Electric bikes are becoming popular worldwide as their sales increase each year. Even though electric bikes are pretty much the same as traditional bikes, their electric motors make them stand out.
Like traditional bicycles, electric bikes also come with a pedal assist. However, you might find a throttle-actuated motor mechanism in some electric bikes instead of an electric motor and pedal assist.
Any bicycle that has a motor is called an electric bike. The reason why electric bikes are so popular is that they are easier to ride than traditional bikes.
The pedal assistance causes electric bike riders to use minimum effort while pedaling. Usually, the motor of an electric bike has a power of approximately 750 W.
However, since the year 2021, electric bikes are no longer put into the category of motorized vehicles. Let’s find out why.
What the US Law Says about Electric Bikes
The California Vehicle Code and other state laws classify electric bikes into a three-class system- Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3. Every class comes with versatile motor power, maximum speed, and a cycling mechanism.
Class 1 is an electric bicycle that comes with a pedal-assist mode and has a low speed. It also has completely operational pedals, but once it reaches a speed of 20 miles/ hour, it does not use any electrical energy.
Class 2 e-bikes come with a throttle mechanism. These bikes have a low speed and can travel at a maximum speed of 20 miles/ hour. The motor that helps run the bike only works when riding at 20 miles/ hour. Remember that class 2 bikes do not have a pedaling system.
Class 3 bikes are the fastest of all bikes. They use motors as well as pedals to ensure easy riding. These electric bikes can travel at a maximum speed of 28 miles/ hour, making them faster than the bikes in Class 1 and Class 2.
If you are using a Class 3 e-bike, having a speedometer attached is a requirement by the law.
Is an Electric Bike Considered a Motorized Vehicle?
The laws in the United States do not define electric bikes as motorized vehicles because of the motor power factors and speed provided by the bike. The laws state that electric bikes fall in the category of conventional bikes rather than motorized vehicles.
Since the electric motors of these bikes have low power and the bikes cannot exceed a speed of 28 miles/ hour, they do not fall in the category of motorized vehicles.
Hence, they are seen as equivalent to conventional bicycles. The same insurance coverage and rules that apply to traditional bikes also apply to them.
According to the law, no e-bike should have a cylinder capacity that exceeds 16. Otherwise, they might fall into the category of motorized vehicles.
Motor vehicles are defined as transport vehicles that can travel higher than a speed of 28 mph. Since the motors of electric vehicles have lesser power than 750 W, they cannot be classified as motorized vehicles.
How Federal Laws Categorize Electric Bikes
The federal bike laws view electric bikes as motorized vehicles with operational pedals but do not put e-bikes into the motor vehicle category.
This is because electric bikes are vastly different from other motorized vehicles when it comes to the motor’s power and the maximum speed they use.
Based on the laws that focus on e-bikes, all three classes fall into the category of traditional bikes. Even though an electric bike can be seen as a motorized vehicle with functional pedals, it does not have much power, so it is seen as a conventional bicycle.
How Much Power Does the Motor of an Electric Bike Have?
It is crucial to understand how much power electric bikes have as they determine whether these bikes fall in the category of motorized vehicles. Usually, motors of electric bikes have a power of 750 W or a capacity of 16 cylinders.
Since electric bikes have a low speed and power, the National Park Service has allowed them to be used in bike lanes, and other paths set out for bicycles in public parks in different parts of the country.
In case the power of an electric bike crosses this limit, it will not be seen as a traditional bike. Instead, it will become a motorized vehicle, and all the traffic rules and tax laws that apply to motor vehicles will be used for it.
How to Determine the Power of an Electric Bike?
Two important factors determine the power of an electric bike- the power of the motor and the bike’s speed. Both of these determine the category in which the e-bike will fall and it’s class.
An electric bike’s motor has the ultimate power of 750 W. This equals 16 CC or one horsepower. If an electric bike is in this power range, it will be put into the category of a regular bike.
However, if an electric bike has an electric motor with power that exceeds 750 W, it will be referred to as a motor vehicle.
Are Electric Bikes Motor Operated?
All electric bikes are motor operated and come with pedal assists as well. Apart from electric bikes that fall in the Class 2 category, all other e-bikes come with a pedal-assist mode and an electric-powered motor.
Electric bikes under the Class 2 category are the only e-bikes with a throttle-powered mechanism rather than a pedal-assist one.
Electric bikes have changed the cycling industry as they have provided riders relief from extreme pedaling that would tire them out.
Instead of relying on humans pedaling, electric bikes use their motors to draw electrical energy.
Helmet Requirements for Electric Bikes
There are approximately 25 states in the US that have special requirements for electric bike passengers and riders. Usually, these laws apply to riders who have reached a certain age.
The strictest helmet requirements are in Connecticut. Riders and passengers of all three electric bike classes have to use protective headgear.
Maryland, Maine, and Florida have a law that an electric bike rider or passenger below 16 must wear a helmet. On the other hand, the law in New Jersey is that riders or passengers under 17 years of age must wear a helmet.
In New York, an e-bike rider or passenger under 14 must wear a helmet, while in Delaware, this law is set for those under 18.
In West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, New York, Louisiana, Georgia, and California, all-electric bike riders and passengers must wear protective headgear regardless of age. This law applies to electric bikes of all classes.
In Arkansas, electric bike riders and passengers under 21 must wear protective headgear.
Utah, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Michigan, Indiana, and Colorado have laws that require electric bike operators and passengers to wear protective headgear, regardless of their age or the class their bike falls into.
In New Mexico, Delaware, and California, electric bike riders must wear a helmet if they are under 18.
New Jersey laws require riders under 17 to wear protective headgear. On the other hand, West Virginia laws require riders under 15 to wear a helmet.
Registration, Insurance, and Licensure Requirements
States with a three-tiered classification module do not usually require electric bikes to provide registration, insurance, and licensure requirements. This helps them differentiate between motorized vehicles like scooters, mopeds, and electric bikes.
Let’s look at an example- the laws in Idaho state that motorcycles and mopeds are different from electric bikes. Hence, electric bikes are excepted for registration, licensure, and other requirements.
New Jersey has a two-tiered classification method that states that electric bikes of low speed that do not operate over 20 mph do not require insurance, licensure, and registration data.
According to this law, motorized bicycles are defined as pedal bikes with an electric motor allowing the bike to travel over 20 mph with a maximum speed of 28 mph.
In New Jersey, the riders of these vehicles must be 15 years of age or more, and the vehicles must be registered with the Motor Vehicle Commission. Riders should also have insurance, a proper license, and always wear helmets.
According to the laws in Illinois, local authorities must regulate the workings of bicycles, electric bikes with low-speed motors, and low-speed gas bicycles. They must ensure that these follow the same licensing process and are charged the same fee for registration.
Reasons You Should Get an Electric Bike
Even though electric bikes are debated often, you should still choose them over other vehicles for a range of social, transportation, environmental, financial, health, and practical reasons.
Here are some wonderful reasons to get an electric bike, even if they are not considered to be motorized vehicles:
1. Help Save Money
Electric bikes are not as expensive to buy and maintain as other vehicles, primarily cars. You can easily find an electric bike in the $2,000 range. If that is not in your budget, you can lease it for a couple of hundred dollars.
There is no denying that electric bikes are cheaper than motor vehicles. In fact, a study shows that operating a motor vehicle takes $9,283 per head while operating an electric bike takes $390- a fraction of the cost.
2. Great for the Environment
If everyone switched from cars to electric bikes, the traffic congestion in the city would be greatly reduced. Moreover, this shift would improve the air quality, lower carbon emissions, and greatly improve the public’s health.
Even though this change may not look too big, think about what would happen if half the world’s population adapted to bikes and ditched their cars- we could cure climate change!
Electric bikes have made the world more accessible to older people and parents who want to travel with young children but cannot afford a car.
Moreover, since electric bikes use electricity, they are easier to ride around and do not require as much physical strength.
This makes them perfect for those with health or physical limitations, giving individuals a chance to see the world without depending on anyone else.
4. Safer Roads for Cyclists
Whether you have noticed it or not, electric bikes are becoming so popular that there are more and more bikes visible on the road today.
Due to this, drivers have started to pay closer attention to bikes and cycles, noticing their presence more. This changing phenomenon ensures that the roads are safer for everyone, regardless of what vehicle they are driving.
5. Easy to Park
Compared to cars and big trucks, finding parking for an electric bike in the US is a breeze. You can fit them into the narrowest of spaces, and the best part is that you usually do not have to pay a parking fee either.
Is an Electric Bike Considered a Motorized Vehicle? The Crux of the Argument
According to all the information in this article, electric bikes are motorized vehicles, but they are put into the same category as traditional bicycles. The power of the motor and the speed of an electric bike are two of the main factors that play a role in how they are categorized.
To sum it up, electric bikes should have a speed limit of 28 mph, and the motor’s power should not exceed 750 W to fall into the category of traditional bikes.
The good news is that based on the rules passed by the National Park Service, electric bike riders can ride their bikes in bike lanes at public parks. Moreover, electric bikes are environmentally friendly alternatives and much easier to use than conventional ones.
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My name is Matthew, staying in Seattle, Washington. Electric Vehicles (Electric Cars & Electric bikes) caught my attention for the last few years and my love for electric cars and bikes is everlasting. I spend many of my weekends traveling to various places all over various cities with my electric vehicle (e-bike and electric car). Here I am sharing my expertise, experience, and invaluable information about electric cars and electric bikes. Check out more.