With fuel costs skyrocketing and the push continuing toward sustainable energy sources, electric bicycles are enjoying widespread, worldwide adoption by riders of all ages. A viable alternative to traditional motor vehicles, e-bikes are easy to ride, convenient, and affordable to purchase and maintain. However, there has been an increase in confusion about how they’re classified.
In this latest Recharged Rides guide, we’ll break down the electric bicycle classification system in an easy, step-by-step manner so that you can better understand it. We also put together an easy-to-read comparison chart of the different classes — a helpful resource that allows you to quickly review the differences at a glance. So without further ado, let’s jump right in…
Electric bicycles are classified into three categories, based on the power of the electric motor and the top speed of the bicycle. Since e-bikes are a relatively new mode of transportation, rules and regulations needed to be created to govern where and how electric bikes can be used. While individual state and city electric bike regulations are still being ironed out, the class system has largely been agreed upon and currently consists of the following three categories:
- Class 1
- Class 2
- Class 3
Class 1 E-Bikes
Class 1 electric bicycles have a motor that provides up to 750 watts of power and a top speed of 20 mph. Additionally, this class of electric bike doesn’t come equipped with a throttle mode — the motor will only work when the PAS system is engaged.
Perfect for errand-running, off-road bike trails, and for use as a daily commuter, a Class 1 electric bike motor kicks in when you start pedaling and provides assistance up to 20mph.
Class 2 E-Bikes
Like Class 1 ebikes, this second category limits the maximum speed to 20 miles per hour and the motor output to 750W. However, Class 2 electric bikes include a throttle mode that allows riders to use the bikes like electric scooters — without any pedal assistance.
Class 1 or Class 2 e-bikes can be used in most places where traditional bike use is allowed, although Class 2 ebikes are not always ideal when used as mountain bikes due to the included throttle mode. They are appropriate rides for multi-use trails that have been designed for more traditional all-terrain vehicles.
Class 3 E-Bikes
Last but not least, Class 3 electric bikes also limit the motor’s power to 750W. Like Class 1 bikes, the Class 3 category consists only of pedal-assist models without a throttle, however, the max speed of this category increases from 20 mph to 28 mph.
Because Class 3 electric bikes go much faster than a Class 1 or Class 2 e-bike, these bikes are usually banned from multi-use bike paths and trails. Most areas do allow you to ride Class 3 bicycles on the road and on dedicated bike lands.
E-bikes are a great way to commute, exercise, and enjoy the great outdoors. Versatile and fun to ride, electric bikes appeal to a wide range of riders and there are different types of e-bikes to choose from depending on the terrain and type of riding you plan to do.
In this guide, we discussed the three different classes of e-bikes, how they differ, and where you can and cannot ride each of them. All three electric bike classes incorporate 750-watt motors and pedal-assist modes, but Class 2 adds a throttle mode and Class 3 increases the max speed from 20mph to 28mph.
As mentioned, there are specific use-cases that are right for each different e-bike class and the right one for you will depend entirely on how you plan to use your electric bike. By now, you’ve probably narrowed things down, but if you’re still uncertain about which e-bike Class is best for your situation, please post your questions in the comments area below and we’ll do our best to help.