Who’s going to regulate Class 3 e-bikes?

Do Class 3 e-bikes fall into a black hole of product categories, neither bicycles nor motorcycles, able to charge about the landscape unplugged and unregulated, with no government safety oversight?

Practically speaking, no. The fact that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has conducted several recalls of Class 3 e-bikes as recently as 2020 confirms it for us: Class 3 e-bikes are bikes and the CPSC is regulating them.

Even though they say they are not.

Steve Frothingham at Bicycle Retailer and Industry News explains…

First, Class 3 e-bikes are pedal-assist (no throttle), with a motor that helps until you hit 28 mph. Some 39 states have passed laws codifying the three-class system with that definition. Most of the industry, and its trade association, PeopleForBikes, proceed on the understanding that Class 3 e-bikes are bicycles and have to meet CPSC bicycle standards.

Because if they are not e-bikes, then they are something else. And that something else is an electric motorcycle. And electric motorcycles — at least those ridden on the roads — are regulated by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, not the CPSC. And NHTSA requires electric motorcycles to meet standards for things like lights, brakes, mirrors and more. Standards that most Class 3 e-bikes do not meet. Selling an electric motorcycle that does NOT meet NHTSA standards is potentially a major, costly, bankrupting no-no.

A 2002 federal regulation, 16 CFR 1512.2(a)(2 defines e-bikes as a type of bicycle with a motor no larger than 750 watts and “whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor … is less than 20 mph.” The regulation was an early key to developing the e-bike category outside NHTSA regulations.

But Class 3s go to 28 mph, you recall. To quote Jon Lovitz’s character in “A League of Their Own,” “Well then, this would be more, wouldn’t it?”

Click the button below to read the entire discussion on bicycleretailer.com.


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Dave Petri

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