Electric bikes are rapidly growing in popularity around the world with cyclists young and old drawn to their faster, low effort style of riding.
However, before buying an e-bike, many people really want to know a little more about the kinds of speeds that they can expect once they go out riding on them.
So, how fast do electric bikes go? By law in most countries, e-bikes stop providing a ‘pedal assist’ at 20pmh (32kmh) – this is because any faster than this is classed as an electric scooter or moped and so requires further license and insurance by law. You can see more on top speeds by law of e-bikes in different countries in the table below:
|European Union||15.5mph (25kmh)|
Please note that this table only considers what has been termed ‘powered cycles’ rather than ‘two-wheel mopeds’ by lawmakers in Europe. As such, these reflect push bikes and the rules already in place for them, so no additional information on that front will be provided.
You might also be thinking that some of the top speeds listed in the table above are not very high, even for a bicycle – and you’d be right.
So what happens when an ebike reaches the top speed by law? The motor simply stops assisting the rider, reverting it to being just like a normal bicycle. If you drop down to below the legal top speed then you can again get the pedal assist from your e-bike.
Although you can get electric bikes that go up to 28mph (45kmh) in places like the USA (considered class 3 bikes), these are not considered in this post since the extra power involved makes them subject to different laws, which are much more like those of an electric scooter or moped than other push bikes.
To keep things simple, let’s focus only on the speeds of e-bikes that do not require any different licensing or insurance by law.
Why are E-bike Top Speeds Different Around the World?
The difference in legal top speeds in ebikes around the world depends on a few factors, namely the following:
To explain what these mean with regards to e-bikes and their speed, let’s look into them in more detail below.
By this, I mean how ‘normal’ e-bikes are in a particular country. In the Netherlands for example, where they have a prominent culture of cycling and vast infrastructure for it, cycling is normal for the vast majority of the population.
Electric bikes have also been popular in the Netherlands for many years, meaning that both people and lawmakers are extremely well aware of them. This normalization of seeing e-bikes used on a regular basis for a long time has meant that the legislation has been in place for a long time and has had time to evolve in line with the technology.
It also likely means that the lawmakers in that country are less weary about making laws regarding this kind of technology since they are more familiar with it.
Closely linked with normalization of e-bikes is their history. As part of normalization of e-bikes relies on them having a history in a country, the uptake and use of e-bikes can affect how the laws around them are made.
To save repeating things, I won’t go into more detail here but it’s safe to say that the longer e-bikes have been popular in a given country, ergo the longer their history of use, the less likely that top speed laws for e-bikes are to change in that country.
Each country or region might also classify electric bicycles in different ways, resulting in different top speeds.
For instance, the USA has e-bikes of classes 1-4, with only class 1 and 2 e-bikes having the same rights as standard push bikes.
In contrast, the European Union uses only two categories, L1e-A and L1e-B with respective top speeds of 15.5mph (25kmh) and 28mph (45kmh); again, the distinction there is for the high-powered electric bikes to be classified much more like road vehicles than standard bicycles.
Top Speeds for Electric Bikes with Pedal Assist
The e-bikes listed in the table above have what is called a pedal-assisted motor. This means that the motor helps you when pedaling, making it feel lighter and less effort to get up to speed.
As mentioned previously, the motor will stop assisting you at the point that you reach the maximum legal speed for your e-bike in your region. It will then kick in again once you slow down to below the legal maximum speed, making e-bikes a pretty seamless and subtle thing to use.
Of course, you can buy conversion kits and modify your e-bike to go beyond the maximum speed, but note that the penalties and fines for doing so will be in line with those of road vehicles, which can be a serious offense in many countries.
You may also find that bike stores refuse to help you fix them since they are not legally allowed to work with modified e-bikes, meaning that you will have to do all of your electric bike’s maintenance by yourself.
In short, modifying your e-bike to go above the legal speed limit is not recommended and comes with quite severe penalties and limits the amount of maintenance or help you can receive in fixing them, so don’t do it!
There may come a time when laws for how electric bikes go will change, but this seems least likely in places like Europe where, in countries like the Netherlands and Germany, e-bikes have been around for a while.
However, in the USA, it seems possible that the top speed for e-bikes could change in the future, although whether that will happen obviously remains to be seen!
E-bikes With Throttle or No throttle: What’s the Difference?
Essentially, e-bikes with no throttle are classed as having a pedal-assist motor, while those with a throttle actually behave more like a motorbike or scooter.
This is because e-bikes with a throttle do not need you to pedal for the motor to kick in and can therefore push you along without you doing anything. However, the use of a throttle comes with restrictions as this moves things away from being just a standard pushbike, as explained in detail by the video below.
How fast does a 750w E-bike go? The maximum speed for 750w e-bikes is 20mph (32kmh). This can be higher with modification but is likely not legal so please check carefully before removing any limits or restrictions on your electric bike motor.
How fast can a 36v electric bike go? This depends on the region in which the electric bike is purchased as limiters will be placed on the e-bike’s motor to stop it going above 28mph in the USA or 15.5mph in the UK or EU. In theory, e-bikes can go faster than this but modifying them becomes a legal issue and is therefore not recommended.
What is the Fastest Folding Electric Bike? Although the top speed for electric bike motors is set by law, the GoCycle GX is likely the fastest folding electric currently on the market. This is because it has an aggressive riding position (for a folding bike!) and is aerodynamically designed.
What is a Class 3 Electric Bike in the USA? Class 3 e-bikes have a maximum motor allowance of 750W, a top speed of 28mph, are allowed to have a pedal-assist motor and can have a throttle. They are also the fastest e-bikes allowed by law in the USA that do not require special permissions.
By special permission, I mean following the laws and rules as set out for electric vehicles like scooters and mopeds.
You may also find the video below by bike manufacturer Giant helpful: