Is your electric bike actually a bike?

Did you know that Europe regards your fast electric bike as a moped? And that you would therefore be best advised to license your bike, arrange for a number plate, wear a crash helmet and take out third party liability insurance cover?

Is your electric bike actually a bike?

Two types of electric bike exist:

  • The normal electric bike (pedelec) has electrically driven pedal assistance. The electric auxiliary motor (with a maximum nominal continuous output of 0.25 kW) is activated by the pedals. The motive power reduces gradually and is interrupted when the bike reaches a speed of 25 km/h or when the rider stops pedalling.
    The Vehicle Licensing Agency (DIV) regards that electric bike as a normal bike. A rider causing an accident with it can claim on his or her family insurance or commercial liability insurance.
  • The fast electric bike (speed pedelec) is an electric bike with pedal assistance which continues to drive when the rider reaches a speed of 25 km/h. You can attain speeds of 45 km/h or even more with pedal assistance. The speed pedelec does not propel itself if you do not pedal as well.
    According to the DIV’s technical rules, depending on the speed developed, the speed pedelec belongs to the category “moped class B” or to the category “motorbike”.

No clear rules

At present, there are no clear rules for electric bikes. Furthermore, the positions of legislator and DIV are divided.

According to the WAM legislation (the law on the mandatory motor vehicle liability insurance), a bike with an auxiliary motor which is interrupted when pedalling is stopped (and which therefore cannot move off without pedalling) is a bicycle and not a motor vehicle.

The DIV thinks differently about it: for driving a speed pedelec, not only is it compulsory to wear a crash helmet and to have a minimum age of 16 years, it is also obligatory to have a category AM driving licence (the former category A3).

According to DIV, those vehicles must be licensed. In practice, a certificate of conformity is often not issued on purchase. Without this certificate, DIV is unable to license the bike, and moreover, no insurer will want to insure this risk.

It is up to the legislator to adapt the definition of the WAM legislation to the European regulation. Once the ‘fast electric bike’ falls under the definition of motor vehicle, no further confusion will be possible.


In an ideal world, every driver of a fast electric bike (speed pedelec) would have to fulfil these conditions:

  • be minimum 16 years of age;
  • ask the seller for a certificate of conformity in order to be able to license the electric bike with DIV;
  • arrange for a number plate;
  • buy a crash helmet;
  • take out third party moped or third party motorbike insurance cover.

Contact your account manager for more information.

Jan Lecat

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