It’s deeply unhelpful that the term e-bike has become a catch-all for both road-legal, electrically assisted bicycles and full-blown battery powered motorcycles. And as if the water isn’t muddy enough, bikes in both camps can look similar, if not identical, to each other. Little wonder so many people are confused.
UK law: Is my e-bike a bicycle or a motorcycle?
UK e-bike law might be easier to navigate if there was a catchy name for road-legal electric bicycles. As it is, the officially recognised acronym EPAC (electric power-assisted cycle) hardly trips off the tongue. In simple terms, if your cycle has pedals and an electric motor of no more than 250 watts that cuts out once you’re travelling at 15.5mph (25 km/h), then in the eyes of UK law it’s a bicycle – or to be more precise, an EAPC (electrically assisted pedal cycle). It’s important to remember that the 250W figure refers to the power of the motor and not the battery.
An e-bike with a motor over 250W, or that doesn’t cut out automatically at 15.5mph, is a motorcycle. Some of these e-bikes might look indistinguishable from the EPACS described above, but their higher performance is usually an obvious giveaway. People have been known to fit official-looking 250W stickers to their over-powered e-bikes, but the police are wise to this. When there’s doubt, the ebike can be confiscated at the roadside and sent for testing.
My e-bike has a speed limiter – is it legal to use on the road?
Beware e-bikes sold with adjustable speed limiters. The fact you can restrict your e-bike to 15.5mph does not make it legal for use on British roads if the motor is rated above 250W.
Insurance for e-bikes
Assuming your e-bike conforms to the 250W / 15.5mph requirements, you can ride it anywhere a conventional bicycle can be used. It also means you won’t find it any trouble to insure. Here at the ETA, we include £2m third party cover and protection against battery theft as standard. Don’t worry if you break down on your e-bike; we’ll take you to a repair shop, railway station or home.
Every ETA cycle insurance policy includes the following as standard:
• Theft, accidental damage & vandalism
• E-bike battery theft cover
• Cycle Rescue (breakdown cover for your electric bicycle and you)
• No devaluation of your bike over time
• £2m third party PLUS £20,000 personal accident cover
• Shed & garage storage
• Low standard excess of 5% (£50 minimum)
Your e-bike in safe hands
The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.
The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.