YOUR UK ELECTRIC BIKE COMMUNITY

UK Law Regarding EBikes & Scooters

The law surrounding the use of electric cycles, scooters or boards is complex and currently under review. There are several trials around the country, aimed at testing the use and implications of battery driven 2 and 3 wheeled items. This article was written in April 2022.  We allow most e-vehicles to be advertised on this site as we have no idea what use the bike or scooter is to be put to, or if people intend to limit/restrict them to make them road-legal. Please read the information below before spending a lot of money on a bike you can't use - or get it confiscated by the Police.  This article may also be useful cyclinguk.org/cyclists-eapc-regulations

Briefly: Any e-bikes with pedals with a motor of more than 250 watts and is capable of doing more than 15mph/25kph is currently not legal on UK roads, paths, parks or trails. eScooters (the kick/stand on type) are also not legal on roads as they do not conform with the criteria for road use - i.e. registered with DVLC, insured and MOT tested. Their use on pavements or parks is also debatable as they fall under archaic laws that limits or bars wheeled 'vehicles' using pavements or where pedestrians have priority. In any case, a rider of an e-vehicle needs be 14+ years of age.

A guide to getting an ebike that is road legal

There are zillions of ebikes and adapted bicycles and scooters on the market. Deciding what is legal, road-legal or totally illegal is a bit of a minefield.  This as a guide to the current situation in the UK, to help you avoid an expensive mistake. It is my own understanding of a rapidly changing market, from my own research. I advise always doing your own research and this is intended to help you ask the right questions and be aware of the pitfalls.

Legal v Road Legal

Let's start at the basics. There is a difference between being 'legal' and being 'UK road legal'. There are a lot of ebikes and scooters that can be used off-road and on private land (with the land owner's permission). So your own grounds or on designated trails or the circuits and mountain/dirt bike trails that you pay for or have permission to access. This is a limitation but if it is purely recreational and you can transport the bike there, then fine. However bear in mind that parks, cycle lanes, pavements, beaches etc are not classed as private land and you would not be able to obtain permission.
The Police can stop anyone using a non-road legal bike/scooter and confiscate it on the spot. It can also be destroyed and a fine issued.  That said, what I am mainly going to look at here is what IS road legal in the UK ebike world.

The Good, The bad and the Downright Dangerous

Firstly, a road legal ebike must have pedals and they must be connected to the driving wheel by a chain or similar, if it ain't got pedals it ain't legal on UK roads or pavements!

E-cycles, or any mode of e-transport or Scooters (sit on or stand on) without pedals do not comply with UK road use laws unless they are part of the Nationwide Government trial scheme, presently being run in a number of cities and towns throughout the UK.

eBikes with larger powered motors limited to 250 Watts (which is the legal maximum in the UK) are road legal.

Typically any bike with a motor built into the frame at the bottom bracket - that's where the pedals and cranks fit onto the bike - is likely to be a road legal electric bike. That's because the major manufacturers who make that kind of electric motor restrict their offerings to 250 Watts. A bike purchased from a UK supplier with a motor built into the frame by the manufacture should comply with the law.  The same cannot be assured if you buy overseas or import a bike.

As a double check always ask to see the specifications and a statement that the motor (not the battery) is limited to 250 W and UK road legal. It will also have a CE or British Standard Kite mark.

An electric bike that has the motor in the hub (centre of front or back wheel) may or may not be road legal. A recognised make such as Wisper or VanMoof only make ebikes and they are all road legal. Check the specs.

Most major manufacturers such as Specialised, Raleigh, Haibike, Trek, Canondale, Cube, Carrera, etc. do both regular and ebikes and again their products are road legal. Some bike manufactures do add-on kits, such as Brompton, and these are also road legal.

Where it gets difficult is when a pedal cycle has been converted or has been designed for purely off road use. Now this is where it gets a bit more technical - the Golden Rule here is to look for the motor size and make sure it is 250 Watts or less. Beware if the original limiter or designs have been altered.

Any bike that has been imported, converted, enhance or had any changes to its original specs - eg pedals or power limiter removed - is not only not road legal but can also be very dangerous. Not just due to the speeds they can achieve but due to brakes not being effective at higher speeds or motors overheating/seizing. Obviously there are very competent bike service companies that can do good conversions or builds - but do your research and get specs in writing. Any insurance would only be valid if you disclose the bike specs and any amendments to them.

What's in a Watt

The whole topic of Watts can be confusing - as the Battery size is often stated in Watt hourssuch as 312Wh or 517Wh.  Some private sellers may just state incorrectly '300W'.  That is Watts per hour that the battery can deliver, not the power of the motor.  Always check the motor wattage is 250 or less for road use. A helpful indicator is the battery size (Wh) is often not a round number like 250. 

Voltage

The battery size and voltage is not regulated by UK law and can range typically from 36V to 50V.  Obviously they need to be suitable for the type of motor a bike has - a 48v motor 48 Volt battery. Using a mismatch can create problems and overload the system.

Size (and weight) is everything

The bigger the battery usually the greater capacity in terms of Wh - so the longer it will last and the further you can ride with assistance. But bigger is heavier, so it is a compromise. You have to allow that some of the power provided is being used to move the combined weight of the battery and motor before it starts to assist you.
 
A word from the Winsford, Swanlow and Dene Police on escooters:
Electric scooters/PLEVS (personal light electric vehicles) are not subject to vehicle registration or road tax so WITH THE EXCEPTION OF RENTAL PLEV’S cannot legally be used on the road anywhere in the UK currently. Because they are motorised and have no pedals they are illegal for use on cycle lanes and pavements and because they are low powered they are illegal for use on the road (as well as not being taxed, insured, etc.).
These can only be used in private land and with land owner permission.
The illegal use of PLEVs can lead to them being seized by Police.