Ebike Type 1, 2, 3 and What is the Differences
When shopping for an ebike, it’s important to make sure that the brand and model you choose is safe, legal, and appropriate for the places you plan to ride. In the United States, many states and municipalities have adopted the Class I, II, III ebike classification system. Ebike manufacturers are required to label their products with the appropriate Class I, II, III labels in those states, making it easy for customers to understand the capabilities of specific models.
Class I, II, and III ebikes have some features in common - they all have pedals, and they all have motors that can’t exceed 750 watt output.
Class I Ebikes
Class I ebikes use a battery and electric motor to provide assistance at up to 20 MPH when the rider is pedaling (pedal assist). Class I ebikes can go faster than 20 MPH, for example, when going downhill, but the electric motor will stop provide assistance once 20 MPH is reached.
Ebikes with throttles can turn on the electric motor and propel the bike without the rider pedaling. Class I ebikes cannot have a throttle - they can only provide assistance when the rider is pedaling.
Class II Ebikes
Class II ebikes work in two ways. First, the electric motor provides assistance at up to 20 MPH when the rider is pedaling, just like a Class I ebike. Second, Class II ebikes include a throttle, which can go up to 20 MPH without the rider pedaling.
This flexibility is ideal for many riders. On a Class II ebike, the rider can pedal for fun, exercise, and fitness, but retain the ability use the throttle for help when desired without pedaling - like getting over a challenging hill.
Class II ebikes cannot be used in some regions. Off-road riding, like mountain bike trails, often permit only Class I ebikes. Class II ebikes with throttles cannot be used. In a pinch? Some makes and models of Class II ebikes will continue to operate on pedal assist with the throttle unplugged and removed, effectively turning them temporarily into Class I models.
Class III Ebikes
Class III ebikes provide pedal assist at up to 28 MPH. These more powerful electric bicycles are capable of higher speeds than their Class I and Class II peers.
You’ll notice that some Class III ebikes have a throttle, and others do not. When Class III ebikes include a throttle, they are usually limited to 20 MPH maximum speed on throttle (even though the bike can go faster when the rider is pedaling). The Denago City Model 1.0 series falls into this category - up to 28 MPH on pedal assist, and up to 20 MPH on throttle.
Class III ebikes are primarily intended for higher-speed riding on streets and roads, making them ideal for bicycle commuters who want to arrive at work or school without breaking a sweat. You’ll find Class III ebikes are commonly disallowed on bicycle paths, trails, bikeways, horse trails, and hiking trails.
“Speed Pedalec” is sometimes used - most often in Europe - to describe bikes of this type.
Class IV "Ebikes", Mopeds, And Electric Motorcycles
What about “Class IV”, mopeds, and other battery or gas-powered two-wheeled vehicles?
What Class I, II, and III ebikes have in common are pedals - they look and work like traditional bicycles. Mopeds, electric scooters, and other wheeled vehicles without pedals aren’t ebikes and aren’t covered by these Class I, II, and III classifications.
Some states call those types of devices “Class IV”. You may also find the Class IV label used on ebikes that go much faster than the 20 / 28 MPH limits.
You may also need a driver’s license or motorcycle license to use a Class IV vehicle. Generally, they aren’t considered bicycles like Class I, II, and III ebikes are, and may need to be registered with the DMV, insured, and so on.
Types Of Ebikes To Avoid
Generally, you should avoid any ebike that doesn’t carry a Class I, II, or III designation. Such models may not actually be legal in some places. Purchasing a Class I, II, or III labeled ebike means you can easily understand its capabilities, features, and limitations.
We recommend that all riders should wear a helmet when riding any type of bicycle, ebike or not.