Once upon a time, any 17-year-old could ride any powered two-wheeler of unlimited size and performance – now it’s a little more complicated. The law applying to your electric motorbike depends on the maximum speed of the machine, see below for details.
If an electric motorbike is restricted to 15mph, has a motor of 250 watts output or less, and has pedals, it is legally an electric bicycle and can be ridden by anyone aged 14 or over. They require no registration documents, number plates, tax disc or MOT. The rider does not need to be in possession of a licence. These bikes are not listed on this page.
And the excellent news in 2015 is that the UK government has finally agreed to bring electric motorcycles and scooters in line with electric cars, by offering grants. A total of ‘up to’ £7.5 million will be available to give 20% off the purchase price of electric bikes, capped at £1,500 per machine.
30mph Electric Motorbikes
If an electric motorbike is restricted to 30mph, the law treats it as a 30mph 50cc petrol scooter. They cannot be ridden on motorways. Riders must wear a helmet and the motorbike needs a registration document, number plate and (once it’s three years old) an MOT. Electric motorbikes must carry a tax disc, but as with all electric vehicles, road tax is free.
If you don’t have a car licence:
Can be ridden by anyone aged at least 16 with a Provisional moped licence and a CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) certificate. These riders have to wear L-plates and cannot carry a pillion. To ride without L-plates, they must take a further practical and theory test. CBT costs £70-£100, and includes both off-road and on-road riding and training. The pass certificate is valid for two years, or if you pass the car test in the meantime, lasts forever.
If you do have a car licence:
If your Full car licence was obtained before 1st Dec 2001, you can ride a 30mph electric motorbike without L-plates or a CBT certificate. If it was obtained after 1st Dec 2001, you must have a CBT certificate first.
30mph+ Electric Motorbikes
These are treated as small motorcycles. Full car licence holders can no longer ride any of them without a valid CBT certificate. But with CBT, they can ride for the life of the CBT (two years), with L-plates – no passengers or motorway riding allowed. There is also a power limit of 11Kw/14.6bhp.
All the 30mph+ motorbikes and motorbikes listed on our Electric Motorbike Price Guide come into this category, apart from the Vectrix VX-1 and Zero ranges, plus the Quantya Track (which is off-road only), which exceed the power limit. To ride a Vectrix or Zero, car licence holders (and anyone else) will have to take the motorcycle theory and practical tests.