Do Electric Bikes with a Throttle Qualify as Class 3 E-Bikes?

/ Jun 7, 2024 / Stephen T
Do Electric Bikes with a Throttle Qualify as Class 3 E-Bikes

Electric bikes have revolutionized personal transportation, offering a convenient, eco-friendly alternative to traditional bikes and motor vehicles. Among the various classifications of e-bikes, Class 3 e-bikes are the subject of particular interest due to their capabilities and legal requirements. One common question that arises is Do Electric Bikes with a Throttle Qualify as Class 3 E-Bikes?

In states that adhere strictly to the model legislation, the presence of a throttle disqualifies an e-bike from being classified as Class 3.

To address this, we need to delve into the definitions, characteristics, and regulations surrounding Class 3 e-bikes and throttle-equipped e-bikes.

Understand a Class 3 Electric Bike

class of ebike

In the United States, a Class 3 e-bike is defined by specific characteristics. A Class 3 e-bike must have a pedal-assist system, meaning the motor provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling. The motor assistance is capped at a maximum speed of 28 miles per hour (about 45 kilometers per hour). Once this speed is reached, the motor stops providing assistance, although the rider can continue to pedal and potentially exceed this speed using their own power. The motor power is typically limited to 750 watts (about 1 horsepower).

Class 3 e-bikes are often referred to as "speed pedelecs" because they provide higher assisted speeds compared to Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes. They are generally used for commuting and longer distance rides where higher speeds are advantageous. However, the use of Class 3 e-bikes is regulated and can vary by state and municipality. They are usually allowed on roads and bike lanes but may have restrictions on bike paths or multi-use trails. It is always important to check local regulations to ensure compliance when using a Class 3 e-bike in a specific area.

Do Throttle-Equipped E-Bikes Qualify as Class 3?

Class 3 electric bikes are defined by their pedal-assist feature, which can reach speeds up to 28 mph. But what happens if an e-bike also includes a throttle that maxes out at 20 mph? Does it still fit into the Class 3 category?

In states that adhere strictly to the model legislation, the presence of a throttle disqualifies an e-bike from being classified as Class 3.

However, this is somewhat of a gray area. In my opinion, a throttle limited to 20 mph does not inherently make a Class 3 e-bike more dangerous, especially since the cadence sensor and throttle are not operational simultaneously.

Many DTC brands define Class 3 electric bikes as including throttles.

Some Aventon models, like the Aventure, come as Class 2 e-bikes. However, by using the Aventon app, riders can increase the top speed from 20 mph to 28 mph, effectively converting the Aventure into a Class 3 e-bike.

-- Aventon

Juiced Bikes' Class 3 models all come equipped with a throttle, ensuring that the motor is always ready to assist. This feature allows riders to reach their destinations with minimal pedaling effort.

-- Juiced Bikes

Pedego bikes may also feature throttles, with the throttle speed capped at 20 mph. In certain regions, some Pedego models can be upgraded to Class 3, offering an even more thrilling riding experience.

-- Pedego Electric Bikes

While Class 3 e-bikes with throttles technically do not comply with legal definitions, it's possible you won't face penalties, especially if the throttle ceases to function at 20mph. However, I must stress that I'm not a lawyer, and choosing to ride something that is technically illegal is done at your own risk.

The key issue isn't the bike itself, but rather how you choose to ride it. Practicing respectful riding habits can significantly reduce the likelihood of attracting negative attention from law enforcement and the public. This means obeying traffic laws, being mindful of pedestrians, and riding at appropriate speeds. By demonstrating responsible and considerate behavior, you help foster a positive perception of e-bike riders and contribute to a safer and more harmonious community for everyone.

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Future Trends and Innovations

Manufacturers often design e-bikes to include both pedal-assist and throttle systems, providing versatility and catering to a wider range of users. These bikes must carefully balance the integration of these features to comply with varying regulatory requirements.

Consumers often seek the convenience of throttles while desiring the high-speed capabilities of Class 3 e-bikes. This demand drives innovation in designing e-bikes that can switch between Class 2 and Class 3 modes, though regulatory compliance remains a challenge.

E-bike regulations are likely to continue evolving as technology advances and the popularity of e-bikes grows. Policymakers may develop more nuanced classifications and regulations to better address the diverse capabilities and features of modern e-bikes.

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