The Differences between an E-Bike, Moped, and Scooter

There is often confusion about the differences among electric bicycles, mopeds, scooters, electric scooters, electric motorcycles, and motorcycles.

These are all two-wheeled vehicles but are very different on legal requirements, benefits, and riding style. Electric bikes are the only type that have functional pedals today, enabling the rider to get exercise while commuting. A brief summary of each is below, followed by the advantages of each.

Pictured E-Bike: Pioneer Allroad Limited

  • Electric bicycles have pedals and provide a form of exercise. Most mopeds do not have pedals and do not provide exercise.
  • Mopeds in the USA often require a driver’s license and insurance and some form of registration. Electric bikes do not require a license or registration or insurance.
  • While Mopeds can often travel on street bike lanes, they cannot travel on sidewalks and park in bicycle areas. An electric bicycle can travel on bike lanes and paths and park in bicycle areas. An electric bicycle is considered a bicycle.
  • An electric bike, when configured as a mountain e-bike can travel off road on trails. A moped cannot, as it is designed for city streets.
  • A moped is generally allowed to have a top speed of 30MPH, while an electric bicycle is generally limited to 20MPH with motor only power (can go faster if the rider is actively pedaling)

Electric Bicycle

Electric Bicycle

Commonly referred to as an electric bike, electric bicycle or E-Bike. Defined by federal law to have pedals and an electric motor of less than 1 horsepower, with a battery and a maximum speed without pedaling of 20MPH. Weighing less than 100 pounds in weight. No insurance or registration required. Helmets requirements vary by state.

Electric Scooter

Electric Scooter

A electric scooter is another name for an electric moped. They do not have pedals. Insurance, license and registration is required. (Can vary by state).

Electric Motorcycle

Electric Motorcycle

A motorcycle with electric motor and battery instead of gas engine. No limit on speed or horsepower. License, registration and insurance required (helmets in many states)

Gas Motorcycle

Gas Motorcycle

Two wheeled vehicle without pedals. No limit on speed or horsepower. Can carry a passenger. License, registration and insurance required (helmets in many states). Historically have been gas engine powered.

Electric Moped

Electric Powered Moped

A moped with an electric motor and battery instead of a gas engine. Insurance, license and registration required. (Can vary by state) Very popular in China. More adoption in Europe over gas mopeds as pollution restrictions increase.

Gas Moped

Gas Powered Moped

Low speed two wheeled vehicle with less than 2 horsepower and not capable  of speeds greater than 30 MPH. Generally have a step thru frame and no pedals. Insurance, license and registration required. (Can vary by state). This type is very popular in Europe.

Motorized Kick Scooter

Motorized Razor type Scooter

There can also be motorized types of kick scooters. The motorized types have an undefined legal status in most states.

Electric Mobility Scooter

Mobility Scooter

In some cases an electric scooter is used to define a mobility device used by handicapped persons.  Mobility devices generally do not require a license or insurance and are exempt from regulations.

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Electric Bike Book Cover

Electric Bikes let You get Fit

Both a Moped and Electric Scooter provide economical transportation, as does an Electric bike. The biggest difference is that an electric bicycle provides exercise while riding. The electric bike will allow you to get in better health while riding, a moped will not.  In addition, mopeds require insurance and a driver’s license in most states, an electric bicycle does not.

Advantages of an Electric Bike

The advantage an electric bicycle has over a motorcycle is similar to advantages over a moped. The electric bicycle gives the rider easy exercise and improves their health. A motorcycle can be faster and is better suited for riding on freeways, where the speeds are higher.

Electric Bicycles are Bicycles!

Federal laws makes an electric bicycle a bicycle for the vehicle code. Each state and municipality may have different regulations, but in general an electric bicycle can go anywhere a bicycle can go. Many electric bicycles are configured  on mountain bike frames and are suitable for off road use (check with your local government to see if the electric mountain bike is allowed on your trials).

The Difference between an Electric Bike and an Electric Motorcycle

While an electric bike and an electric motorcycle both have electric motors and batteries, they are very different. Electric motorcycles are motorcycles and require a license, registration and insurance. An electric bicycle does not  require any of these and can ride on bike paths and use bike infrastructure.