Are electric bikes legal? An overview of law on electric bikes.

December 14, 2015

Male electric bike commuter on Haibike

This is a question we get asked a lot and the simple answer is: Yes, electric bikes are legal.

Provided the design complies with Australian laws and standards you can ride them on public roads the same as a bicycle, without the need to register them or have a license.

Electric assisted bicycle

The key here, to whether they comply, is the word ‘bicycle’. To be legal on the road you must be able to pedal it like a normal bicycle.

Amazing advances in technology in recent years have shaped the modern electric bike. These are pedal-assist - or ‘pedelec’ as they are known in Europe - designed to be pedalled with the option of having an additional 250W of electric battery-supplied power on top of your own normal pedal power. In fact it is your pedalling that activates the motor so you still get exercise. With one of these electric bikes you can ride somewhere faster for the same effort, or ride more easily without strain and the need for huffing and puffing - great for hilly rides or if you are carrying loads or if you want to arrive somewhere fresh.

So what’s not road legal?

The concept of powered bicycles has been around for a while but the original ones that many remember (or have seen featured as illegal in TV shows!) are petrol powered or have large over-powered electric motors.

The Australian standard requires that the motor be no more than 250W and programmed to provide assistance up to 25km/hr, which is plenty for most people. There are a few ways you can de-restrict an electric bike though to provide assistance to higher speeds than this, and there are some brands that have motors bigger than 250W. Strictly speaking these are not road legal and therefore should be used on private land.

The use of throttles is also a grey area. Generally if the electric bike has a motor that is >200W (the old standard before the new one came in) then the throttle can only carry you to 6km/hr. If you see someone zooming past on a bicycle at 30km/hr and not pedalling then chances are it's not a road legal electric bike.

Either way, whether you are riding an electric bike on the road or on private land you are experiencing something that has long been recognised in Europe and Asia as a really cool and useful way to get around. Try one if you haven’t. You will really enjoy it!

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