As electric bicycles can be used for multiple purposes, cyclists have today numerous design-based classification options on the market:
- Electric mountain bikes
- Electric road bikes
- Electric hybrid bikes
- Electric tricycles
- Electric folding bikes
- Electric utility or cargo bikes
The legal classification of electric bikes is done according to their power and power control system and can provide an idea of the implicit legal background. However, their use as a bicycle or motor bicycle much depends from country to country as jurisdictions are different.
Class 1: Pedal Assist / Pedelec
Pedelec, or pedal electric cycle, e-bikes are the most common type of electric bike. The cyclist can pedal, while the motor provides further assistance by increasing the power given to the rear wheel. This class of e-bike has a low-power electric motor which cannot exceed a certain maximum speed (250 watts and 15.5 mph, respectively). Pedelecs are legally classed as bicycles.
Class 2: Throttle
Power-on-demand and pedal-assist e-bikes combine both pedal-assist sensors as well as a throttle; it is possible to turn on the engine by using the throttle, which is usually on the handgrip just like the ones on a motorbike or scooter, or by pedalling. They often, but not always, display more powerful motors than pedelecs do. Thus, with power-on-demand only e-bikes, the rider can:
- ride by pedal power alone, i.e. fully human-powered.
- ride by the electric motor alone by operating the throttle manually.
- ride using both together at the same time.
Class 3: Speed Pedelec
Speedy-Pedelecs have a motor input greater than 250 watts, which allows the speed to be over 15.5mph. For this reason, S-Pedelec bikes are classified as motorcycles and therefore may need to be used, registered and insured accordingly.
Class 4 refers to a moped or motorcycle, and they are usually equivalent to motor vehicles.