UK Electric Bike Laws

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UK Electric Bike Laws (as of December 2018)

In April 2015 the UK Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (EAPC) legislation was brought into line with the EU law EN15194, which means that it could possibly change after Brexit. But for now it’s pretty clear in defining what can, and what cannot, be called an electric bike.

The minimum age for using an electric bike is 14 years of age. The maximum permissible power output is 250w. The bike must have pedals and throttles are only allowed for start-up assistance up to 6km/h or 3.7mph (throttles that go up to 15mph are allowed on electric bikes purchased before January 1 2016) The electric pedal assist must cut-off at 15.5mph (25km/h).

Before you buy a conversion kit, you need to think about the law and how it could potentially effect you. 

The law is very clear on the above, and while the police do not have the resources or necessarily the inclination to stop and test every electric bike they see. If you do find yourself on the wrong side of the law, while riding an illegal electric bike, consider the following sobering facts: 

  • Any illegal electric bike would come under the umbrella of the Road Traffic Act.
  • Your bike would be confiscated
  • It is likely that you would be prosecuted and fined for no insurance, tax, MOT and using an unregistered vehicle. If you have a driving license there is a good chance you may either lose it, or end up with a lot of points.
  • If you are disqualified from driving you could be charged with driving while disqualified and receive an extension to your ban or a custodial sentence.
  • If you were riding home from the pub after a few drinks you would be charged with drink driving, even worse, if you were to fatally injure someone then you could potentially be facing up to 14 years in Prison.

You can find out more on UK electric bike laws here.

Before you buy a conversion kit, you need to think about the law and how it could potentially effect you. If you are going to be using your bike on private land then fair enough, but there is often a misconception that as long as you ride off-road it is okay. This assumption is incorrect, it is illegal to ride a higher powered electric bike anywhere that the general public has access to, in the same way it would illegal to ride an unregistered motocross bike in the same areas.

There are also some companies that sell, for example 1000w hub motor kits, with a 250w limiting plug on the controller. This in itself is not sufficient, in the eyes of the law as the bike can easily be unrestricted in a matter of seconds.

If you do want to use a high performance electric bike on the road, you will need to get your bike type approved by the DVLA, it will be subject to the same rules as a moped. It will need to be registered, have a number plate, be MOT’d, taxed and insured. You would also be required to wear a proper motorcycle helmet and you would not be able to use cycle paths.

Conclusion

This law throws up a lot of obstacles for people wanting to enjoy the benefits of cycling without putting strain on their joints and muscles. I have come across a lot of people who feel that 250w is not enough power to assist them comfortably. This is especially true when there are health issues involved. Maybe it is time for the government to re-think the law by increasing the available power a little but keeping the speed limit the same. With a lot of modern ebikes that use torque sensing pedal assist, you still have to apply a certain degree of force to the pedals to get assistance. If for example you have a dodgy knee or suffer from arthritis, this may prove to much.

I think, as time goes on, there will inevitably be an incident involving an illegal electric bike, and the media frenzy that will follow will force the government to take action.

Ride safe! and please feel free to leave your comments below.

 

 

Tony

Passionate E-Bike advocate and enthusiast since 2016. Riding an electric bike helped me to lose weight, get fit and reignite my passion for cycling!

11 thoughts on “UK Electric Bike Laws

  • Already, for many years now, road safety has been about sensible considerate driving. We all know that a decent ammount of acceleration can be safer for getting out of the way of other people both pedestrians and motorists. My point is that safety isn’t about 250 watts versus 500 watts and it never will be. So how should legislation work ? Just make the electric bike riding law work the same way as all the other categories. How many of us cyclists have been over the speed limit on an ordinary bike ?! Its all about safety, attitude and common sense; with or without an electric motor. 500watts and 18 mile per hour would seem reasonable and encourage even more uptake than we are already seeing.
    Happy Riding, Tim.

    Reply
    • The Law needs to be overhauled it ridiculous I’ve just had my ebike Seized due to not knowing the law, I know ignorance is not a defence but they should do a national campaign to inform the public they are pushing greener vehicle’s, but making it harder for Joe public to go greener or making it financially impossible for the low wage workers there needs to be a TV, & Social media campaign . I’ve started a Facebook group to warn The public https://www.facebook.com/groups/3202478370040588/?ref=share

      Reply
  • how fast is a bike allowed to go , down a steep hill?!

    Reply
    • You can go as fast as you like, as long as the electric assist cuts-out at 15.5mph.

      Reply
  • Hi Rob and Tony
    I’m afraid I can’t see why there should be any kind of a restriction in the power output! It’s about restricting the speed while using roads isn’t it? At the end of the day, it is down to the rider to stick to speed limits and if it’s 15.5 Mph then stick to it on the roads, just no need to faster. Feels a bit big brother to me. People breaking any laws a prosecuted and the same should apply here.
    Also, as I understand it (Correct me if I’m wrong) the power output can be adjusted can’t it?
    Paul

    Reply
    • Hi Paul,

      I’m not a big fan of the laws as they stand, I feel 15.5mph is a bit on the slow side, maybe 20mph would be more realistic (as in the US). Power output can only be adjusted on factory produced e-bikes up to the 250w maximum, although most ‘legal’ e-bikes produce closer to 500w when under load (in full power mode). A reasonably fit road cyclist can maintain 20-25mph on the flat (even more with a tailwind), so I think a 20mph assisted limit for e-bikes would be reasonable. Research also suggests that more people would consider using an electric bike for commuting if the assisted speed was slightly higher.

      Tony

      Reply
  • Car enthusiasts are allowed to buy a Lambo but required to drive it at the legal driving limit. e-bike enthusiast should be able to ride 2000w if they like as long as they respect the speed limit for a bike. But how do they actually define that? Some cyclist can go faster without a motor than I can with a motor. Should it be 25km/h in town for and as fast as you go everywhere else? As long as you respect national speed limits right? This issue won’t be easy to resolve…

    Reply
  • I would vote for a sensible 500 watt at 18 mph

    Regards Ted

    Reply
  • 200W is a respectable output for a regular cyclist, maintaining 250W is really pretty decent over a distance. An ebike provides this for “free”, on top of the cyclist’s own contribution.

    In so far as ebikes enjoy the same light legislative treatment as unassisted bikes, I think it is reasonable that their performance remains within a similar envelope to that of a regular able cyclist – and as things stand this is so.

    If there is a market for greater motorised assistance that’s fine, but let’s not pretend such machines then fit in the same category. I think it would be a huge mistake for current ebikes to open up a greater performance advantage over unassisted bikes than they already enjoy, since that will stretch the legislative framework beyond its endurance.

    Reply
  • I couldn’t agree more with your comments regarding wattage. Over the last 50 years I have cycled around most of the world, including rides across Tibet, Turkey and Eastern Europe. I gave up cycling because my knees were shot and couldn’t take the loads on them when going on a fully loaded tour which I love. Initially I tried a street legal system for an ebike but there simply wasn’t enough power to relieve the strain on my knees. So I bought a Bafang 1000 watts conversion kit as it was supposed to be more robust than the lower wattage units. It lived up to expectations and is great for getting off the road into the backcountry. When I got my conversion kit it was like I was reborn and I could go back to doing the things I loved and it has the power to pull a single wheel trailer when touring so that my wife (who doesn’t have knee problems) can ride without baggage. I only use extra power when I notice the strain on my knees is getting to be a problem and don’t ride it like a motorcycle when on the roads. But I always worry about getting “caught” and hope that if I do, the police will have some common sense. Unfortunately common sense isn’t always common and a better approach would be to get rid of these ridiculous low wattage limits. After all, isn’t the name of the game to get more people out on their bikes.

    Reply
    • Hi Rob,

      Thanks for your comment. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve done conversions for people with numerous health issues and having an e-bike has changed their lives for the better. Most of my customers have tried factory produces ‘legal’ e-bikes and found the power produced just isn’t enough. The government need to realise that the current laws are actually discriminatory – I think a 1000w power limit with the speed capped at maybe 20mph would be more than acceptable.

      All the best,
      Tony

      Reply

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