What You Need to Know About Electric Bike Regulations in the U.S.

May 21, 2024

What You Need to Know About Electric Bike Regulations in the U.S.

Navigating U.S. Electric Bike Regulations: Everything You Need to Know

Electric bikes, or eBikes, have surged in popularity across the United States over the last decade. Whether you're a seasoned eBiker or a newbie, it's crucial to understand the local and national regulations governing their use. This guide will help you navigate the often complex landscape of eBike laws, ensuring you ride legally and safely.

What Makes an eBike Street Legal?

Understanding what makes an electric bike street legal is the first step for any rider. In the U.S., eBikes are typically classified into three categories:

  • Class 1: These bikes have a pedal-assist feature and a top speed of 20 mph.
  • Class 2: These eBikes come with a throttle-actuated motor that also stops assisting at 20 mph.
  • Class 3: Known as pedelecs, these bikes offer pedal-assist only and can reach speeds of up to 28 mph. They often come with additional restrictions, especially when used in urban areas.

These 39 states now define eBikes within three standard classes: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, North Dakota, Missouri, New Mexico, Minnesota, Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, Alabama, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. 

Eighteen states classify eBikes using unique definitions; these states are Hawaii, Oregon, Montana, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington DC, and Rhode Island. 

Eleven states or territories currently have no definitions for eBikes: Alaska, Puerto Rico, U.S Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Do I Need a License for an Electric Bike?

Licensing requirements for eBikes vary by state. Generally, states that classify eBikes as mopeds or scooters require a license. Currently, these states include:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico
  • Wisconsin
  • North Dakota

State-Specific eBike Regulations

Electric bike regulations are not uniform across the U.S. As of now, 48 states have specific definitions for eBikes. Most of these states use a three-tier classification system, which helps differentiate eBikes based on their speed and power capabilities. However, some states like Hawaii, Oregon, and Rhode Island have unique definitions.

Speed Limits

The federal speed limit for eBikes under motor power alone is 20 mph. This limit applies to Class 1 and 2 eBikes. Class 3 eBikes can go up to 28 mph but must use pedal-assist to reach these speeds.

Age Restrictions

Age restrictions for riding eBikes also vary by state and are typically more stringent for Class 2 and 3 bikes. It's essential to check your local laws to determine if there are any age-related regulations you need to follow.

Registration and Helmet Requirements

  • Registration: Some states require eBike registration, especially if they are classified similarly to mopeds. States that require registration include Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, and others.
  • Helmet Requirements: Helmet laws vary widely. Some states require helmets for all riders, while others only mandate them for specific age groups or eBike classes. Regardless of the law, wearing a helmet is always a good safety practice.

Insurance Requirements

Most states do not require insurance for eBikes. However, if your state classifies your eBike as a motor vehicle, you might need insurance. Even if it's not required, consider adding your eBike to your home insurance policy to protect against theft or damage.

Where Can You Ride Your eBike?

Rules for riding eBikes differ by state and even by locality. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Roads, Sidewalks, and Bike Paths: Some states allow eBikes on sidewalks and bike paths, while others restrict their use to roads. Local jurisdictions often have the final say, so it's crucial to check local regulations.
  • Off-Road and Public Land Access: In national parks and on federal lands, Class 1 and 2 eBikes generally have the same access as traditional bicycles, thanks to expanded rules since 2019. However, eBikes are still prohibited in wilderness areas.

High-Powered eBikes

If you're considering a high-powered eBike (1000W or more), be aware that only a few states, such as Georgia and Oregon, allow these without additional classification as mopeds or scooters. Most states cap eBike power at 750W, with Maryland having a strict limit of 500W.

Safety Considerations

For the safety of yourself and others:

  • Wear a Helmet: Even if not legally required, helmets can prevent serious injuries.
  • Be Visible: Use reflective gear and lights, especially at night.
  • Follow Local Traffic Laws: Stop at stop signs, signal when turning, and ride defensively.


As eBikes continue to grow in popularity, regulations will likely evolve. Staying informed about your state's specific eBike laws is essential for riding legally and safely. Whether you're commuting in the city or exploring off-road trails, understanding these regulations will enhance your eBiking experience and keep you on the right side of the law. Happy riding!