Power assisted bicycle rules. Are electric bikes legal in the U.S.?

California Electric Bike Laws

What California electric bike laws do you need to operate one legally? Do you know when you are required to wear safety gear such as helmets and knee pads? Do you know the legal difference between an electric bike and a moped?

There are important distinctions under the law to note, especially if you’re a do-it-yourselfer interested in hacking your electric bike or otherwise modifying it. The basic definition of an electric bicycle in the State of California is one that includes both pedals and an electric propulsion system under 750 watts. Here’s what else you will need to know.

What An eBike In California Is NOT

Some low-speed, throttle-assisted electric two-wheeled vehicles are not defined as bicycles under the law–at least not for the purpose of our discussion of eBikes here.

If a two-wheeled vehicle does not have pedals, it may not necessarily be considered an eBike–at least not under the law. It may be legally defined (depending on a number of variables) under the law in a different way such as a “neighborhood electric vehicle” or NEV. What follows is a discussion of eBikes but don’t assume the same rules apply to NEVs.

Cycling Laws Versus eBike Laws

Some want to make a distinction between cycling laws and California state law governing eBikes. And one sticking point under those laws has to do with being under the influence while riding an eBike.

Under California cycling laws you may not find a specific reference to operating an electric bicycle while intoxicated but the accepted wisdom is that a traffic stop could result in you being charged with a DUI (where applicable) depending on the nature of the bike and the moving violation.

We explore the differences in eBike classes below, but generally speaking, a basic Class 1 eBike involved in a moving violation may have a less severe penalty than an incident involving a Class 3 eBike, for example.

Overall, it is best to avoid mixing substances and biking, regardless of the legal consequences.

California Electric Bike Laws

The first thing to know about eBikes is that you do not need a driver’s license or plates. The law classifies EBikes in a similar manner to traditional bicycles, so while you don’t need a permit to ride you are required to obey all traffic laws including those for driving while under the influence of substances or alcohol. You can be ticketed and fined for such offenses.

If you operate an electric bike or ebike in California, you are likely operating one of three classes as recognized by the state beginning in 2015. State law defines an electronic bike as one with pedals and an electric motor with a capacity of less than 750 watts.

There are three separate classes based on speed and where the bikes may be used. The 2015 laws referenced here were passed before any local ordinances; it is entirely possible that some parts of the state have more restrictive laws on eBikes than the state requirements. Ride with caution.

Class 1 eBike

California state law classifies a Class 1 eBike as a low-speed bike with a motor that only “assists”. The motor operates while pedaling and to be counted as a Class 1 eBike the motor must stop when the bike reaches 20mph. State law says Class 1 electric bikes are legal anywhere that traditional bicycles can operate. Helmets are required for all riders 17 and under.

Class 2 eBike

The technical features of Class 2 eBikes under the law include throttle-assisted operations that require no pedaling. Like the Class 1 version, these eBikes cannot exceed 20 mph, and they can be ridden anywhere it is legal to ride a traditional bicycle. Helmets are required for all Class 2 eBike riders under 17 years old.

Class 3 eBike

A Class 3 eBike is defined as a speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle. Like the other two classes above, Class 3 bikes have a motor that operates when the rider is pedaling. Class 3 eBike motors can go up to 28 mph and you must wear a safety helmet. These bikes cannot be used on Class 1 eBike pathways unless permitted by a local ordinance. In order to legally ride a Class 3 bike, you must be 16 or older.

E-Bike Regulations Standards in the United States: An Overview

E-bikes are defined as bicycles with an electric motor that provides pedal assistance and allows riders to accelerate their pace. This guide is relevant to all companies indenting to import, manufacture, or sell e-bikes in the United States. It covers both regulations and standards for e-bikes, including 16 CFR Part 1512, FCC Title 47, CPSIA, and more.

We Help Brands Importers With Product Compliance (US EU)

  • Book a free consultation call today with Ivan Malloci to learn how we can help you with:
  • Product Requirements Lists
  • Product Certification
  • Product Packaging Labeling
  • Lab Testing

16 CFR Part 1512 – Requirements for bicycles

The CPSC mandates importers and manufacturers of bicycles to refer to 16 CFR Part 1512 – Requirements for Bicycles to ensure that their products are safe for consumer use.

Product scope

16 CFR Part 1512 defines bicycles (which includes e-bikes) as the following:

a. A vehicle with two wheels, with the back wheel being driven solely by human power

b. A motorized (up to 750 watts), pedaled, and single horse-powered vehicle with two or three wheels that, when ridden by a person weighing a maximum of 170 pounds on flat and paved surfaces, does not exceed a maximum speed of 20 mph

Safety requirements

Importers and manufacturers are required to ensure that their e-bikes comply with safety requirements outlined in 16 CFR Part 1512, such as the following:

  • Mechanical requirements
  • Requirements for pedals
  • Requirements for tires
  • Requirements for front fork
  • Requirements for reflectors

Labeling requirements

Fully-assembled bicycles should have permanent traceability markings or labels attached that list the following:

The label or marking should be attached to the bicycle’s frame in such a way that attempts to remove it without destroying the bicycle is futile.

Testing procedures

Bicycles and their components have to undergo various tests to ensure they can be used safely, such as the following:

  • Protective cap and end-mounted devices test
  • Handbrake loading and performance test
  • Footbrake force and performance test
  • Handlebar stem test
  • Fork and frame test
  • Reflector mount and alignment test

General Certificate of Conformity (GCC)

The General Certificate of Conformity (GCC) is used to certify that your imported e-bike products comply with applicable consumer product safety standards such as CPSC standards. Importers or manufacturers must issue the GCC with a list of applicable standards (e.g.16 CFR Part 1512) and support documents such as certificates and test reports.

Here is a GCC content overview for e-bikes:

a. Name and description of the e-bike

b. List of applicable standards

c. Identification of the importer or manufacturer

d. Contact information: Mailing address, e-mail address, phone number

e. Date (month, year) and place (city, country) of production

f. Date (month, year) and place (city, country) of product testing

power, assisted, bicycle, rules, electric, bikes

g. Third-party testing company, contact person, e-mail, phone number, and address

FCC 47 CFR Part 15 – Radio Frequency Devices

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enacts Title 47 CFR Part 15, which regulates the electromagnetic compatibility of radiofrequency (RF) devices.

Importers and manufacturers of RF devices should ensure that their products comply with FCC 47 CFR Part 15’s requirements before importing them into the US. This might include accessories or components of e-bikes.

Product scope

FCC 47 CFR Part 15 covers products and accessories that may be used in conjunction with e-bikes, such as the following:

  • Electrical motors
  • LED Lights
  • Display screens
  • Chargers
  • GPS or Bluetooth or Wi-Fi devices

Standards

The FCC provides several measurement standards by which an RF device’s electromagnetism can be measured to ensure it complies with relevant technical requirements. Examples that are incorporated by reference into Part 15 include standards such as the following:

a. ANSI C63.10 – American National Standard Of Procedures For Compliance Testing Of Unlicensed Wireless Devices

b. ANSI C63.4 – American National Standard For Methods Of Measurement Of Radio-Noise Emissions From Low-Voltage Electrical And Electronic Equipment In The Range Of 9 kHz To 40 GHz

Find US and EU Compliance Requirements for Your Products

Disclaimer: The Site cannot and does not contain legal advice. The legal information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of legal advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THE SITE IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Sources: Our articles are written in part based on publicly available information, and our own practical experience relating to product compliance. These are some of the primary sources we use:

Yvette Shen graduated with a BA in Psychology from Menlo College, California, US. She has fully translated an autobiography from Chinese to English. She also worked as content writer for startups in the AI tech industry, where she was responsible for creating interactive content, and testing, and troubleshooting content for improving user user experience.

Responses to “ E-Bike Regulations Standards in the United States: An Overview ”

Zhang Baohua November 2, 2022 at 1:34 pm I understand the speed limit like it must under 20 miles per hour.But does US has specific rules to forbid the possibility of tempering? If no rules that means I can make my 20 miles(shipped out) bike exceed 30miles.

JJ February 2, 2022 at 4:05 am While there is useful information here, there are quite a few inaccuracies and omissions, and you would be a fool to think this is all you need to do to legally import and sell ebikes in the US. CPSC regulations are part of the Code of Federal Regulations, and are not at all optional. If you do not comply with them, your product will be recalled from the market, you will be fined, and if anyone got hurt while using your product, you will be sued out of existence. The electrical safety aspects are not directly required through federal regulation, but they are generally referenced and required through the National Electric Code. The CPSC also expects that you applied them. There are end product (ebike) standards, as well as component standards (wireless, batteries, chargers, etc.) which must be complied with, and products are required to be evaluated by a OSHA approved NRTL lab (UL, ETL, etc.). Again, if these were not applied, your product will be recalled from the market, you will be fined, and if anyone got hurt while using your product, you will be sued out of existence. The FCC guidance is also over simplified. If the ebike is not fitted with any wireless capability (Bluetooth, GPS, ANT, etc.), then yes you only need to consider the EMC requirements and provide an SDoC. If you do have wireless capability, and many ebikes now do, even if it is just for servicers to flash firmware, it must be tested and certified by the FCC, ISED in Canada, and just about every other market in world requires wireless certification if you sell there. There are specific labelling requirements and user manual requirements. FCC violations are serious business, and require 3rd party testing and certification. There are state level labeling requirements not addressed here. There are battery charger efficiency requirements that often apply …. and on, and on. Ebikes are complex products, and the compliance requirements are many. The US is actually one of the lesser regulated markets, so Europe, Japan, Korea, Australia, Singapore, are all twice as complex in their requirements. You need to hire a professional consultant for this work, or you are putting your product/business at risk in the best cases, and risking jail time in the worst cases.

Fredrik Gronkvist February 4, 2022 at 3:57 pm Hello JJ, Thank you for writing this. This is one of our earlier articles and we will need to update this guide.

Difference in rules and regulations between pedal assist and throttle e-bikes

Many states in the U.S. abide by a three-tiered class system when it comes to e-Bikes, separating them into Class I, Class II, and Class III.

Class I e-Bikes, which are also known as pedelecs or pedal-assists, are limited to a top speed of 20 mph, with the electric motor only working when the rider is pedaling. Typically, Class I e-Bikes in the U.S. can be ridden on traditional bike paths, lanes, and anywhere else that a traditional bicycle is allowed.

power, assisted, bicycle, rules, electric, bikes

Some pedelecs have a throttle included, which offers an extra power boost but are still only engaged when the rider is pedaling. This means that pedelec e-Bikes, even those with a throttle, cannot be ridden without human power.

Class II e-Bikes, which are also known as throttle e-Bikes, are similarly limited to a top speed of 20 mph. However, these e-Bikes include throttles that can propel the vehicle without the rider needing to pedal. That said, riders can still pedal alongside the throttle. In the U.S., Class II e-Bikes are allowed and can also typically be used on the same paths that traditional bicyclists can use.

Since federal law states that the top speed for a low-speed electric bicycle allows sole motor power of up to 20 mph, this means that Class II e-Bikes fit under the regulations of what is classified as a legal e-Bike.

Throttle can also be present on Class III e-Bikes, also known as speed e-Bikes, which will be discussed in the next section.

It is also important for riders to keep in mind that the maximum power output allowed on an e-Bike varies from state to state. These differences will be discussed later in the article.

Difference in rules and regulations between traditional and speed e-bikes

Class III e-Bikes, which are also known as speed e-Bikes, are electric bicycles that can go up to top speeds of 28 mph. Similar to Class I, Class III e-Bikes can either come with or without a throttle.

power, assisted, bicycle, rules, electric, bikes

When it comes to speed e-Bikes, the road rules are where they differ most from traditional e-Bikes (eg. Class I and II). Since Class III e-Bikes have been deemed as too fast for off-road bike paths, speed e-Bikes are only allowed on road lanes or on-road bike lanes (also known as curb-to-curb infrastructure). However, they cannot be taken on bike paths that exist outside of the road, or on trails that are shared with pedestrians.

Before purchasing or using a Class III e-Bike, riders should also be sure to check whether speed e-Bikes are legal in their state and what the e-Bike speed limits are, as these rules can vary greatly. For instance, in California and Tennessee, Class III e-Bikes are banned. In New York, only Class I are considered electric bicycles, and anything else is considered a motorized scooter.

In various other states, throttles on Class III e-Bikes are allowed so long as they only go up to 20 mph on motor power alone, whereas pedal-assisted electric power can continue up to 28 mph. As well, be sure to check that your motor wattage does not exceed your state’s legal limit, as speed e-Bikes tend to be equipped with more powerful motors (eg. 750W-1000W).

Lastly, be aware that in other states, 20 mph is the maximum limit, and in this case, a rider will not benefit from the higher speeds of a Class III e-Bikes.

Ultimately, it is up to your state’s laws to determine whether you can ride a Class III e-Bike or not, so keep in mind that speed e-Bikes may or may not exceed your state’s speed and motor limit.

Difference in rules and regulations between traditional (human powered) and electric bikes

For most states, electric bicycles are classed as “Bicycles” under Vehicle Type and thus follow similar rules and regulations to traditional (human-powered) bicycles.

However, in states such as Alabama, Alaska, Kentucky, North Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, e-Bikes are classified as motorized vehicles (eg. motorcycle, motor-assisted bicycle, moped, motorbike), which means that road rules and laws applied to your e-bike differ from traditional bike laws.

Are e-bikes legal in my area?

To best understand the legality of e-bikes, it’s essential to understand their classification system. Let’s take a look at the three classes of e-bikes.

Class 1

Class 1—this is what the woom UP bike falls under. This is the most lenient class and e-bikes bikes that fall under this category are generally allowed to be operated anywhere you can ride a regular bike, which is great news for your Rider that’s ready to take on the road with an extra jolt of energy.

A Class 1 e-bike only applies power to the drive system as your Rider pedals—in other words, no pedaling, no power. E-bikes in this class can’t exceed 20 miles per hour with electric assistance. Created with your child’s safety in mind, the woom UP is limited to 12 mph. Once the UP reaches its maximum speed, the motor automatically switches off. Riders are still able to pedal to their heart’s content or zoom down a hill to reach higher speeds, they just won’t have the extra help of the motor.

power, assisted, bicycle, rules, electric, bikes

Class 2

Class 2 e-bikes receive their power through the handlebar throttle and can speed up using power on demand, which means they can speed up without pedaling at all. These bicycles are very similar to electric scooters or motorcycles, but still offer the rider the ability to pedal if wanted or needed. The maximum speed for Class 2 e-bikes is also 20 mph.

Class 3 e-bikes are the challengers of e-bike legality and the lines get a little blurry here depending on your state or area. These types of bikes don’t operate via the handlebar throttle, but rather through pedaling, just like the Class 1 e-bikes. The catch here is that Class 3 e-bikes have the power to go up to 28 mph before the motor calls it quits and deactivates. E-bikes in this class may be restricted from slower speed areas such as multi-use paths. Some states also require a license for this type of e-bike, meaning your Rider would need to be of a certain age—usually 16 or 17. And of course, helmets are generally required with this one, though we recommend always keeping safety top of mind and protecting your melon.

General E-Bike Laws and Regulations

U.S. federal law refers to e-bikes as “low-speed electric bicycles.” To be more technical, they’re defined as “two- or three-wheeled vehicles with working pedals and an electric motor that’s less than 750 watts.”

Though legal throughout most of the U.S., individual states have the final say when it comes to whether you can ride freely. Generally speaking, e-bikes are treated like traditional bikes in most states when it comes to the what, where, and when to ride—as long as you’re respecting the traditional traffic codes that follow along with bicycling. However, because e-bikes sped onto the scene so quickly, some states are still catching up, making it extra important that you look into the rules and regulations of your state.

State Laws Regarding E-Bikes

Because e-bike laws vary by state, it’s important to research before you ride. A great resource to find information about e-bike regulations in your state is with our friends over at PeopleForBikes. Their site features a state-by-state grid of all 50 states (and D.C.) where you can click on your state to find current info about e-bike legislation. You can also visit your state’s government website and search for “e-bike” or “electric bike” for additional info.

Are There Specific Laws Restricting Kids From Riding E-Bikes?

Since there’s no one-size-fits all answer for the U.S., it’s best to reference your state’s laws. Some states like Alabama, Hawaii, and Alaska have age minimums.

Rules for Riding Off-Road With an E-Bike

E-bikes aren’t just for the roads, and the woom UP is designed to be taken for a spin on any terrain. But before your youngster puts tires to dirt, you’ll need to inform yourself on specific trail rules for electric mountain bikes, or e-MTBs. State and municipal parks, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife should all have current information available to the public about e-bikes on their lands. When in doubt, contact your local trail stewards for up-to-the-minute info.

E-bikes are gaining traction and have had a recent explosion in the biking realm for transportation and recreation, which means laws are catching up to define e-bikes in a category all their own. To help create favorable e-bike laws for the future, be sure to respect the current rules of the road. E-bikes allow for more independence and access to public spaces, and e-bike laws are ready to catch up to this supercharged trend.

Leave a Comment