UK legislation was merged with EU law EN15194 in April 2015, which means that it could change as Brexit takes effect. But for now it’s clear in defining what can – and what cannot – be called an ebike.
An “electrically assisted pedal cycle” (or EAPC, or ebike, or Pedelec) is defined as a bike that has pedals that propel it; the electric motor won’t assist you when you’re travelling more than 25 km/h (15.5mph); and the motors power doesn’t exceed 250 watts.
The cycles that meet these requirements (which affect two-wheeled bikes but also tandems and tricycles) can be ridden on any cycle paths and anywhere else that bikes are normally allowed.
In the UK you must be over 14 years old to ride an electric bike but you don’t need a licence, nor do you need to register it or pay vehicle tax.
You can find off-road bikes that can go faster than 15.5 Emph or have much bigger motors (over 250w), but for UK law these are not compliant with EAPC regulations for on-road use.
Is a Throttle Legal?
From January 1 2016, the only throttles legal within the UK’s EAPC legislation are those that only assist the rider without pedalling up to a maximum speed of 6 km/h (3.7 mph) – i.e. start assist or walk assist.
What about E-Bikes with more powerful motors?
If your ebike doesn’t meet the above regulations – either because the motor is more powerful than 250W, or if it assists you when you’re riding more than 15.5 mph – it will need to be registered, insured and taxed as a motor vehicle. In this case, you will also need a driving licence, and you must wear a motorcycle helmet.
These other kind of bikes (also called speed pedelecs) cannot be ridden on cycle paths and must be approved by the DVLA. So while it’s easy to de-restrict an ebike to get the motor assisting you with higher speeds, we do not recommend you do so, both for regulatory and safety reasons.