Ultimate guide to uk ebike laws
Here’s everything you need to know about ebike laws in the UK…
First thing’s first, your age. You can ride an ebike in the UK as long as you’re aged 14 or over but the bike must meet certain requirements as set out by the government. The government refers to electric bikes as ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ or EAPCs for short.
One of the best things about ebikes is that you do not need a licence to ride one, you also do not need to the register the bike, tax or insure it. It’s very much like a bicycle rather than a motorbike, where you would need these things. It’s important to note that with an electric motorbike you DO need a licence, tax and third party insurance as a minimum!
An ebike must meet the following conditions to be classed by the UK government as an EAPC, otherwise it’s going to be an electric motorbike and it must then be registered, taxed, an MOT and you must have a motorbike licence and wear a helmet, although you may still want to insure your ebike and wear an helmet despite what is compulsory by law if you’re risk averse:
- It’s electric motor must have a maximum power output of 250 watts and it should not be able to travel faster than 15.5mph when using the motor alone; you will obviously be able to go faster if you’re peddling or going downhill (see below)
- It must show either 1) the power output or 2) the manufacturer of the motor i.e. Bosch
- It must show either 1) the battery’s voltage or 2) the maximum speed of the bike
These are the UK government requirements to be classed as an EAPC ebike or basically an electric bicycle to fall into laws similar to bicycles otherwise you’re going to riding an electric motorbike and it’ll fall into UK motorbike laws.
Electric motorbikes, scooters and mopeds are able to go faster than 28mph and are classed as L3e-A1 licence category vehicles.
You must be over 17 years of age and have a licence to ride one, first and foremost your CBT or Compulsory Basic Training which is basically a provisional licence for motorbike. A CBT takes a day and last for two years before it expires.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The UK ebike speed limit is 15.5 mph.
Yes you can go faster by going downhill / peddling rapidly. Yes you can do this on a bicycle. But that’s where the law is at the moment.
Do we feel that a 20mph speed limit would be more appropriate, probably, but until ebike are more widely accepted and get more of a voice then 15.5mph speed limit is probably going to be with us for a while!
There have already been petitions to increase the ebike speed limit from 15.5mph to 20 mph as an incentive to increase UK uptake of ebikes and reduce the amount of people relying on vehicles that use petrol or diesel, but they’ve not got there yet, as support grows then an increase could be on the cards in a few years…
What’s a speed pedelec or an s-pedelec?
A speed pedelec or an s-pedelec is usually an ebike that can achieve speeds of over 15.5mph without pedal assistance or has a motor with a power output of over 250w, commonly 750w.
In UK ebike laws, these bikes are L1e category and require registration with the DVLA, have number plate, have third party insurance as a minimum, the rider need a helmet and a the right licence, usually a CBT which stands Compulsory Basic Training.
As these are classed motorbikes they cannot be used on cycle paths and cycle lanes and have the same laws as a moped, scooter or motorcycle.
Are electric bikes legal in the UK?
Ebikes are absolutely legal in the UK but they must meet the conditions above such as they must be pedal assist and can’t be over 250w in power.
If you’re ebike doesn’t meet these conditions and you use it on the road without insurance, tax, an MOT, a helmet and licence then you could find yourself in trouble.
Can I use a 500w or 750w ebike on UK roads?
Any sort of search online and you will find ebikes with a power output of over 250 watts, often 500 watts or 750 watts. UK ebike laws state 250w is the only legal ebike allowed on the road, otherwise it’s something else…
These are not classed as ebikes anymore as they are too powerful, they then fall into the law of motorbikes but as they’re not a motorbike but a powerful ebike the process to get them registered for the road and get a number plate, insurance etc is much more difficult.
Most of these ebikes aren’t even rated by insurers so the likelihood of finding someone to insure it for you to use on the road is highly unlikely right now, until laws change and these bikes are more widely accepted, keep any ebike over 250w strictly for off road use.
If you want something electric but more powerful for using on UK roads then it’s time to start looking at an electric motorbike / moped / scooter.
What are the ebike classes in the UK?
The UK only really has the one class which we have to mention, 250w power limit with a 15.5mph speed limit, power assistance can only kick in whilst pedalling and this is the case in Europe too.
However, in the US they use a three class system, which is a little more complicated, but you don’t need to worry about these classes in the UK.
If you want to know a little bit more about the ebike classes used in America then here’s a quickly summary for your information:
- Class 1 ebike – there’s no throttle but when you peddle a motor makes things easier for you, but it cuts out at 20mph
- Class 2 ebike – almost the same as a class 1 ebike but now there is a throttle that you can use to propel you and the bike without pedalling. The 20mph is still in place and the throttle will not help past 20mph.
- Class 3 ebike – this is the most powerful and will give you motor assistance up to 28mph. There must also be a speedometer to show your speed on a class 3 ebike.
All of the three US ebike classes limit the motor’s power to 750 watts max (1 horsepower).
READ ME! But we must repeat, these ebike classes are for the US, not the UK.
Is it legal to ‘hack’ my ebike into going faster by ‘unlocking’ or using a ‘speed limit increaser’?
You’ll have hopefully got the message by now, but if you hack, unlock, boost, derestrict you ebike to go faster than 15.5mph you’ve immediately made your ebike illegal to use on UK roads and breaking UK ebike laws. If it can go over 15.5mph without pedalling then it’s no longer an EAPC by government definitions and you shouldn’t be using it on UK roads.
We know everyone has suspicions that lots of people have done this that they see on UK streets, however, you’ve got to ask yourself is it worth the risk for an extra few miles per hour?
But how will the police know if my ebike is legal?
The police may not be able to know if you’re ebike is road legal at first glance and they can’t pull over every ebike they see to check the power output and specifications etc but don’t do it, it’s not worth the risk to yourself or other road users and pedestrians.
The UK ebike laws are there for a reason and that is to keep everyone safe. If you use a ebike that surpasses the allowed power output in UK law, you may think you’re willing to risk it but you’re posing a risk to everyone else around you at the same time.
Picture this.. you use a 750w ebike on the road as you think you’ll get away with it, then you lose control and hit a pedestrian.
When you are caught and found to be using an illegal ebike on the road, you will find yourself in huge amounts of bother and that is an understatement.
It’s highly important that you understand the legal implications of using the wrong ebike on UK roads, so make sure you’re abiding by the law and don’t get caught out. Make sure you’re reading the information relevant to where you live in the world and it’s all different and ever changing…
Now you understand the UK ebike laws, check out the benefits of owning an ebike here.