California’s new electric bicycle law divides electric bikes into three legally-defined category types based on the e-bike’s top speed and whether it has a throttle.
AB1096: Electric Bicycles
The law defines electric bicycles as those with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts. It also creates three classes of electric bicycles based on their motor speed and level of electric assist.
• Class 1 e-bike, or low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle, is equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that stops providing assistance when the bicycle reaches 20 mph.
• Class 2 e-bike, or low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycle, is equipped with a motor that can exclusively propel the bicycle and that cannot provide assistance when the bike reaches 20 mph.
• Class 3 e-bike, or speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle, is equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and stops providing assistance when the bicycle reaches 28 mph. Operators of Class 3 e-bikes must be 16 or older and wear a helmet. Class 3 e-bikes are prohibited from paths, lanes and trails unless specifically authorized by a local ordinance.
The bill prohibits tampering with or modifying electric bicycles to change their speed capability unless the classification label also is changed.
E-bike operators do not need a driver’s license, registration or license plate to ride them, though they do need to abide by existing traffic laws.