as fast as you would drive a car, you could get in more accidents. And you won’t have the protection of a car and seatbelt.
Even if you wear a helmet, you could fall off your bike and get hurt.
So even if you found a way to make your bike go faster, it’s not worth it.
Can You Make an Electric Bike go Faster?
The main way you’d make an electric bike go faster is by pedaling yourself.
Many bike riders can reach 30 mph or so when pedaling, especially if you’re riding downhill or on a flat surface.
Meanwhile, professional cyclists may be able to reach speeds as fast as 45 mph. However, you must do all the pedaling and not rely on the electric motor to hit these speeds.
As far as I can tell, the maximum speed that a motor will go is set in stone.
It depends on the electric bike, so you could always upgrade to a class 3 eBike if you want to go faster without pedaling manually.
Can People with Driving Licenses Buy Faster Electric Bikes?
You can buy a class 4 electric bike if you have a driver’s license.
These bikes are similar to other types but can reach speeds faster than 28 mph.
However, to do that, they’re technically considered mopeds or electric motorcycles. That means you not only need a license, but you’d need to get a motorcycle license to operate one.
You’ll also have to register the bike with your state and purchase motor vehicle insurance for it.
Doing so can be worth it, but it can also cost a lot of money, so it’s not for the faint of heart.
Luckily, almost anyone can buy electric bikes that don’t count as vehicles. As long as you have the money and can learn to ride a bike, you can purchase one whether or not you have a driving license.
Electric bikes can feel so slow despite the motor since most can’t go faster than 20 mph.
However, they’re speed limited for various reasons, most of which have something to do with safety.
Keep that in mind before you try to pedal faster on your eBike or make its motor go faster. If you really want to go faster, invest in a moped or electric motorcycle instead.
Please also read our article about why so few electric bikes are made in America.