Electric bikes provide the solution to two big problems humanity faces today: rapid urbanization and climate change. E-bikes not only help you deal with traffic congestion, but they are also extremely environmentally friendly.
Different countries have different laws on the use of e-bikes. While some places are very lenient and welcoming, others have stringent requirements. One such case is the European Union.
If want to learn more about e-bike laws in Europe, here’s your ultimate guide!
What is an E-Bike? – The European Definition
Different parts of the world don’t only have varying e-bike laws, but also different definitions of what classifies as an e-bike. According to the European Union directive 2002/24EC, an EPAC (Electrically Pedal Assisted Cycle) must:
- Have an auxiliary motor with a continuous power of no more than 250 watts.
- Progressively cut off assistance from the motor as the rider reaches a speed of 25 km/h or stops pedaling.
In essence, any e-bike that fits the aforementioned description is exempted from type approval. As it is with all European Union directives, the member countries are to put these requirements into effect by making them part of their national legislation.
Another noteworthy detail is that in 2016, the mentioned directive was repealed by the 168/2013 regulation. However, the changes made weren’t that significant, and the definition remains more or less the same.
Having covered how an e-bike is defined by the EU, it’s time to jump into different classes of e-bikes in European countries.
Different E-Bike Classes in the EU
While there may be a historical conflict between exactly who invented the first bike propelled by a human, most fingers point to Europe. Lots of advancements in the e-bike industry have been made since then, which is all the more reason to classify e-bikes into different categories.
Europe has four technical e-bike classes, and there are different e-bike laws in Europe pertaining to different categories. Let’s look at what they are.
Firstly, there are L1e-A electric cycles. These can have a maximum motor power output of 1000 watts, and a top speed of 25 km/h. L1e-A vehicles have both pedal and throttle assist. Furthermore, they can have 2 to 4 wheels and they’re known as power cycles.
Next up we have L1e-B vehicles. The maximum power rating for these electric cycles is 4000 watts, whereas their maximum allowable speed is 45 km/h. L1e-B cycles, or mopeds, only have pedal assist and at most 2 wheels.
The last two classes are L2e and L6e. The difference between L2e and L1e-B cycles is that the former can have up to 3 wheels, hence the name, three-wheeled mopeds. Similarly, L6e vehicles or light quadricycles, have 4 wheels in total. The rest of the specifications such as max power and top speed are the same.
In short, the European Union has suggested four different classes for e-bikes. These classes, therefore, have their own e-bike laws in Europe which are implemented in countries that are members of the EU.
National Requirements of European Countries
Here’s how different European countries have set their e-bike laws.
1. E-bike Laws in Belgium
The Belgium legislation has two laws on e-bikes. These laws categorize the umbrella term “electric bike” into three further subcategories. They are as follows.
- All ages can ride e-bikes without a helmet as long as the maximum rated power is 250 watts and the top speed is 25 km/h. This category is simply referred to as “e-bikes”.
- Citizens of 16 years or older can ride “motorized bikes” with 1000 watts of power and 25 km/h top speed as long as they have a conformity certificate. Helmet is not mandatory.
- “Speed pedelecs” are e-bikes with 4000 watts of maximum power and a top speed of 45 km/h. They’re classified as mopeds, and the same requirements apply.
2. E-bike Laws in Denmark
Denmark’s parliament has officially approved speed pedelecs to be operated on cycle paths. A speed-pedelec is an e-bike with a maximum assisted speed of 45 km/h.
In July 2018, it was decided that superbike riders only have to wear a helmet and must be at least 15 years of age. Additionally, the requirements of number plates and licenses are not in place anymore.
3. E-bike Laws in Finland
The Finnish legislation regulates the usage of e-bikes by limiting the top speed and motor power to 25 km/h and 250 watts respectively.
Moreover, the motor must not replace pedaling, instead, it should only assist the rider in pedaling. Also, there are insurance laws for motors with power ratings of between 250 to 1000 watts.
The EU regulation classifies such high-power bikes as L1e-A motorized bikes. These too must stay below 25 km/h of speed at most and require insurance for use on public roads.
Additionally, L1e-A class e-bikes can assist the rider without them having to pedal. If you own a 250 W e-bike that assists without pedaling, it’ll be classified as an L1e-A vehicle.
4. E-bike Laws in Latvia
Latvia is exceptionally lenient with its e-bike laws. There are no major requirements except that the e-bike must not exceed a power rating of 250 W.
The Latvian Road Traffic Law defines an e-bike as a human-operated vehicle that is assisted by an electric motor.
5. E-bike Laws in Norway
Norway doesn’t have too many additional provisions on the use of e-bikes either. However, there are some important ones for the manufacturers.
The Norwegian Vehicle Regulation puts e-bikes in the same category as normal bicycles. There is no license requirement.
The motor of an e-bike must not exceed a power rating of 250 watts, and the assisted speed of an e-bike must not exceed 20 km/h.
Motor power must be progressively reduced as the bike reaches the prescribed top speed. However, once motor assistance is cut off, the e-bike is subject to only regular speed limits.
6. E-bike Laws in Sweden
Similar to other e-bike laws in Europe, Sweden applies ordinary bicycles laws to electric bikes as long as the nominal motor power is no more than 250 W and the engine doesn’t support the rider after reaching a speed of 25 km/h.
All these requirements are described in the Swedish Vehicle Regulation.
7. E-bike Laws in Switzerland
Switzerland, not being part of the European Union, has quite different laws on e-bikes.
For instance, Switzerland has paved the way for liberating the use of higher-speed e-bikes. This is done by easing the process of getting a license for e-bikes with an assisted top speed of over 45 km/h. It is very different from other e-bike laws in Europe and serves as an alternative to the 25km/h e-bikes.
In 2012, Switzerland updated its e-bike laws. Since then, electrically assisted bikes are categorized as “light e-bikes” as long as their maximum power output is less than 500 watts.
The maximum allowable speed of these bikes is 25 km/h if the rider is pedaling, whereas the motor alone can only assist the rider up to 20 km/h.
8. E-bike Laws in Turkey
Though not fully present in Europe and not a part of the EU, Turkey is also worth mentioning here due to some of its territories that are present in the European peninsula.
Turkey classifies e-bikes as ordinary bikes as well, except the motor of the e-bike can only have a maximum power of 250 W and the assist is cut off at 25 km/h.
Additionally, if the rider stops pedaling, the motor should also stop supporting them. There are no license or insurance requirements, and many Turkish cities encourage the use of e-bikes as a solution to traffic and environmental problems.
9. E-bike Laws in the UK
E-bike laws in the United Kingdom aren’t that different from other e-bike laws in Europe. A top speed of 25 km/h and motor power of 250 watts are mandatory.
In addition to that, the maximum bike weight should not exceed 30 kg. Moreover, you have to be over 14 years of age in order to legally ride an e-bike.
10. E-bike Laws in Russia
We’re covering Russia for the same reasons we covered Turkey!
Russia allows great freedom to e-bike riders. The only major restriction is that motor power stays 250 watts at maximum.
Other than that, riders can operate their e-bikes freely on bike lanes and cycle paths. Where there are none of these two options available, you can ride on sidewalks and pedestrian paths.
11. E-bike Laws in Germany
Germany has taken several steps in the direction of enabling electric mobility over the years.
E-bikes fall within the category of Personal Light Electric Vehicles. These are restricted to a top speed of 20 km/h, but you can ride faster if you have a helmet.
Insurance and number plates are necessary. The maximum motor power is 500 watts for e-bikes. Furthermore, e-bike riders are to use cycle paths unless there aren’t any, in the case of which, they’re allowed to ride on roads.
12. E-bike Laws in France
France sets the legal maximum assisted speed of an e-bike at 25 km/h. There’s another special category of e-bikes as well, referred to as speed pedelecs that can go as fast as 45 km/h.
Overall, the legal technicalities of owning and using an e-bike in France can be quite overwhelming. You also have to present your tax clearance and ensure that the e-bike manufacturer is in Europe.
13. E-bike Laws in Italy
Italy allows e-bikes to have a maximum speed of 25 km/h on main roadways, whereas they’re to remain below 6 km/h on pedestrian paths. The maximum allowable power output of the motor is 500 W.
You have to be 14 years or older to ride an e-bike, and a helmet is mandatory for riders between 14-18 years of age. License or insurance is not mandatory.
14. E-bike Laws in Spain
The Spanish legislation, like most other countries on this list, caps the top speed at 25 km/h and a maximum motor power of 250 W. Riders cannot operate their e-bikes on pavements, and will be subjected to a fine if they’re found doing so.
Additionally, you must have a circulation certificate which is provided to you by the manufacturer of your e-bike. License or insurance is not mandatory.
Finally, the authorities encourage the use of helmets – though it is not mandatory. The same is the case with wearing a reflective vest to protect yourself on the road.
15. E-bike Laws in Ireland
The Irish government hasn’t regulated the use of e-bikes officially as of now, but statements have been made by the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan.
The soon-to-be e-bike laws will probably not have any insurance or license requirements. However, the recommended minimum age is 16 years, and helmets are mandatory for people between 16-18 years old.
Additionally, riding on footpaths is completely banned and the maximum engine-assisted speed is set at 25 km/h. In short, a new legal framework is going to be established specifically to regulate the use of e-bikes and e-scooters in Ireland very soon.
16. E-bike Laws in Austria
The Austrian legislation has a particular definition for pedelecs, and the same laws apply to e-bikes as long as they fit the description. The electric motor must assist the rider up till they reach the speed of 25 km/h.
Helmet and insurance aren’t mandatory. So, most of the e-bike laws in Europe are also the same in Austria.
General E-Bike Rules in Europe
Having looked at how different European countries handle e-bikes, here’s an overview of general good conduct for e-bike riders.
- Stay on the right side of the road, preferably a carriageway or a bike lane if available. In the UK or Ireland, keeping to the left is mandatory.
- Use hand signals to indicate your turns to other vehicles.
- Keep at least one of your hands at the handlebars at all times.
- Use cycle lanes when present. If there are none, your country must have designated laws for where you should ride instead.
- Do not push or tow any objects with your e-bike.
- If you’re walking your e-bike on foot, you’re a pedestrian. This means you can use the sidewalk if needed.
In this guide, we tried to briefly cover everything there is to know about e-bike laws in Europe – including what counts as an e-bike, what are the different classes of e-bikes, different national requirements, and finally some good conduct provisions.
Hope it was informative for you to read! Check out our range of e-bikes here.