Are electric bikes legal? Do you need a licence to ride one? Do they need to be insured? Do ebikes get taxed? These are all valid and very common questions that we receive. Many people want to buy an electric bike, but they’re worried about the legality of them. Unfortunately, these aren’t simple “yes” or “no” questions, but in this article, we hope to clear up any uncertainty.
Most electric bikes, such as our eTura and Furo X, are officially classed as Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (EAPC) in the eyes of the government. EAPCs are legal to ride in England, Wales, and Scotland for anybody over the age of 14. Of course, being legal to use in public isn’t the same as being legal to ride without a licence or insurance – cars are legal to use on public highways for those over 17 years old, but you must have a licence, pay road tax, and be insured. In the case of EAPCs, however, you do not need a licence, to pay tax, or be insured.
You can ride electric bikes anywhere you would ride a regular pedal bike. This means they can be ridden on public highways but not pavements and must follow driving customs and road signs at all times. Riders of EAPCs must also obey the highway code and use front and rear lights when riding between sunset and sunrise. Failure to follow these rules and customs can result in serious fines.
What qualifies as an EAPC?
In order for an electric bike to qualify as an EAPC, it must meet certain criteria. Unsurprisingly, it must have pedals and the pedals must be in use for the electric motor to activate and provide assistance. If the electric motor can be activated without pedalling, for example with a throttle or switch (often called “twist & go”), then the vehicle is not an EAPC.
EAPCs must clearly display either the maximum speed of the vehicle or the battery’s voltage, and they must also display either the power output or the manufacturer of the motor. The power output of the motor cannot exceed 250 watts, and must not provide assistance when the bike is travelling at more than 25kpm (15.5mph). EAPCs may have two or more wheels, so it’s possible to have an electronically-assisted tricycle. If an electric bike does not fit these criteria, then different rules may apply to it.
Electric Bikes that are not EAPCs
An electric bike that is faster than the above specifications, i.e. it provides assistance when travelling faster than 25kph (15.5mph) then it is classed as a moped or motorcycle in the eyes on the UK government. This means it must be registered, taxed, insured, and you must have a driving licence to ride one. You’re also legally required to wear a motorcycle helmet when riding one on public roads.
If the electric bike’s motor can be activated without pedalling, it also fails to meet the EAPC standard. For instance, an electric scooter is classed as a Personal Light Electric Vehicle (PLEV) and is therefore illegal for use on public highways and pavements in the UK. PLEVs are, however, legal in many other countries in Europe and some states in America (hence their popularity in Paris, Madrid, and San Francisco).
Exceptions to the rule
There are some bikes with a “twist & go” throttle that are exceptions to this rule. Some electric bikes, including our entire range, have a throttle that is limited to speeds of 6kph (3.7mph); the reason for this throttle is to help those who struggle to begin cycling – it helps them get going. Once 6kph is reached, the throttle will cut out unless the rider starts pedalling. These vehicles are classed as EAPCs and are fully legal to ride without a licence, tax, and insurance.
The laws surrounding personal transport can be confusing and are often changed to meet new demands and cater to new transport trends. We hope that the UK follows other countries around the world and legalises the use of PLEVs so that our electric scooter – the Fuze – can be enjoyed beyond just private land. The good news is that all of our electric bikes – the eTura, the Furo X, and the Sierra – are legal to use in the UK and Europe as if they were normal pedal bikes. Our electric bikes are capable of reaching higher speeds than the legal limit for public roads and can be modified if you wish to ride on private land or in countries with more liberal restrictions.