Because of the motor on an electric bike, there are laws in place to ensure they're safely used on the UK’s roads and cycle paths. We've put together everything you need to know about electric bike laws in the UK before purchasing your first eBike.
Electric bike laws and regulations in the UK
Most people think that an electric bike is just a normal bicycle with an electric motor attached. Seems straightforward enough, doesn't it? However, there are actually some really important definitions and rules that go along with them - covering everything from maximum power and speed limits to whether you need a driving licence. If you want to ride an electric bike in the UK, you should get up to date with the different laws and regulations.
At Raleigh, we're really passionate about electric bike riding, and we're always keen to encourage any would-be eBike riders. So, we've put together this comprehensive guide to UK electric bike laws and regulations, so you can get pedalling.
Are e-bikes legal in the UK?
Yes, as long as your bike complies with all the relevant electric bicycle laws (more on those below) and isn't modified. You don't need tax, insurance or registration to ride a legal e-bike in the UK.
Do I need a licence to ride an e-bike?
In the UK, you don't need a licence to ride an e-bike, it just needs to meet the relevant EAPC regulations (keep reading for information on those). It's not a legal requirement to have insurance either, though it's always a good idea to think about protecting yourself and your equipment.
What are the UK’s electric bike rules, laws and regulations?
To comply with e-bike laws, you don’t need a licence nor does your electric bike need to be registered, taxed or insured. However, your bike will need to fit certain criteria and be used correctly. These criteria (known as EAPC regulations) apply to England, Scotland, Wales and - as of 2020 - Northern Ireland.
Is there an age limit for riding an electric bike?
In the UK, you need to be aged over 14 years old if you want to ride electric bikes in the UK. There are some caveats to this - including that electric bicycles have to fit the EAPC regulations, and that they shouldn't be ridden on pavements.
What is an EAPC?
Put simply, EAPC is another way of saying electric bike. EAPC is an acronym for ‘Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles’.
All Raleigh ebikes meet EAPC requirements. This means they are classed as regular push bikes, rather than a type of motor vehicle. You can treat your eBike just like a regular bike! You’re able to ride it on bike paths, roads and any other places where regular bikes are allowed. So, grab some electric bike accessories, and get ready to hit the cycle paths.
Requirements for an EAPC
To be classed as an Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle, a bike must meet certain requirements under the laws and regulations.
It must have pedals that can be used to propel it, and the pedals have to be in use in order for electrical assistance to be provided. When using the electric motor for pedal assist, the bike must have a maximum speed of 25 km/hour (15.5 mph). Similarly, the power (maximum continuous rated power output) of the electric motor can't be more than 250 watts.
On the body of the electric bike itself, it must show either the power output or the manufacturer of the electric motor. Plus it must show either the battery's voltage or the maximum speed of the bike.
What if my electric bike doesn't meet the regulations?
If a bike doesn’t meet these electric bike laws (if the powerful motor is more than 250 watts, or if it provides assistance above the 25 km/hour speed limit), then it has a similar legal status to road vehicles. It will be technically classed as a motor vehicle that needs to be properly registered and taxed - like electric motorbikes or electric mopeds. Such bikes are also called speed pedelecs. If your bike fits these criteria, you won’t be able to ride it on the UK’s cycle paths, and you’ll need a driving licence, a crash helmet and DVLA approval.
What about electric bikes with throttles?
As of January 1 2016, UK electric bike laws state that only throttles that assist without pedalling up to a maximum speed of 6 km/hour (3.7 mph) were legally allowed. In essence, this means only starting throttle assistance is allowed. So, for it to be classed as an Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle, the throttle would have to cut out when the bike is moving (without pedalling) at over 6 km/hour. However, if the rider pedals, the throttle can provide electric assistance up to 25 km/hour.
However, these restrictions apply mainly to new bikes. If you purchased an electric bike that has what's known as a 'full speed throttle' prior to 2016, EAPC law treats it as legal, so you won't need to pay tax or register it as a motor vehicle.
Is it legal to convert my bike into an electric bike?
Cyclists who already own a road, mountain or other 'ordinary' cycles may consider a conversion kit so they can ride an electric bike at higher speeds without purchasing a new model. Kits can help to retrofit an electric motor to your bike. Many eBike conversion kits are legal, however it can be difficult to know how to make sure any engines or parts you fit are complying with the legal rules and regulations for electrically assisted pedal cycles.
While you can in effect make your own eBike using a conversion kit, it’s not typically recommended - it’s generally quicker, easier and more efficient to purchase a ‘ready made’ electric bike that you can be sure complies with UK law around pedal assist, maximum speed and battery power.
Can you ride an electric bike if banned from driving?
Yes, you can ride an e-bike while disqualified from driving. As long as a bike can be legally classified as an electric bike (EAPC), anyone over the legal age to ride an electric bike (14 in the UK) can cycle in public without a licence.
Are electric bikes allowed on rail trails? Are electric bikes allowed on cycle paths?
Electric bikes can be ridden on any public paths or trails that would allow a normal pedal bike. Obviously, make sure to take proper precautions on any multi use trails, and remember to always wear a helmet and other protective gear.
How many watts is legal for an e-bike?
To qualify under EAPC laws, an e-bike motor’s power output can't exceed 250w.
Is a 750w electric bike legal in the UK?
To be legally classed as an EAPC and therefore be legal under UK e-bike laws, the maximum power output from the pedal-assist motor can't be more than 250 watts. 750w e-bikes can be used on private land or with an electric bike licence.
Are there different electric bike rules in Northern Ireland?
Under Northern Ireland electric bike laws, an electrically assisted pedal cycle is categorised in the same way as in Wales, Scotland and England. That means that to qualify as an Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle and abide by EAPC rules, the bike must have a maximum power output of 250 watts, and can't use the electric motor to propel itself at anything above the maximum speed of 25 km/hour (15.1 mph).
While there used to be different laws, as of May 2020, owners of an electric bike in Northern Ireland no longer need a driving licence, registration and insurance to ride on cycle paths, public roads and other places where pedal bikes are permitted.
For more electric bike help - on everything from choosing the right one to getting started riding - visit our Electric Bike Knowledge hub.