Whether you have bought an e-bike or plan on doing so, you need to know where you stand with the law. The UK's problem is that it can be a fine line between an e-bike and what becomes a motor vehicle or moped.
However, the laws regarding e-bikes are pretty straightforward, and there are not too many of them to worry about either.
So, what do you need to know before taking ownership of your e-bike?
What Constitutes an E-Bike?
The first thing to understand is what constitutes an e-bike according to the law. Even here, the law makes it quite clear as to what qualifies as an e-bike.
In the UK, an e-bike can also be called an electrically assisted pedal cycle. The bike must have pedals that the cyclist then uses to move it, while it should also clearly state the power of the motor, and the manufacturer should include this on a label on the e-bike.
Add in details whereby it must also indicate the battery voltage and the maximum speed, and you start to see how the law covers every aspect imaginable.
Oh, and it doesn't just apply to an e-bike with two wheels. A tricycle complete with a small motor also falls into this category.
But an e-bike must have some apparent specifications. Anything outwith the specifications set out in the law may mean your e-bike quickly becomes classed the same as a moped.
Power and Speed Laws for an E-Bike
UK laws also clearly state an upper limit regarding power and speed before an e-bike has to be registered. Also, you should know these figures can come across as relatively low.
In the UK, the maximum power output cannot exceed 250 watts. Anything above that turns an e-bike into something off-road and where a licence is required.
Your e-bike should also clearly state the power output of the model. This output usually involves the manufacturer including it on a label on the bike. Double-check that this is indeed the case when you purchase your e-bike.
The other main issue is the speed aspect. Under the current laws, an e-bike cannot contain a motor that can propel the bike at speed greater than 15.5 mph. Once again, anything above that figure means you move more into a moped, and everything changes at that stage.
Also, this figure only refers to the speed at which the motor can power the e-bike on its own. It does not refer to the speed at which you can pedal the bike via your power.
Laws Regarding a Licence?
According to UK law, you do not require a licence to ride an e-bike. However, that does change as soon as your e-bike goes above those power and speed laws mentioned earlier.
Up to that 15.5 mph and 250 watts limit, anybody can ride an e-bike.
Once you exceed these limits, which can occur via a switch on some e-bikes to open up more power, you not only need a licence to ride one, but you fall into line with various other laws typically seen with motorcycles and mopeds.
If you thought anybody of any age could ride an e-bike in the UK, you would be wrong. Instead, the law states you must be over 14 years of age before you can legally ride one.
Under no circumstances can anybody younger than 14 rides one of these bikes. That applies even when the power and speed have dropped. The law remains very clear on this, but there is no upper limit regarding age.
When an E-Bike Must Be Registered
The law in the UK also clearly states the point where the owner must then register an e-bike. Once again, the tipping point is when you go above the power and speed limit, as that is the stage when the e-bike is then viewed as a motor vehicle.
Once you go beyond those limits, your e-bike falls into the same category as a moped, which is when things change considerably.
Is it the Same All Over the UK?
The laws regarding e-bikes remain the same all over the UK. This similarity was not always the case, with Northern Ireland initially having added requirements.
However, Northern Ireland came into line with the rest of the UK in 2020. So, if you see any information online stating laws are different, then what you are
On-Road and Off-Road Bikes?
Finally, you may find an e-bike with a special switch that allows you to reach faster speeds and unlock more power. The same laws do not cover those bikes and will no longer be viewed as an EAPC.
Owning a bike with that switch leads to it becoming an off-road bike. You must then register those bikes and require a licence to ride one.
Also, those e-bikes must pay tax and have a valid MOT. As you can see, this means increased costs associated with your e-bike, thanks to a desire for more power or speed.
From the rider's perspective, you must undergo specific training to ride your e-bike. That means you incur additional costs that you would have avoided if you had kept your e-bike below those limits.
The law surrounding an e-bike in the UK is unambiguous. You can freely use an e-bike up to that maximum power of 250 watts and a speed of 15.5 mph. After that, everything changes, and the e-bike, while still referred to as one, falls into the same category as a moped.
All this information should appear on a label placed on the e-bike. This label makes it easy to know you are indeed falling on the right side of the law.
But as you see, the laws regarding an e-bike are not complicated. If you have any concerns, contact the manufacturer, and they can help put your mind at ease.
After that, all left is to get out there and enjoy that e-bike experience.