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An electric bicycle is a bicycle that uses an electric motor to help with propulsion. In other words it’s just like a normal bike but with the addition of a battery and an electric motor.

Electric Bicycles UK

When I first heard about this concept I thought what a great idea! But I had only heard of them being ridden in the US and wondered if electric bikes were legal in the UK. And even if they were legal, are they classed as a motor vehicle?

First of all yes they are legal. In the UK electric bicycles are technically known as ‘Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (EAPCs). In answer to the second question, no, an electric bike is NOT considered a motor vehicle in the UK provided it meets certain criteria:

  • pedals are present (which must be capable of propelling the bike)
  • the motor power comes from an electric motor and no petrol-driven alternatives
  • the motor ceases to provide pedaling assistance once the bike’s speed exceeds 15 mph.
  • the weight of the bike is less than 40 kg (without you on it!… but excluding the battery)
  • the motor’s power output is no more than 200 w

The Department of Transport has a fact sheet covering the main legal issues in detail but here’s the main information you need to know if you are considering building or purchasing an electric bike.

  • 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’. In other words you must always have your ‘finger on the button’ otherwise the bike reverts to pedal power only.

So, the good news is that EAPCs that comply with the regulations are not considered a motor vehicle and therefore there is no requirement to be registered, have a license, pay road tax, be insured etc. Seems to me that there are a great idea for young guys in particular who struggle to get car insurance when they are 17/18 because the incredible high premiums… but yet need to be mobile and independent.

I haven’t seen many electric bikes around in the UK but I do think it is a fantastic concept and am enjoying building one as my latest “project”! I have tinkered about with bikes and motorbikes for years and this idea is one that I think will really catch on.

Obviously you need the know-how if you are going to build your own but there is fantastic information available and I have been really impressed with the source of information I have been using and believe anyone can achieve this with a simple step by step approach and learning a few new skills. Two years of research and trial and error went into the book I came across which has saved me a whole load of wasted time and money.