New California Law Brings Clarity to Electric Bike Regulations

US electric bike law status

Image courtesy of People for Bikes.

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill that clarifies electric bike regulations and creates a model that other states could follow throughout the U.S.

Current electric bike laws in the U.S. can be confusing on a state by state basis.

This new California law clarifies that electric bikes will follow similar rules to a conventional bicycle.

The current “old” law regulates e-bikes as a moped which has registration, licensing, and insurance requirements.

The new law stipulates that there are 3 classes of electric bikes.

The following is an excerpt from the bill:

(a) An “electric bicycle” is a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts.

(1) A “class 1 electric bicycle,” or “low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.

(2) A “class 2 electric bicycle,” or “low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.

(3) A “class 3 electric bicycle,” or “speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour, and equipped with a speedometer.

For Class 3, the rider must wear a helmet and be at least 16 years old.

Below is an infographic from People for Bikes on the new California law.

New California electric bike law

Here is link to a PDF of the graphic.

The new California law will take effect on January 1, 2016.

This law is a result of a lobbying effort from the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA) electric bike committee, PeopleForBikes (PFB), and the California Bicycle Coalition.

This is a big win because California is a large market for electric bikes and it has the potential to set a progressive transportation example for other states to follow.

Electric bikes offer a new transportation and recreation option to many people who may not consider riding a conventional bicycle. The clarification 0f these regulations will help the growth of this new form of transportation.

California is just the beginning as the BPSA and PFB will continue to lobby this type of e-bike regulations in other states in 2016.

People for Bikes put together this list with current e-bike regulations for U.S. states and the Canadian provinces.

US electric bike law status

Here is a link to the People for Bikes e-bike page with additional information e-bike regulations.

Stay tuned for more e-bike regulation updates.

-Pete

P.S. Don’t forget to join the Electric Bike Report community for updates from the electric bike world, plus ebike riding and maintenance tips!

Comments

  1. andrew says

    there is no mention of maximum power allowed
    is it assumed to be the federal limit of 750w or
    is power not relevant, any power motor is allowed
    safety is more an issue of speed?

    • Pete says

      Hi Andrew, I just updated the article to include an excerpt from the bill and it does indicate that 750 watts is the limit.

      • Albert L. says

        Well actually your article says
        “motor of less than 750 watts”.
        So that would mean if you have a motor rated at 750 watts you are illegal.
        I guess we can assume 750 watts is ok, even though it reads technically it is not legal?
        Or… was the law written to purposely exclude 750 watt motors believing the more common 350 watt size will be most people’s upper limit motor….?
        AB-1096

  2. Derek Kerton says

    This is great.

    Notably, it opens the field for Level 1-2 bikes for kids younger than 16.

    While I love the idea that kids pedal a regular bike for exercise, as a parent who likes to cycle around with my kids, it would be nice if the kids could have a bike that helped them keep up. ebikes are great equalizers between slower and faster people.

  3. says

    This is great news for the vast majority of ebike riders. Now I can ride my class 2 ebike on bike trails and basically any where. It will mean more red tape for manufactures of ebikes in that they will have to put permanent labels stating the class, top speed, etc on the ebike.
    More information for us is always good.
    Better purchase your 1,000 watt ebike this year before January 1, 2016, next year it is limited to 750 watts.

    • Derek Kerton says

      “Better purchase your 1,000 watt ebike”

      I know it’s “to each, their own”, but I simply don’t get people with 1,000 Watt ebikes, or people trying to surpass 30mph or even 55.

      Why bother using a bicycle platform as the starting point? You can do all the above speeds easily with a cheap motorbike or scooter. I have a motorbike. When I want to go faster on two wheels, I can ride that. But I tend to prefer going out on my ebike, getting a little exercise.

      So, sure, you can get a bicycle to go 55mph. You can also get a Duckboat that drives on land and on water. But it costs more and is not particularly good at either task.

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