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Do You Need a License to Drive an Electric Bike


Woman riding an electric bike

Electric bicycles are a relatively new mode of transportation in the U.S. Many states are still determining appropriate bike laws for electric models, especially regarding whether riders must hold a valid license to ride an electric bicycle. No license is required for the riding of regular bicycles


Licensing requirements for an electric bike vary from state to state, with some recognizing e-bikes as vehicles and requiring license and registration, while others treat them as traditional bikes. Before buying your first model, you must understand the e-bike laws, licensing rules and regulations for riding in your state.


What Defines an Electric Bicycle Under Federal Regulations?


Federal laws governing electric bicycles under the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) define an electric bicycle as a vehicle with two to three wheels and fully operable pedals. It must also have a low-speed electric motor of fewer than 750 watts.


Under this law, an e-bike can only reach a maximum of 20 mph when a rider weighing 170 lbs. operates the bike on a paved level surface. The CPSC regulates the sale and production of e-bikes alongside human-powered bicycles. The commission has no impact on state traffic laws or vehicle codes regulating the use and licensing of electric bikes on public and private roads.


The Classification of E-Bikes


As of January 2023, 39 statesadopted a three-class system to regulate electric bikes and classify models with various speeding capabilities. In states with three-tiered classification systems, e-Bikes are exempt from registration, licensing, and insurance requirements. These states share similar defining language for e-bikes, safety, and operation requirements, with electric bicycles falling under different categories within the three-tier system:


Class 1 electric bicycle


A bicycle with an electric motor assist that only reaches 20 mph when the rider pedals. Most folding electric bikes fall into the class 1 e-Bike category.


Class 2 electric bicycle


A bicycle equipped with a motor capable of assisting when the bike reaches speeds of 20 mph. Many city and mountain e-bikes are class 2 e-Bikes.


Class 3 electric bicycle


An electric bicycle that provides assistance only while the rider pedals and ceases to assist at 28 mph. While federal law does not require wearing a helmet when operating an e-bike, check your local laws to ensure compliance with state-level regulations. If you have questions on the very latest state of e-Bike licensing then it is best to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles directly. 


Which States Require a License to Operate Electric Bikes?


Some states classify electric bicycles as motorized vehicles and require e-bike users to carry licenses to operate on roads. The following is a list of states that currently require licensure for e-bikes; however, due to changing legislation, always check your state's laws for changes before riding.


Alaska


In Alaska, electric bicycles fall under the category of motor-driven cycles. This classification sets them apart from traditional bicycles in terms of road regulations. E-bike riders are required to possess a driver's license, but they do not need registration or to obtain insurance.


Hawaii


Electric bikes are classified as mopeds. E-Bike riders are subject to registration documents and carry an operator's license.


Missouri


Missouri considers e-Bikes to be a motorized bicycle. If you ride an electric bike in Missouri, you must have a valid operator's license, but you do not have to carry insurance or register the e-bike.


New Mexico


E-bikes are considered mopeds and are subject to motor vehicle licensing and insurance requirements.


New Jersey


New Jersey follows the three-tiered classification system, but class 3 e-Bikes are motorized bicycles. Motorized bicycle riders must possess an operator's license, register their e-bikes, and carry insurance.


North Dakota


North Dakota treats e-bikes as motorized bicycles, subjecting them to the state's motor vehicle laws. This includes having a valid license, registration, and insurance for your e-bike. There is also a helmet requirement for riders under the age of 18.


Rhode Island


Under Rhode Island law, electric bikes are described as electric motorized bicycles and must have an electric motor rated at 2 horsepower and a maximum speed of 25 mph. Licensing and insurance requirements for electric motorized bicycles are the same as for cars.


General rules of thumb for e-bike safety


Going beyond just what the law mandates, we always advise e-bike owners to consider others when riding. Just because it's a bike path, doesn't mean someone won't park their car in it – so keep your head up! The speed limit applies to all vehicles, including regular bikes and electric ones. 


Choose the Right Bike


No matter which state you ride your e-bike, choose one to fit your needs and lifestyle with Upway. Our selection of refurbished electric bikes go the distance to offer an eco-friendly and affordable way to commute to work and enjoy the outdoors.

Browse our affordable electric bicycles to get started on your journey to sustainable and enjoyable transportation for up to 60% off the cost of a new bike.

Ready to choose?

Upway offers the widest range of certified pre-owned electric bikes, reconditioned by professional mechanics. Thanks to Upway, you'll get a great electric bike at a price that's 20-60% off retail, with a one-year warranty!