Motorized Bike Power Rating

Question

Rafael asked: An e-bike store owner informed me that all e-bikes sold after January 2017 must be engraved with the wattage and rating of the electric motor–looking for verification as I can not find any information on this in the Federal Register.

Answer

I am not aware of any such requirement. Please ask the store-owner to give you the quote of the law and send it to us.

In any event, I don’t think it would affect the motorized bicycle operators in Florida since the statutory requirement is not for wattage or rating of the motor, but the potential speed of the motor-driven bike, unless the intent is to insure that a motorized bicycle is not actually a moped.

s. 316.003Definitions

(3) Bicycle – Every vehicle propelled solely by human power, and every motorized bicycle propelled by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground upon which any person may ride ….

The requirement could affect moped operators.

(38) Moped – Any vehicle with pedals to permit propulsion by human power, having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels, with a motor rated not in excess of 2 brake horsepower and not capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on level ground and with a power-drive system that functions directly or automatically without clutching or shifting gears by the operator after the drive system is engaged. If an internal combustion engine is used, the displacement may not exceed 50 cubic centimeters.

Posted in Ask Geo, Motorized Bicycles
9 comments on “Motorized Bike Power Rating
  1. Any such requirement (in effect as of January 2017) should be mentioned on the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission’s page on “Bicycle requirements business guidance” (CPSC regulations classify a bike with an “electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph” as a type of bicycle). No such requirement is currently mentioned. https://www.cpsc.gov/Business–Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/Bicycle-Requirements

  2. HarryB says:

    I wonder if the dealer is confused with the new electric bicycle law which went into effect last year in California (Cal. Veh. Code § 312.5). That law created three classes of electric bicycles: low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycles, low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycles, and speed pedal-assisted electric bicycles.

    In California the motor may not produce more than 750 watts, and all electric bicycles must have have a permanently affixed label which states the classification number, top assisted speed and the motor’s wattage.

    As Geo noted, Florida does not place a restriction on the power of the motor, but neither does it place a restriction on the speed of a motorized bicycle when it is powered simultaneously by the operator and the motor (“pedelec”).

    Commercially available motorized bicycles must comply with the CPSC’s regulations which, like Florida law, does not have a speed limit on pedelecs. But most manufacturers have voluntarily limited their pedelecs to a maximum of 28 mph because that permits them to comply with European 45 km/h maximum speed for their “speed pedelecs”. Undoubtedly that is why California ended up with its Class 3 pedelecs which are limited to 28 mph—that law was essentially written by the manufacturers with virtually no input from the public.

    However, in Florida a DIYer can legally build a motorized bicycle with any size electric motor as long as it is somehow powered simultaneously by the operator and the motor—there is no maximum speed.

    • I would qualify the last paragraph. For purposes of determining whether a bike with an electric motor qualifies as a “motorized bicycle”, Florida’s definition mentions no maximum speed restriction on the speed the vehicle can achieve when powered simultaneously by the operator and the motor. However, the motor cannot be capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 20 mph “on level ground”.

      • HarryB says:

        You wrote: ” However, the motor cannot be capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 20 mph ‘on level ground’.”

        Consider a DIYer who builds a bicycle that has a 2,000 watt motor which is regulated by a controller that has two settings:

        1) Throttle mode: The controller limits the amount of electricity flowing to the motor so the bicycle can not exceed 20 mph

        2) Pedelec mode: The controller provides power to the motor in proportion to the amount of pressure which the operator exerts on the pedals. At “maximum” pressure on the pedals the controller permits enough electricity to flow to the motor so it produces 2,000 watts in addition to the operator’s power. What speed could be achieved when the motor’s power and the operator’s power are combined—50 mph? 60mph?

        I submit that such a bicycle meets the statutory definition of motorized bicycle because in throttle mode it’s speed is limited to 20 mph. And if the operator does not pedal, the motor can not propel the vehicle at all.

  3. A controller on a motor doesn’t provide any power. It just regulates the motor’s power output.

    • Okay, I take that back: inasmuch as the controller regulates the current supplied to the motor from the battery, I agree it’s fair to say it provides power; the motor transforms that power from electrical power to mechanical power.

      However, I still don’t agree such an e-bike could qualify as a “motorized bicycle” in Florida. In “throttle mode”, the motor couldn’t power the bike to go faster than 20 mph–fine. But in “pedelec” mode, the motor could provide provide >more< power than that, provided the operator exerted sufficient pressure on the pedals.

      Florida's definition simply refers to "an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground", without regard to any controller settings or to whether or not the operator is pedaling.

      A motor rated for 2000 watts would produce about 2.7 horsepower; that would exceed the horsepower rating of a "moped" as chapter 316 defines the term. It should be capable of propelling the pedelec/electric motor scooter at well above 20 mph (probably above 30 mph) on level ground.

  4. HarryB says:

    Dwight:

    You wrote: “A motor rated for 2000 watts would produce about 2.7 horsepower; that would exceed the horsepower rating of a ‘moped’ as chapter 316 defines the term.”

    True, but the device I described does not meet the definition of moped because it does not have “a power-drive system that functions directly or automatically without clutching or shifting gears by the operator after the drive system is engaged.” § 316.003(38)

    You wrote: “But in ‘pedelec’ mode, the motor could provide provide >more< power than that, provided the operator exerted sufficient pressure on the pedals.

    "Florida's definition simply refers to 'an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground', without regard to any controller settings or to whether or not the operator is pedaling."

    Let's consider two e-bikes I selected at random which are sold through dealers in Florida (and therefore I assume meet the definition of motorized bicycle) and the hypothetical motorized bicycle I described:

    1) The Pedego 26 Classic City Commuter: It comes with a 500 watt motor and has a maximum speed of 20 mph using battery power only (throttle mode)

    2) The Specialized Turbo X: It comes with a 200 watt nominal/750 watt peak motor and has a maximum speed of 26 mph in pedalec mode

    3) The hypothetical 2,000 watt e-bike, which has a maximum speed of 20 mph in throttle mode and could be extremely fast in pedalec mode depending on the settings

    I'm sure we'll agree that all three bicycles could easily exceed 20 mph if powered solely by their motors unless they are somehow limited by their controllers, and yet the commercial ones are readily available in Florida. These companies have millions of dollars at stake, and from what I have learned they are very confident they will prevail in court if the legality of their e-bikes is challenged.

    Defining the capabilities of "an electric helper motor" in a vacuum is impossible because in real life the battery, motor and (usually) controller are interrelated components of a complex system.

    If the legislators had intended to limit the speed of a motorized bicycle when operated in pedalec mode they should have clearly spelled it out as was done in California. But I submit that my hypothetical e-bike could be legally operated in Florida because of the way the law was written.

  5. Harry, the report “Regulation of E-bikes in North America” (http://ebike.research.pdx.edu/sites/default/files/NITC-RR-564_Regulations_of_E-Bikes_in_North_America_2.pdf } discusses the legal status of the Specialized Turbo bike:

    “There is … lack of clarity in the regulatory definition for pedelecs that reach speeds greater than 20 mph. The Specialized Turbo has a top speed of 28 mph and is currently on sale in the U.S. Specialized interprets the federal regulations to mean that the 20 mph speed limit only pertains to a bike that is powered solely by the motor and can be ridden without any human power (Roberts, 2013). This interpretation potentially creates a second classification for low speed electric bicycles and could cause additional policy-related questions for state and local municipalities. For example, would a bike that could reach speeds of 28 mph be allowed on a separated bike path in the Boulder, CO or Toronto, Canada where the use of ebikes in these areas is already in question?”

    (The report was published in 2014 and doesn’t answer the question. Currently the City of Boulder restricts any e-bike use on multi-use paths to paths so designated; Boulder’s multi-use path speed limit of 15 mph still applies — https://bouldercolorado.gov/goboulder/electric-assisted-bikes-policy-review.)

    Applicable state regulations vary among the 50 states and the District of Columbia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle_laws#State_requirements_for_use ), contributing to the considerable confusion. Top allowed motor-powered speeds for e-bikes range from 20 to 30 mph, although the 20 mph limit is common. Rather than produce different models for different states, pedelec (no-throttle e-bike) manufacturers include an electronic controller that cuts off power to the motor when the operator stops pedaling or when a certain speed is reached.

    As you have noted, California recently (2016) adopted more flexible legal arrangements by defining three classes of electric bicycle. A “Class 3 electric bicycle” is “a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour, and equipped with a speedometer” (CVC 312.5). Under California law, a Specialized Turbo would qualify as a class 3 electric bicycle. However, operation of a class 3 e-bike is prohibited by default on any path or trail, unless it is “adjacent to a roadway” or unless the authority with jurisdiction permits operation by ordinance.

    Legality of a Specialized Turbo presumably isn’t likely to be challenged in California, because the state has adopted a definition and regulations that clearly apply to it. Florida hasn’t touched its definition of “Bicycle” (with included definition of “motorized bicycle”) in something like 20 years.

    As reviewers have noted (https://electricbikereview.com/specialized/turbo-x/ ), “Stealth appearance with integrated battery pack and near-silent motor helps [the Specialized Turbo] blend in like a “normal bike”. Its “normal bike” appearance, rather than any law enforcement consensus, might account for operators’ ability to date to avoid legal challenge.

  6. HarryB says:

    Dwight,

    That is an excellent publication and I have recommended it (with a few reservations) to a number of officials with whom I’ve been discussing the looming problem of electric “bicycles”. (The best term I have discovered is BSOs [Bicycle Shaped Objects])

    You wrote: “However, operation of a class 3 e-bike (in California) is prohibited by default on any path or trail, unless it is ‘adjacent to a roadway’ or unless the authority with jurisdiction permits operation by ordinance.”

    True, but in Florida all motorized bicycles are forbidden from being operated on bicycle paths or sidewalks if their motors are providing any propulsion, so from a legal perspective, the only question is their status on roads, including bicycle lanes.

    You wrote: “Florida hasn’t touched its definition of ‘Bicycle’ (with included definition of ‘motorized bicycle’) in something like 20 years.”

    Indeed, it was in 1999 that the 200 watt restriction on the motor was deleted and the speed limit raised from 10 mph to 20 mph in throttle mode. Interestingly enough, that was long before the CPSC was granted authority over “low-speed electric bicycles”.

    What I find fascinating (in a distressing way) is the differences between the European and American approach to this emerging technology. In a nutshell, in Europe pedelecs are restricted to 25 km/h (15 mph – about the same speed as fit people can cycle) and are regulated from a traffic perspective as human powered bicycles.

    Throttle mode e-bikes are new and will probably be regulated in the same manner as pedelecs, maximum speed of 15 mph. And they have not even begun to think about the new American “invention”, the e-bike with cruise control. (“Look ma, no hands, no pedaling at 20 mph!”)

    Speed pedelecs (up to 45 km/h [28 mph]) appear to be heading in the direction of being classified in the same manner as mopeds, requiring helmets (some countries leaning in the direction of moped helmets while others only requiring only bicycle helmets), licenses, registration, insurance, etc. The Netherlands, which has forgotten more about bicycling than we know, is extremely concerned about the increased rate of injures and deaths as a result of the speed of e-bikes.

    But in America (where speed is king) there was not even an open discussion as the bicycle industry and bicycle advocacy groups foisted the 28 mph speed pedelecs on the public in California. (How many people can pedal a bicycle at 28 mph?) And in Florida we are not even having a discussion about these high speed motorized bicycles as they are becoming available at local bicycle shops near you.

    The differences between the American approach and the European is telling, especially when one considers how much more serious European societies are about reducing the injury and death toll from motorized transportation.

    In FBA’s Messenger (Spring 2016) an article entitled “Electric Bikes” mentions the author’s surprise at riding a Stromer at speeds greater than 20 mph: “At one point, on a flat straightaway, I pedaled at my most leisurely pace, doing what felt like 10-12mph. I looked down at the speedometer and I was going 24mph.”

    Why would FBA publish such information if the test “bicycle” did not comply with state law and if the author drove it in an illegal manner? Wouldn’t people with money in their pockets be excused for thinking the Stromer (which has a top speed of 28 mph) is a legal vehicle in Florida after reading this article?

    Maybe someone could contact the owner of that bicycle shop and ask his opinion about the legality of these “speed pedelecs” and post the response here?

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