It’s important to understand the laws, rules and regulations surrounding licences if you plan on operating any type of motorised or electric vehicle. In the UK, it is legal to operate an electric bike without a license, but only if it meets certain requirements. The requirements are that the bike must be pedal assist instead of ‘twist and go throttle’ and only have a maximum power output of 250 watts and a strict speed restriction of 15.5mph. If these requirements are met, you should have no problem operating your electric bike without a license. In this blog, we will discuss more about electric bikes, including VanderVolt’s own bijes and what you need to know when it comes to licenses.
What is an electric bike?
Electric bikes have rapidly become more prevalent in recent years, although they are no new invention. The first e-bike was created in the 1990s by a Swiss man named Michael Kutter, and from there, Yamaha produced a similar vehicle in 1993. Since then, e-bikes have been popularised in most European countries as a more efficient and stylish public or private transport alternative.
Essentially, an electric bike is a regular bike that comes with a motor that aids the rider when pedalling. The motor generates power from a rechargeable battery propped onto the bike.
The motor will either be placed in the middle of the bike or on the back of it. When pedalling, there is a torque sensor that measures how much effort the rider is putting in and will match the effort to the motor’s power output. This doesn’t mean that the motor is taking over, but simply providing consistent power.
There are all different types of electric bikes and motors, but whichever bike you have, you need to be wary of the rules surrounding a license.
UK electric bike laws
In the UK, it is legal to operate an electric bike without a license, if it meets certain requirements. The requirements are that the bike must be pedal assist instead of ‘twist and go throttle’ and only have a maximum power output of 250 watts and a strict speed restriction of 15.5mph.
If these requirements are met, you should have no problem operating your electric bike without a license.
As well, according to the UK Government “electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs)...do not need a licence to ride one and it does not need to be registered, taxed or insured” (Gov.UK, 2023).
What constitutes an EAPC?
How do you know if your electric bike constitutes an EAPC? Firstly, it must have pedals that the ride can utilise to propel the bike itself. It must also show either the power output or the manufacturer of the motor as well as the battery’s voltage or the bike's maximum speed.
If your bike meets these EAPC requirements, then it is categorised as a normal pedal bike. This ensures that you can ride your electric bike on cycle paths and anywhere else where bikes are permitted.
Bikes with higher maximum output than 250w
If your bike has a higher maximum output than 250w, then under UK law, you cannot legally ride it on a public road as it would not be classed as an EAPC.
You will also need to have your bike registered, insured and taxed as a motor vehicle. In these cases, you will need a valid driving license and must wear a helmet when riding the bike.
Twist and throttles
Twist and throttle bikes are ones where the motor doesn’t need the rider to pedal to give power to the wheels. The ride just needs to twist the throttle to set the bike in motion.
According to UK law as of January 2016, “the only throttles legal within the UK’s EAPC legislation are those that assist the rider without pedalling up to a maximum speed of 3.7mph” (Axcess, 2023).
If you purchased this sort of bike before January 2016, then the bikes are still considered EAPCs and do not need registration and will not be taxed.
There are all kinds of electric bikes, and therefore, all kinds of rules and regulations that surround them. The information discussed in this blog deals with the types of licenses and registrations that EAPC bikes need and require in the UK. When purchasing or riding an electric bike, it is essential to do more research into what is required and necessary for you and your bike. There are also age restrictions, safety requirements and overall bike maintenance laws that have been put in place to keep the rider and the public safe when it comes to electric bikes.
For more information and to take a look at some of VanderVolt’s electric bikes, head over to our website and check out our Scramblers!