How Fast Can an E-bike Go?

Author: Melody Liu

Nov. 28, 2023

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Tags: Transportation

How fast are e-bikes, really?

Long story short, e-bikes can go as fast as you can pedal them. In general, an e-bike with pedal assist can go 20-28 miles per hour (or up to 45 kilometers per hour).

However, there are several factors that play a role in exactly how fast you can (and should) go on an ebike. Those factors include the:

  • e-bike class
  • laws in the state that govern e-bike speed
  • e-bike battery type.

E-bike classes

There are several classes of e-bikes, and each of them has different top speeds. The most common classes of e-bikes include:

Class 1 e-bike

A class 1 e-bike is an electric bike that’s pedal assist only. It doesn’t have a throttle, and tops out at around 18-20 miles per hour.

A pedal-assist e-bike has a drive system that only turns on once the rider starts pedaling. Once someone starts peddling, the maximum speed is going to be about 20 mph. These bikes are allowed on bike lanes, bike paths, as well as on the road.

Class 2 e-bike

A class 2 e-bike has a throttle and it has a top speed of around 20 mph. Its throttle is usually a button or a twisting grip. The bike will accelerate without the rider having to peddle at all.

In some cases, class 2 e-bikes have a pedal-assist feature that allows riders to reach 28 miles per hour. A class 2 e-bike is allowed in most places where a regular bike can go.

Class 3 e-bike

A class 3 e-bike is a pedal-assist bike only. It tops off at around 30 mph.

Because of its higher power, class 3 e-bikes are often restricted from accessing certain bike trails and paths. In some cases, class 3 e-bikes also feature a throttle. However, this isn’t universal.

As the industry continues to grow and evolve, more e-bike classes will likely be created. But for now, class 3 is at the top of its class in terms of speed.

E-bike top speeds

The top speed of an e-bike is going to depend on a number of factors. These include the drive system, the throttle, and the pedal-assist feature.

The vast majority of e-bikes are going to top off at around 20 miles per hour (mph).

On the other hand, some class 3 bikes that have exceptional drive systems or throttles might end up reaching a top speed of 30 mph.

Even though there are some bikes that go faster than this (even into the range of 45 miles per hour), these bikes may be more challenging to control.

Laws regulating e-bike speeds

Every state has different rules and regulations surrounding ebikes that stem from safety concerns.

The rule and regulations that govern e-bike usage and speed will vary from state to state. When comparing laws in various jurisdictions, some of the most important factors to consider include:

  • How does the state define an electrical bicycle?
  • What is the maximum speed allowed when powered by a motor?
  • What is the maximum power permitted by the motor?
  • Is helmet usage mandatory for all e-bike riders?
  • Is a driver’s license required?
  • What is the minimum age required for someone to ride an e-bike?

Because the laws are not consistent from state to state, this can be confusing for ebike users. It’s critical for everyone to be familiar with the laws in their state before they decide to use an e-bike.

States have a maximum allowable speed of between 20 and 30 mph.  For example, the top e-bike speed in South Carolina is 20 mph but the top e-bike speed in Missouri is 30 mph.

The inconsistency can make it challenging for ebike users to keep the laws straight. As e-bikes become more common, the laws surrounding e-bike usage should become clearer as well.

The growth of the e-bike industry

E-bikes are a great way for people to get from place to place quickly without having to spend money on gas while getting some exercise. They’re also incredibly efficient and safe for people comfortable riding them.

As e-bikes continue to grow in popularity, they’ll continue to get cheaper and better (and maybe even faster). Ready to purchase your first e-bike?

A well-engineered electric bike has the potential to power you up to high speeds. But how fast it can actually travel isn’t usually determined by its physical capabilities.

The real question isn’t “how fast can an electric bike go”, but “how fast is it allowed to go”. Whereas it’s engineering that determines the former, it’s legal constraints that determine the latter and they vary globally. 

In fact, in much of the world, the legal framework that determines to what speed the motor in an electric bike is allowed to provide support is similar. It’s only in the USA that things get more complicated - and faster.

It's sensible for electric bikes to travel at around the same speed as normal bikes on shared infrastructure

(Image credit: Bosch)

Given that the law treats electric bikes in the same way as pedal-only bikes and they’re allowed to share cycling infrastructure, it makes sense that they are limited to similar speeds to normal bikes - you wouldn’t want someone riding along a cycle path at 40mph.

Further reading:
Why do we need pipe sleeves?

In the UK and Europe all electric bikes are pedelecs, meaning that you need to pedal them to activate the motor. To be legally operated, the motor’s output needs to be limited to 250 watts and the motor must cut out when the e-bike’s speed reaches 25km/h (15.5mph). Australian regulations are similar, but they add throttle-controlled bikes as a second e-bike category.

There’s nothing to stop you riding faster, it’s just that the motor won’t help. A fitter rider on one of the racier e-road bikes is likely to be travelling faster than this, at least on the flat, and it’s very easy to exceed this speed when travelling downhill.

Stromer e-bikes are capable of travelling at up to 45km/h

(Image credit: Stromer)

You can buy e-bikes that have higher power output than this and can reach higher speeds. Called speed pedelecs, e-bikes from Switzerland’s Stromer are a good example. Stromer’s e-bikes’ motors have up to 970 watts power output and can reach speeds limited at 45km/h. But legally these are treated as mopeds in Europe and the UK. That means that the e-bike must have a registration plate, be taxed and insured and you must wear a more robust helmet than a standard electric bike helmet to ride it on the road.

US e-bike classes 

In the US, e-bikes are treated rather differently, as explained in our full guide to e-bike classes. Briefly, Class 1 e-bikes are similar to the pedelec e-bikes you find in the rest of the world, except that they’re limited to 20mph maximum speed rather than 15.5mph. You have to pedal them for the motor to operate.

Class 2 e-bikes are also limited to 20mph maximum speed but have a throttle, so the motor can provide power without you needing to pedal.  

Class 3 e-bikes are limited at 28mph maximum speed (that’s 45km/h, the same as speed pedelecs in Europe). They need to have a speedometer and may have a throttle, although that can only work up to 20mph (effectively making them compliant with Class 2 regs). You need to pedal to get assistance over 20mph.

It gets more complex, as these classes are mandated by federal law, but may be superseded by state law. What is legal to operate and where you can ride an e-bike varies by state. 

Chipping an e-bike 

With the e-bike’s software limiting its maximum assistance speed, it’s relatively easy to remove the block on travelling faster with motor assistance. Called chipping, we’ve more on its ramifications in our piece on can I chip my e-bike. 

This may just be a question of altering the software to remove the speed limit. But note that it will move your e-bike from the pedelec to the speed pedelec class in Europe and the UK and change its class to Class 3 in the US. 

That means that different regulations apply, so you’ll be into registration and mandatory insurance territory. In some places like France, chipping an e-bike is illegal and could land you in jail. 

Don't forget either that there may be safety issues, as an e-bike will not have been engineered for these higher speeds. The brakes might not be able to stop you effectively, for example.

Power and torque 

Most pedelec e-bikes are limited to 250 watts of continuous power output. That’s a measure of the work done to propel you along. Peak power may be considerably more than this, sometimes up to 500 watts, but this is only delivered for short periods, such as when starting up. There may be a boost button on the handlebars to unleash the extra power.

Although power output is fairly consistent between e-bike motors, the amount of peak torque that the motor can provide varies considerably between models.

Torque measures the amount of turning power the motor delivers, so it’s important when accelerating, as it determines how fast you can pick up speed. It’s also significant when climbing hills, as it determines how steep a gradient you can climb.

So higher torque motors are usually found in cargo bikes, where there’s a large load to accelerate, and in mountain bikes where there are often steep gradients to climb. A typical high torque motor like the Bosch Performance Line CX and Shimano EP8 will have torque figures in the range of 70 to 90Nm.

Fazua's motor and battery offer lower weight in exchange for less torque

(Image credit: Fazua)

In contrast, many city hybrid e-bikes have torque outputs of between 40 and 60Nm. The best road e-bikes often use the Fazua system with 50 or 60Nm of torque or the Mahle Ebikemotion rear hub motor with 40 or 55Nm torque, depending on model.

Battery output and range 

E-bike battery capacity is measured in watt-hours, in other words, how many hours the battery can put out a specified number of watts. So since all e-bikes are limited to 250 watts continuous output, you’d think that a 250Wh battery should provide power for one hour, regardless of the motor’s torque output number.

In practice, a higher torque motor requires a higher capacity battery to get the same range as a lower torque motor. That’s because the high torque motor is giving you more assistance and so doing extra work and draining the battery quicker. It will also normally provide higher levels of assistance over a greater proportion of your ride, which again means more work done.

The Specialized Turbo Vado SL has a less powerful motor but weighs less than the Vado

(Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Whereas, for example, the Specialized Turbo Vado SL e-bike has 35Nm torque output and a 320Wh battery, the Turbo Vado has a 720Wh battery to power its 90Nm motor over a similar total range. The Turbo Vado SL requires you to do more work and does less itself, but in exchange drops the e-bike’s weight significantly.

So how fast and how far an e-bike can carry you is as much a function of what it’s permitted to do as what it’s capable of. Keeping speeds in check makes sense from a safety aspect, to ensure that pedal-powered cyclists are safe travelling alongside e-bike riders. If you want to go faster, you’re either going to have to pedal harder or mix it with the moped riders.

How Fast Can an E-bike Go?

How fast is an electric bike?

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