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As we move into the age of electrification, people are actively looking for ways to go green without sacrificing convenience. The expression “easy as riding a bike!” takes on new meaning in the world of electric bikes. You can learn everything about your e-bike, but you still need to understand the legal regulations that exist to drive your new e-bike on the road. So, do you need a license to operate an e-bike?

What are the 3 types of e-bikes?

An electric bike is a bike that has an electric motor that assists the rider. Bosch, an experienced e-bike manufacturer, explains that how much assistance is provided is the standard that differentiates the three main classes of electric bikes. 

  • Class 1: These electric bikes are limited to 20 mph, and the electric motor only kicks in when the rider is pedaling. 
  • Class 2: These e-bikes also have a top speed of 20 mph but have throttles that can assist riders even when they are not actively pedaling. 
  • Class 3: Usually, these e-bikes will be pedal assist only. However, with a maximum speed of 28 mph, the power in these e-bikes makes them much more useful for commuting.

Is a license necessary in the U.S. to operate your electric bike?

According to Quietkat, some states, such as Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, require a license to operate an e-bike. In other states, currently, no statewide regulations are dictating whether you must have a license or not. 

As electric bikes continue to grow in popularity, more states may move toward stricter standards about who can operate them. Even if e-bikes remain accessible to every operator who meets the age requirements, Bosch recommends more universal legislation around their safe use should be created to protect everyone using roads and walkways.

What may be the exception to the rule?

Some counties and municipalities within a state that does not require a license to operate an electric bike may choose to enact policies that require a licensed rider, particularly on the Class 3 e-bikes. This is less common in states that have already enacted a three-class system of regulating usage.

What regulations exist outside of the U.S.?

A VoltBike electric-bike (e-bike) showroom in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
A VoltBike e-bike showroom | James MacDonald/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Much like inside the U.S., e-bike laws around the world vary. However, governments still often treat them more like traditional bicycles. That means you are not usually required to have a license to operate your e-bike. Travel website Linky Innovations found these specifics. 

  • Canada- It depends on the area. At this time, there are no country-wide requirements requiring a license to open an electric bike.
  • Europe- No license is required in either the EU or the United Kingdom to operate an e-bike. 
  • Asia- Much of Asia does not require a license to operate your e-bike, but certain areas in China require a license, and others have completely banned e-bike use. Japan currently does not require a license but does require e-bikes to be registered.
  • Australia- You do not need a license to operate an e-bike in Australia.

It is always best to look up the latest safety information for the country you plan to ride in, as these regulations are constantly evolving, and you don’t want to find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

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