Motor vehicle legislation
To remain exempt from motor vehicle legislation, an electric bicycle must be fitted with pedals capable of propelling the bike and comply with the following:
Power and Speed
Maximum (continuous) rated motor power 250W: EN15194 regulations require an electric bike to be capable of delivering 250 watts continuously without the motor being damaged (e.g. overheating).
Maximum speed with power assistance 25kmh (15.5mph in the UK)
‘Twist and gos’ – electric bikes manufactured with the capability of being powered by a throttle alone – have required type approval since January 2016. ‘Grandfather rights’ apply to ‘twist and go’ e-bikes prior to January 2016. (This is entirely separate to ‘walk assist mode’ throttles that power the bike to a 6kmh top limit i.e. walking speed, to help you push the bike along, which are not affected by this law update.)
Trikes and Quadricycles
EAPCs are permitted to have more than 3 wheels (with no weight restriction).
Since 6th April 2015, manufacturer’s plates should show the maximum assisted cut-off speed, in addition to the previous requirements of manufacturer name, battery voltage and maximum continuous rated power.
All pedelecs must comply with existing pedal cycle standards. The Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 updated British Standard braking requirements to the 2014 BS EN Standard.
EN15194 safety standard
The official safety standard for pedelecs in force across Europe is EN15194, deeming the e-bike to be safe and fit for purpose. EN 15194 only concerns the electric part of the vehicle, whereas for the bicycle part EN 14764 applies.
All bikes that have passed testing will be issued with a certificate of compliance from the testing house.
A rider must be 14 years old to ride an electric bike in the UK. In most European countries there is no lower age limit so anyone can legally ride a pedelec on public roads or where the public have access.
High power e-bikes / Speed pedelecs
Most electric bicycles sold in the UK have 250W (max continuous rated) motors and conform to both EU regulations and UK EAPC law.
What counts as an EAPC
An EAPC must have pedals that can be used to propel it.
It must show either:
- the power output
- the manufacturer of the motor
It must also show either:
- the battery’s voltage
- the maximum speed of the bike
Its electric motor:
- must have a maximum power output of 250 watts
- should not be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph
An EAPC can have more than 2 wheels (for example, a tricycle).
These bikes conform to the EU’s EN15194 regulations, and the basic stipulations of these are:
- The bike must be pedal assist, not throttle-based
- The bike must have a continually rated power output of 250W or less
- The speed limit for assistance must be 25km/h
Above that standard there’s another: the speed pedelec, or S-pedelec. These bikes have a maximum assisted speed of 45km/h, and more powerful motors. They’re widely available from a range of manufacturers; Riese und Muller offer nearly all their bikes in a HS (High Speed ) build. And this is where it gets really complicated.
The adoption of the hybrid in Europe is on a state-by-state basis: there are no overarching EU regulations specifically for these bikes. Anything faster or more powerful than the EN15194 regulations allow technically needs to be type approved as a motor vehicle.
There are two standards: L1e-A, for motors up to 1Kw and speeds up to 25km/h, and L1e-B, for motors up to 4Kw and speeds up to 45km/h.
Anyway, because they’re faster, fall into the second category. They’re legally classed as mopeds, so you have to have a driving licence, the vehicle needs to registered, taxed and insured, and you need to wear the correct safety equipment: a motorbike helmet.
That’s a huge amount of hoops to jump through to get what’s effectively just a faster bike, so many EU countries have introduced their own legislation to cover hybrids and circumvent those rules, at least a bit. Generally this means they need to be licensed, but you don’t necessarily need to be insured or have a driving license. The actual stipulations vary from country to country.
10 Steps to licensing, tax and insurance for Electric Bikes:
- First, find yourself a bike. You’ll need to make sure it comes with a Certificate of Conformity, and that it conforms to 168/2013/EU regulations; you’ll need the certificate later.
- Head off to the DVLA and get yourself some forms. You’ll need a V267 (New vehicle import pack) and a V55/4 (Application for a licence for a new motor vehicle and declaration for registration). They take about a week to arrive.
- Complete the V267 & V55/4 with the information from the Certificate of Conformity.
- Send everything with a cheque for £55 and the original Certificate of Conformity off to the DVLA. You’ll need to include a bank statement and/or utility bill, and a copy of your driving license or passport.
- Wait for your V5C registration document to come back: this takes about two weeks
- Check your vehicle tax – it’s exempt, so there’s nothing to pay
- Get a standard vehicle number plate (around £10 online) and fix it to the rear of your bike
- Arrange some insurance – Bikesure quoted £135 third party only & Quoterack quoted £200 fully comprehensive for this bike
- Find yourself a kite-marked motorcycle helmet. An open-face moped helmet will cost from about £30 upwards.
And you’re done! So you’re looking at a process that’s likely to take about a month, and cost you at least £200, on top of what you’ve spent on your bike.