In a constantly changing environment of transportation and development of new vehicles, it’s sometimes hard to catch up with its legislation. We already know the classification of standard vehicles and what driver’s license is needed to operate them, but what about plug-in electric vehicles, namely electric motorcycles and scooters?
License is required for all types of electric motorcycles, especially full-sized street-legal electric motorcycles, including motor-driven cycles, mopeds (motorcycles with pedals), and commercial motorized EV scooters.
The problem with electric motorcycles is that the term is very broad and could refer to a range of one, two and three-wheeled electric vehicles, that can have diverse horsepower, features, and speed. In many cases, electric motorcycles are also ambiguously used to refer to electric bikes or e-bikes as well as scooters. After all, motorcycles are alternatively called motorbikes as well. And this is the grey area where most problems occur.
In 2002, the US Congress passed HB 727, which among others, provided a classification of electric bikes. Following the federal definition of e-bikes, this helps us draw the line of what differentiates an electric bike from an electric motorcycle. Through this, we can now conclude with utmost certainty that a license is required if you want to ride an electric motorcycle.
One of the significant challenges, if not hindrances for people when buying and riding electric motorcycles, is the fact that the laws regulating their use and license vary from state to state. That being said, it is always important to consult your local registry of motor vehicles (Department of Motor Vehicles in your state) and the manufacturer of the bike with regards to the legality and license you’ll need to use for an electric motorcycle.
What License Do I Need for an Electric Motorcycle?
All types of electric motorcycles require a motorcycle license to use and operate. A motorcycle license is a license that permits you to operate a two-wheeled motorcycle only and not a car or any other type of vehicle. There are two classes of motorcycle licenses, Class M1 and Class M2. The type of license required would depend on the type of electric motorcycle.
A Class M1 license allows you to drive any type of electric motorcycle, including full-pledged electric motorcycles with a horsepower that is more than 150 cc, electric motor-driven cycles, electric mopeds, and electric scooters.
If your electric motorcycle has a sidecar attached or has three wheels, you need to have a Class C license.
If you’re only interested in cruising around the streets of the town on a moped or motorized bicycle, then all you need is a Class M2 license. A Class M2 license is more restrictive. It can only allow you to operate a moped (motorcycle with pedals) or any motorized bicycle that doesn’t exceed 30 mph (48 km/h). If your motorized bicycle (e-bike) has top speed beyond 30 mph (48 km/h), you may be required to get a Class M1 license.
If you are simply planning to use a motorized scooter or electric scooter, any class of driver’s license will be enough.
To apply for a motorcycle license, you need to take a vision test, a written test, and you must have a certificate of completion of the motorcycle basic rider course. If you are under 18, you also have to pass the driving test.
What Electric Motorcycle Models Can I Ride Without a License?
You cannot ride any type of electric motorcycle without a license. All motorcycles, including electric scooters and mopeds, require the rider or driver to have a license to operate.
What you can ride without the need for a license is an electric bike or e-bike. No license is required to operate all classes of an e-bike, including class 3 e-bikes that reach a maximum speed of up to 28 mph (45 km/h) as specified by HB 727. However, motorized bicycles, including e-bikes that exceed 28 mph (45 km/h), require a license to operate.
With the unceasing and rampant evolution of electric bikes, the line between electronic bikes and electric motorcycles, especially mopeds, are getting thinner. More specifically, there are new e-bike models that can run as fast as motorcycles. Examples of which include the Scout Pro from High Power Cycles (HPC), High Power Cycle Revolution, Nyx Bike, Vintage Electric Tracker, and M55.
In fact, some e-bikes look more like a motorcycle than a bicycle such as Stealth Electric Bike, Caterham Carbon (BBSHD version), Retro Onyx, Juiced Scorpion, and BlackTrail. Since these e-bikes go beyond the 28 mph (45 km/h), these types of bicycles would require a license in the US. The licensing requirements, however, would vary from state to state and country to country.
All electric bikes have pedals. This is one important feature of an electric bike. Without which, it wouldn’t be a bike. However, not all two-wheeled vehicles with pedals are considered a bike. The moped is a motorcycle with pedals. Riding mopeds would always require a license even if some mopeds drive slower than e-bikes.
The Need for Laws to Catch Up
As the difference between electric bikes and electric motorcycles becomes blurred, and the adoption of two-wheeled electric vehicles become more prevalent, the laws regulating these types of vehicles need to catch up.
There is a need to consolidate all different types of two-wheeled vehicles together and create a standard definition, term, and classification for them. At the moment, every government or state formulate and apply different rules and regulations for different types of two-wheeled vehicles. Similar vehicles are haphazardly considered an electric bicycle, motorized bicycle, or motorcycle with pedals (moped) in different states and countries.
With the proliferation of different types of electric powered vehicles as a preferred means of urban transportation including e-bikes, e-motorcycles, e-scooters, Segway, electric unicycles and other transporters, there may be a need to create a new class of driver’s license that will apply to these types of urban transporters.
The need for a license is essential as more young riders who are unfamiliar or lack experience with road regulations are using them. There are also many safety measures and rules that riders of two-wheel vehicles must learn. Electric vehicles, especially for urban and individual transport, are a new, evolving class of vehicles that needs new laws and licenses for proper regulation.
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