An electric bicycle, also known as an e-bike, is a bicycle with an electric motor used to power the vehicle. Electric bicycles use rechargeable batteries and can travel up to 15 to 20 mph (24 to 32 km/h), depending on the laws of the country in which they are sold. In some markets they are rapidly replacing traditional bikes and motorcycles.
In many parts of the world, electric bicycles are classified as bicycles rather than motor vehicles, so they are not subject to the more stringent laws regarding certification and operation of motor vehicles. Electric bicycles are one type of motorized bicycle. However, electric bicycles are defined separately and treated as a specific vehicle type in many areas of legal jurisdiction.
Electric bicycle usage worldwide has experienced rapid growth since 1998. It is estimated that there were roughly 120 million e-bikes in China as of early 2010, and sales are expanding rapidly in India, the United States of America, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Eight provinces of Canada allow electric power assisted bicycles. A three-year trial in Ontario ended October 2009. In seven of the eight provinces, e-bikes are limited to 500 W output, and cannot travel faster than 32 km/h (20 mph) on motor power alone on level ground. In Alberta the limits are 750 W and 35 km/h (22 mph) Age restrictions vary in Canada. All require an approved helmet. Regulations may or may not require an interlock to prevent use of power when the rider is not pedaling. Some versions (e.g., if capable of operating without pedaling) of e-bikes require drivers' licenses in some provinces and have age restrictions. Vehicle licenses and liability insurance are not required. Generally they are considered vehicles (like motorcycles and pedal cycles), so are subject to the same rules of the road as regular bicycles. In some cases regulatory requirements have been complicated by lobbying in respect of the Segway HT.
Bicycles assisted by a gasoline motor or other fuel are regulated differently than e-bikes. These are classified as motor cycles regardless of the power output of the motor and maximum attainable speed.
I have now joined the ranks of the e-bike riders. J