The Different Kinds of E-Bikes (and Where It’s Legal to Ride Them)

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There is a lot of confusion around electric bicycles, or ebikes, and that stems largely from the different laws governing their use around the country. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates ebikes at the federal level, but focuses on product safety for manufacturing and initial sale, leaving states to decide how these bikes will be regulated for use. Primarily, there are major discrepancies between the rules in each state. Here’s what you need to know about the “3-Class” system of model legislation.

What is an e-bike?

An ebike is a bike with a motor on it that helps you have an easier ride. According to BikeRadar, they’re great for everything from commuting to riding trails. You’ve likely seen delivery drivers using them around large cities; it’s their urban use that has caused the most drama, largely because localities make the decision whether to classify them as regular bikes or motor vehicles.

For the most part, ebikes, per BikeRadar, are those that offer riders “help,” but don’t prop them. The amount of power given off by the motor is dependent on how hard you pedal and the level of support you pick. Generally, motors worldwide are limited to 250 watts of output and have to cut out when you reach 15.5 miles per hour, but those regulations vary around the world. (You’ll find more on US-specific regulations below.) The motors have batteries, but some can charge while they’re attached to the bike and others are removed for charging.

What is the “3-Class” system of e-bike regulation?

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