Electric bikes – insurance, speed and licensing

When considering buying an electric bike, people have a lot of questions. In this article we will try to answer the following three questions:

Published: Friday 12 October 2018

Electric bikes - insurance, speed and licensing

Electric bikes – insurance, speed and licensing

When considering buying an electric bike, people have a lot of questions. In this article we will try to answer the following three questions:

– Do you need a license to drive an electric bike?

– How fast can you go on an electric bike?

– Do you need insurance to ride an electric bike?

Let’s give some answers in detail to these questions.

In a nutshell…..

With the exception of what are called ‘Speed Pedelecs’ you do not need a license to ride an electric bike, as long as it has no more than 1 kW of power in its electric motor and it does not give power when you exceed 15.5 mph. The electric bike should also only deliver power when you pedal – hand throttles are not allowed without special licensing of that model. You can also ride a trike as long as it conforms to those specifications. You can ride an e-bike anywhere you can a traditional bike.


In the UK and EU, the current regulations only permit the maximum speed to be 25 km/h (15.5mph). In many cases, perhaps on a downhill stretch, cyclists will frequently get over that speed. At that speed the motor should cut out and while you do your crazy speeds downhill, you are entirely self-propelled.

In other countries, notably the United States and Canada, things are a bit different. In the United States it is down to each state to decide how fast a bike go before its motor cuts out. You frequently find electric bikes capable of 30 miles an hour and more that are perfectly street legal. This is why on Facebook you may have seen ads for machines with 500 or 750 watt motors that can drive you at the speed limit in many towns and cities around the UK. For electric bike manufacturers, this has meant that they are developing different models for different territories.

A fit cyclist can average around 10 to 15 mph on a traditional bike. This might arguably limit the market that companies like us at E-bikes Direct can sell to. Saying that we do sell a range of very good electric bikes that serve serious mountain bikers, trekkers and commuters alike. Do have a look at our Haibike Sale and at the different Raleigh commuter bikes that we have on offer. We do however serve quite a different market to that of traditional cycles in that many people are not after a Rolls-Royce e-bike but instead a machine that would get them about where a traditional bike might not be able to. Have a look at our range of electric bikes for under £1000– these are our bread and butter sales, and tend to be for older or less able people.

In 2016 the European Commission announced that it would allow electric bikes on the roads that are capable of 45 km/h. Before you leap into buying one of those, you should realise that they are considered ‘mopeds’, and like mopeds they must have number plates, be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA); the rider must wear a motorcycle helmet, have insurance and can only ride on roads suitable for motor vehicles. In short, and a large reason that we do not sell them here, they are considered motorcycles!


As indicated above, as long as the e-bike conforms to European regulations, and it is not considered a Speed Pedelec, you do not need a license to ride it.

Insurance and Brexit

Earlier this year, the European Commission irritated and baffled the electric bike industry by demanding that all electric bike users have third party insurance in much the same way as you would a car or motorcycle. These new rules must now face interrogation and approval by two other European legislative bodies before they are introduced into law in the different European states. In all probability, the UK will have left the European Union by the time that the new regulations come into being. As a person I am not fond of Brexit. As someone in the electric bike industry however, to me this is some small silver lining in the storm clouds over leaving the European Union. Given the massive task of the separation of the UK from the EU in terms of legislative work by Parliament, I cannot personally see any way that a minor regulation that irritates and baffles a multi million pound industry will come into effect any time soon in the UK. For now it is the case of hold onto your hats and hope that no electric bike hating bureaucrat in Whitehall decides to impose such a regulation that would otherwise we labelled as bonkers European bureaucracy!