Electric Bikes Law FAQS

March 22, 2012

March, 2012

Read our complete story on Ebike Legality here.

What is the federal law when it comes to electric bikes?

In the USA, Congress has defined an electric bicycle as any bicycle or tricycle with fully operable pedals, an electric motor not exceeding 750 W of power and a top motor-powered speed not in excess of 20 miles per hour. An electric bike or trike that meets these limitations is regarded as a bicycle [8] by Public Law 107-319.[9] This Law defines electric bicycles only for the purpose of Consumer Product Safety. It is a safety criteria that manufacturers should use in building electric bicycles, which helps protect manufacturers from the threat of lawsuits from within states that attempt to legislate more stringent safety requirements.

Federal law was designed to keep manufacturers from designing high speed high power e-bikes without extreme liability issues. However its very easy to build a bike that is beyond federal law. You will be lawbreaker…but chances of you getting caught are slim. In the minds of many build yourself e-bikes, legal means not getting stopped and questioned by the police. Your e-bike must look normal enough to pass that test.


What is the legality of home built fast electric bikes?

Home built electric bikes exist in a gray zone legally.  “It’s an ebike if you can ride past a cop and not get pulled over” is what one famous ebike builder said.

Almost all of the high performance e-bikes on the planet right now that can hit speeds of over 30mph are designed in peoples’ garages.  (read our 10 fastest ebike story).


Do you need a driver’s license, insurance and registration to ride an e-bike?

No, e-bikes in most jurisdictions count as bicycles.

Can you park on the sidewalks?

Yes you can…same as a bicycle

Can you take on subway?

If you can take a bicycle on the subway than more than likely you can take your e-bike. It’s best if your e-bike looks like a bicycle in cases like this.

Can you get a DUI on an electric bike?

You can, but the same as a dui on a bicyle it will not have the severe consequences a DUI would have in a car or motorcycle . Basically the same as a dui on a bicycle. Most states consider bikes and motorized vehicles differently for the purposes of DUI statutes. (read our complete story on DUI on an electric bike)

Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.


  1. Swedish law is more different than the American law. In Sweden an electric bike has to get a motor with an effect that doesn’t exceed 250 watts and has to get a PAS (Pedal Assistent System) to be classed as just a bicycle. If there’s no PAS, it is a moped according the law. The motor may neither give a speed exceeding 25 km/h (less than 20 mph/32 km/h)

    If you want the motor to work, you have to pedal before it starts working. This has got even disadvantages because if you have to stay right on the hill, you can’t get the bike moving upwards the hill. There has to be a possibility to return in a legal way, then you can return down on the hill to accelerate towards the hill and drive through the whole hill. Otherwise you have to lead the bike up on the hill. This is how the PAS works.

    The Swedish law forbidding the motor effect exceeding 250 watts has also got advantages here because the less motor effect you get the less energy the machine uses up. That’s why I prefer low-effective machines. Too low effect is not what I want but as I’m planning to buy a TWIKE I think that the motor effect that the TWIKE has got is enough even when it may give a bad acceleration and the top speed doesn’t usually exceed 90 km/h it is all just enough for me. And just enough when driving on a Swedish motorway in the safest possible way; some car drivers prefer and recommend to drive behind a large truck or a large bus (their total weight exceeds 3,5 t) because it’s not allowed to drive those large vehicles faster than 90 km/h. If they get a trailer, the speed limit gets up to 80 km/h.

    • Thanks for the input. Its interesting what other countries take on electric bikes and the law is.

      • I think it’s lucky not to live in the United Kingdom for me where the law is more powerful than in Sweden. Even when an electric bike is classed as a normal bike you still have to be at least 14 years old to get to drive an electric bike. No driver license is required, just like in Sweden and whole European Union but in Sweden there’s no age limit to get to drive an electric bike classed as a normal bike. The bikes in United Kingdom can neither get a high weight. An electric bicycle can’t weight more than 40 kg and a tricycle can’t weight more than 60. That’s not the same “mild” law like the Swedish one. Even the motor effect is more limited there, a bicycle can’t get a motor with an effect exceeding 200 watts if it isn’t a tandem bike, 250 watts if it is a tandem bike and the same effect for tricycles. I got a bicycle that has got an effect of 250 watts so I got some luck with living in Sweden instead of United Kingdom where my bike is classed as a bicycle.

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