Is your e-bike legal? Electrically assisted pedal cycles regulations

Road and off-road electric bikes are gaining popularity in the UK
Scott e-bike. Photo by Richard Peace
Scott e-bike. Photo by Richard Peace

Is your e-bike legal? Electrically assisted pedal cycles regulations

This is the law that lets you have a small electric motor on a pedal cycle, and still use it just like a normal bike.

E-bike Law

The Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles – EAPC – (Amendment) Regulations 2015 harmonised previous UK law (1983 Statutory Instrument No.1168), to bring it into line with EU law (regulation 168/2013). They replaced previous e-bike law on 6 April 2015. So EAPCs – electric bikes or e-bikes in common parlance – must now meet the following criteria in order to have the same legal standing as regular non-assisted bicycles and to be allowed on roads, bike paths and other places where bicycles are allowed under UK law.

  • Electric assistance can only be provided to a maximum of 25 km/h (15.5 mph)
  • The motor used must be of no more than 250 Watts (maximum continuous rated power)
  • The e-bike’s pedals must be in motion for motor assistance to be provided
  • The rider must be 14 years of age or over

There are a number of different ‘e-bike-like’ machine types out there that, at first glance (or even after a detailed inspection), may be difficult to distinguish from legal e-bikes. This is of course an important distinction as the latter can be used without any red tape, in just the same way as regular non-assisted bicycle, while the former cannot.

These other categories are fully regulated motor vehicles under EU and UK law, so using them on public highways in the UK is a much more complex affair and inevitably involves attempting to obtain paperwork and possibly meet other requirements such as insurance and dealing with the DVLA. In short, they are likely to be legally classed as a moped or even motorbike. Manufacturing standards are also more complex so the manufacturer generally has to through the procedure known as type approval, which involves passing safety standards before the vehicle can be put on the market.

A brief outline of the two main ‘e-bike-like’ categories you may come across:

  1. E-bikes controlled by a throttle where there is no need for the pedals to be turning to engage the motor – so-called ‘twist and go’ machines. New models of these kind are now  classified under EU law under the L1e-A ‘powered cycles’ category that allows power up to 1000w, with power assistance cutting out at 15.5mph. Twist and gos are potentially very helpful for those with any kind of condition that severely limits a pedalling action, but the procedure and exact requirements for registering them remain unclear. Note twist and go e-bikes bought before the introduction of the new laws and limited to a 250W motor rating remain effectively legal and so can be legally purchased and used as second hand models. 
     
  2.  Machines that exceed the 25kmh assistance limit are generally known as speed-pedelecs or s-pedelecs. Again, there is an EU regulatory class for such vehicles with assistance limited to 45kmh (L1e-B – two wheel mopeds). Some UK e-bike retailers say they now have a process in place for registering such machines for legal use on-road as mopeds. Mopeds in the legal sense that is; as pedalling is still required to enable motor assistance these are in reality superfast e-bikes of the pedelec variety. The user will also need insurance, legally certified helmet, vehicle excise duty and a qualifying drivers licence (and potentially down the line an MOT it seems).

You should also be aware that The Department of Transport say that electric bikes limited to 15.5mph but fitted with off-road switches or modes that, when triggered, enable a bike’s motor to continue assisting to speeds beyond 15.5mph, do not comply with UK e-bike law

Construction and Use

Aside of specific e-bike law there is also a body of UK law that defines the legal safety criteria for bikes (including e-bikes) to be used on UK roads, known as Construction and Use regulations – in other words they deal with ‘roadworthiness’. As far as e-bikes go the main relevant criteria under these regulations are:

The vehicle must be fitted with a plate where you can easily read it (in practice often more of a sticker discretely placed on the frame so that you may have to search a little to find it) showing the manufacturer's name and motor power output.

The power switch or control must default to off, requiring a constant intervention from the rider in order to maintain power assistance. No power without pedalling which must be a feature of any post 2015 legal e-bike satisfies this requirement in any case.

Note that these definitions do not include cycles with more than three wheels, so you cannot electrically assist a quadricycle without it becoming some kind of motor vehicle.

In practice most new e-bikes in the UK are built for the European market and so comply with European standard EN15194 which means they fulfil the law’s Construction and Use requirements. You should also look for the CE mark on a new e-bike which tells you that the bike has passed the relevant directive’s standards. 

An example of a conformity plate on an e-bike

 

The legal position in Northern Ireland

by Cycling UK Campaigns Officer Sophie Gordon 

Can I ride my e-bike in Northern Ireland? Yes – but it’s a bit more complicated! 

Unfortunately, when the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (EAPC) regulations came into force in England, Scotland and Wales, they were never signed off in Northern Ireland.  In practice, this means that all e-bikes in Northern Ireland are classed as mopeds rather than bicycles, irrespective of their maximum speed and power output. 

To ride an e-bike legally in Northern Ireland, you must register your bike with the DVLA, tax and insure it, pass a theory and practical test to obtain a licence, and wear a motorbike helmet.

This doesn’t mean Northern Ireland is against electric bikes.  In fact, promoting e-bikes is part of the Bicycle Strategy for Northern Ireland. The intention was always to change this legislation to bring it in line with the rest of the UK.  However, the ongoing political impasse since early 2017 means that nothing can be implemented until a new Assembly (NI Parliament) is in place. 

The frustrating thing is that there is nothing that can be done about it until the Assembly returns.

Cycling UK has been in contact with police forces in Northern Ireland and they have indicated that whilst it is illegal to ride an e-bike without complying with the regulations, it is not a priority of theirs to prosecute people who are riding considerately and they may in some cases use their discretion until the law is changed.

How does this affect my insurance?

Cycling UK members are automatically covered by our third-party liability insurance

If you are riding an e-bike in Northern Ireland, please be aware that the insurance can only cover you if you are complying with all the regulations listed above. 

Riding an e-bike as if it were a standard bicycle (without it being registered, taxed, insured etc.) would invalidate the insurance.  This includes if you are touring on an e-bike in the Republic of Ireland and cross into Northern Ireland – so if you are planning a trip, you might want to bear that in mind for the route!

In the rest of the UK, the insurance is valid as long as the cycle is pedal-assisted and limited to 25 km/h.

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Comments

This article fails to make clear that in Northern Ireland electro assist bicycles are treated in law similarly to mopeds or light motor bikes.

Failure to respect the laws applicable in NI when using electro assist could have serious consequences.

We have now updated the page to explain the situation in Northern Ireland. Thank you for your comment. 

 

You say above "The vehicle must be fitted with a plate where you can easily read it (in practice often more of a sticker discretely placed on the frame so that you may have to search a little to find it) showing the manufacturer's name and motor power output."

This seems impossible for conversions.  What is the legal status for a conversion that satisfies all the other regulations but does not have a plate.

I bought a RAD power bike over the internet from RAD Netherlands. Because they are 0.75KW (three times the usual power) they have to be registered with DVLA.  But, when you get the DVLA pack recommended by the suppliers it is strongly implied that you must first contact the HMRC to confirm the importation of the vehicle. I have now had confirmation from HMRC that this is definitely NOT required for vehicles of this engine size and the DVLA pack is very misleading.  All you have to do is register the vehicle directly with DVLA.

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