UK Laws Applicable to Electric Bicycles
The Department for Transport has a fact sheet covering the main legal issues surrounding electric bikes or "Electrically assisted pedal cycles" to use the correct term.
Anyone driving a motor vehicle in the UK is, for example, obliged to register the vehicle, pay road tax and get appropriate insurance. An electric bike is NOT considered a motor vehicle, provided it meets certain criteria:
- pedals are present (which must be capable of propelling the bike)
- the motor power comes from an electric motor only (no petrol-driven alternatives)
- the motor ceases to provide pedalling assistance once the bike's speed exceeds 15mph (you can go faster, of course, but only using pedal power!)
- the weight of the bike is less than 40kg* (without the rider, but including the battery)
- the motor's power output is no more than 200W**
*60kg for tricycles or tandems
**250W for tricycles or tandems
Additional legal requirements for using an electric bike are:
- you must be at least 14 years old
- the bike must have independent front and rear wheel braking systems
- the battery must not be leaking when in road use
- the bike must display a plate giving the name of the manufacturer, battery voltage and motor power output
- the switch controlling the power should default automatically to "off". This means the rider must always have their "finger on the button", otherwise the bike reverts to pedal power only.