Why are Gas Bikes and eBikes Different Legally?


Maylinn asked: I’m just curious what is the difference in the gas powered under 49cc bicycle motor assist and the electric one if everything on the bike works the same besides it being gas powered or electric? Another question I have is when did this law pass and take effect?


I don’t know when the law was passed. It was a long time ago. Perhaps a reader can assist?

There was an attempt to amend the statute to include gas assist bikes in the statutory definition of “bicycle” in the past. That amendment was not approved for many reasons, some of which are listed in this post. Please disregard the comments and most of the discussion in that post. At that time, there were a lot of unanswered questions about gas motor assist bikes and the DHSMV procedures.


Those questions were answered when the DHSMV published Procedure RS – 68, which can be seen here.


This post updated the information.


2 Comments on “Why are Gas Bikes and eBikes Different Legally?

  1. There are a number of differences (top speed, noise, emissions, etc.) between a bicycle with an installed (49cc or less) gas-assist kit and an electric bicycle. Top motor-assist speed is a key difference. Bicycles with 49cc engines can typically reach top speeds on level ground of around 40 mph. The fastest e-bikes reach speeds of 28 mph (i.e., with motor assist), and many states limit the top motor-assist speed to 20 mph, to be legally classed as a “motorized bicycle”.

    Three states–California, Tennessee, and Utah–have adopted a three-tiered classification scheme for e-bikes in their statutes (http://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/state-electric-bicycle-laws-a-legislative-primer.aspx ). California and Tennessee do not allow e-bikes in the fastest class, Class 3 (in which the motor assist cuts out when speed reaches 28 mph), to be used on a “bicycle path or trail”, unless the agency with jurisdiction adopts an ordinance permitting their use. Utah allows use of Class 3 e-bikes on a path unless the jurisdiction >prohibits< such use.

    Florida's Uniform Traffic Control Law has had a definition of "Bicycle" that includes e-bikes (that are limited to a top motor-assist speed specified in the definition) since the late 1980s. In 1999, the qualifying top e-bike motor-assist speed was increased from 10 mph to 20 mph.

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