The EVELO Blog

Why is There a 20MPH Speed Limit on Electric Bikes?

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Hi I am Bill Cummings and I am the Customer Service Director at EVELO electric bicycles. In this first installment of our 3 Minute Electric Bike Video Series, where we will help demystify electric bikes,  I am going to talk to you about why electric bicycles are limited to 20mph.

It’s a federal regulation that is in place to differentiate electric bikes from other vehicles on the road and there are basically three primary criteria that draw that line of what is an electric bike and a motor vehicles. According to the federal regulation and electric bike must:

  1. Have fully operational pedals.
  2. Be equipped with 750 watts or less.
  3. The maximum speed that can be attained, with assistance from the motor, is 20mph.

Keep in mind that you can actually go faster than 20mph, but that will be in the situation where the motor is not assisting you. A downhill cruise, you certainly can go faster than 20mph, you are just not going to get help from the motor to do that.

E-bikes that adhere to these guidelines can go anywhere than other bicycles can go, (i.e. bike lanes, bike paths, etc) Some e-bikes that you may come across in your research are rated in higher speeds than that, keep in mind of those that are intended for off road use. If you take them on the road, it is likely that you are operating in violation of the law. Those high powered bikes that you may find in your research cannot be used in regular, everyday commuting.

Twenty miles per hour may seem like a low limit; but in Europe where electric bikes are very well established, the limit is 15 mph! We get a little bit more cushion here in the US. Also keep in mind, that the average cyclist is going about 12 mph and rarely exceeds that, so the 20mph is generally a pretty sufficient.

Do you think that the 20mph restriction on electric bikes is sufficient?

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