Updated: Dec 29, 2021
Electric bikes or ebikes are increasingly becoming popular amongst the masses for their versatility, eco-friendly nature, and convenient features. They are not only becoming a substitute for motorcycles but are also replacing cars, especially on shorter commutes. The ebikes market is estimated to reach a market size of 40 million units worldwide with a revenue of $20 billion by 2023. Therefore, understanding the differences & specifications of electric bike classes is crucial, not only for the potential buyers but also for someone who is just getting to know electric bikes.
The three classes of ebikes, i.e. Class 1, Class 2 & Class 3 have been formed to distinguish them from one another based on the factors such as speed, range, etc. In addition to that, the electric bike classes envisaged by the state laws also determine where you can ride a particular class of ebike. We have mentioned the in-depth details of each class, to make it easier for you to grasp their specifications.
Class 1 Electric Bike:
The Class 1, contrary to a relatively popular belief, is an entry-level class that can achieve a top speed of up to 20 mph, which in a way, allows them to be driven on traditional or non-assisted bike lanes. The electric motor in a class 1 ebike only springs into action during pedaling which is the main reason why class 1 ebikes are sometimes referred to as pedelecs. In other words, an electric bike whose motor only assists while pedaling is classified as a pedelec.
Throttles, that are mounted on some ebikes' handles, are rare in class 1 but some makers do equip their class 1 ebikes with a throttle. Nonetheless, it can only function/assist while the bike is being paddled. Class 1 ebikes serve as a popular choice amongst the people who are switching from regular bicycles or are trying an ebike for the first time. Their limited speed & features make them relatively cost-effective all the while providing more or less the same riding experience as the other two classes.
Class 2 Electric Bike:
Class 2 ebikes come as standard with a throttle that does not require pedaling to get activated, which practically makes this class of ebikes a miniature version of a full-fledged electric motorcycle. However, this does not mean that you can't enjoy assistive pedaling, the throttle in class 2 electric bikes, also supports assistive pedaling which bestows class 2 with the best of both worlds.
Just like Class 1, the top speed on Class 2 ebikes is also limited to 20 mph. The limited speed makes them legal on pathways carved for traditional bikes which is another similarity that the category shares with Class 1. This class of electric bikes is best for conquering steep hills & rough terrains since they can cruise without any pedaling, but as expected, they are also quite a bit pricier than Class 1 ebikes.
Class 3 Electric Bike:
Class 3 ebikes are the fastest of all and can reach a maximum speed of 28 mph, but electric assistance ceases as soon as the speed reaches 28 mph. Moreover, the electric assistance is only available when you are pedaling, just like in a Class 1 ebike. Throttles are present in many instances, but they are only allowed if they are programmed to become non-functional just as the speed reaches 20 mph. The state of California, on the other hand, has banned throttle on Class 3 ebikes rendering the above-mentioned conditions irrelevant for electric bikes sold in California.
Common U.S Electric Bike Regulations You Should Keep in Mind:
Almost all the states in the U.S have enacted laws to regulate the ebike industry and to protect the citizens as electric bikes can cause a fatal injury. The nature of these laws varies from state to state, some states have stricter rules while others are lax. Nevertheless, it is important to be mindful of the regulations to avoid any mishap.
The U.S federal speed limit for electric bikes with a throttle is 20 mph or less, though, many states stick with the speed limits set for each of the three classes of ebikes. However, it is important to remain vigilant of the speed limits of a particular area. For instance, school zones, where speed limits are set very low.
The legal age limit is another important issue, but just like the ebike classification, it also varies as you move from one state to another. Majority of the time, class 1 ebikes are exempted from the age limit, though, some states such as Alabama, Alaska, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah & Virginia require the rider to be at least 14 years old to ride any class of ebike. Conversely, under 18 riders in other states can ride an electric bike, though, an adult supervisor is a must. The minimum age limit set by any state is 15 years, but some states don’t even have any age limit, but they require riders under 16 to wear a helmet.
Electric bikes, in most states, don't require a license, but as with any other regulations, there are exceptions attached to this rule too. Some states classify ebikes as mopeds & scooters due to which riders are required to have a license and registration. Such states are mentioned below:
· New Mexico
Can a Class 3 Ebike have a Throttle?
The answer to this question is a bit confusing and can be answered in both yes & no. Generally, most class 3 ebikes don't have a throttle, but some do have one. Also, the state of California doesn't allow throttle on ebikes, thus, class 3 ebikes in California can't have one. Some other states allow a throttle as long as it operates up to 20 mph.
Should I Get a Class 2 ebike?
Class 2 ebikes are unique in a way they can run solely on electric power without requiring the need to be pedaled. Therefore, they are a good choice if you want to explore & enjoy a pure electric bike and a bicycle simultaneously. Moreover, they can be ridden freely in the same spaces where class 1 ebikes are permitted to. Both the X750S & the Ur500X included in the Sdream’s lineup are a part of the brand's flagship offerings in the Class 2 ebike segment and they both have made a mark in the ebike market for their class leading features & the exceptional value they provide to their user. However, if a class 1 ebike suits your needs and your budget is a bit tight, then the Ur250X and the Ur250 Lite ebikes are worth a try.
Ultimately, it is the individual needs that help a person decide which ebike to choose & enjoy for him/herself in the long run, therefore, a thorough research is compulsory before picking a particular class of ebike.