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Ebikes Are on a Hot Streak Both in Europe & US, with Sharp Differences


If you were in the US in the 70s, you would have remarked that cars were quite different than those circulating in Europe. Their bodies, motors, suspensions, seats: they were just something else. Now something similar is happening with ebikes.

What sets European and US ebike domains apart

The scope of this article doesn’t include e-mountain bikes, because their specificities would require a separate article

Different population densities portend different speed limits

In Europe, there are 109 persons per square kilometer, and about 25% of the land is occupied by mountains. In the US there are only 37 persons per square kilometer, moreover, their territory being much flatter than in Europe, their population density is practically four times less than in Europe. That results in broader roads and streets, and longer distances to ride. As we pointed out, an average American driver swallows 13,476 miles per year, or 21,687 km.  For the EU, that average reaches barely 10,300 km/year. This difference is very likely to be echoed in the ebike domain. The necessity of longer trips, coupled with the lesser risk of hurting pedestrians, results in American ebikes being allowed to motor assistance up to at least 32 km/h (20 mph), or even 45 km/h (28 mph) wikthout plates, driver’s licence nor registration, whereas in Europe that limit is 25 km/h.

Youngsters are fond of ebikes in the US, not in Europe

As we pointed out in a previous blog post, young people aged from 15 to 25 account for less than 1% of ebikes sold in Europe, barely reaching 3% for those aged 26 to 35. On the contrary, in the US teenagers and youth in general enjoy ebikes, they even postpone getting their driver’s license because they prefer riding.

Legal requirements for ebikes in Europe

In Europe, there are legally two classes of ebikes: 97% of them are pedelecs, with assistance limited to 25 km/h (15 mph) and motor power limited to 250 W.  That raises the question, whether 25Kmh is sufficient for commuting. 3% of ebikes sold in Europe are Speed-pedelecs, with assistance up to 45 km/h and motor power up to 4,000 W. the latter must be registered, carry license plates. Their riders must have third-party liability insurance and a motorbike driver’s license. What explains their limited diffusion, although they are very efficient for commuting.

Legal requirements for ebikes in the US

There are three classes of e-bikes that can circulate wherever organic bicycles are allowed, all with the motor power limit of 750 W, without any registration, plates nor driver’s license:

  1. Class 1 Electric bikes with motors that can only be ridden with a pedal assist system (PAS) and the motor cuts out at 20 mph.
  2. Class 2 Electric bikes with a throttle and PAS where the motor also cuts out at 20 mph.
  3. Class 3 Electric bikes with a PAS only (no throttle) but receive motor assistance up to 28 mph.

In some states there are laws restricting access to bike lanes and boardwalks for class III ebikes, though nowhere registration, license plates, driver’s license and insurance are mandatory or even prescribed in upcoming legislation projects.

A glance at the US ebike market

The main differences with Europe:

There’s no value added tax in the US, whereas in their European Union, value added tax makes ebikes from 19% to 24% more expensive, although companies can deduct it. Sales taxes in the US vary from state to state, but are generally 2.9% to 7.25% at the state level.

Although the current US government is planning to raise tariffs on Chinese imported goods, it is not clear if that will concern ebikes too. Anyway, the US ebike market heavily relies on Chinese imports, as well for parts like motors and batteries as for complete ebikes. Yearly Chinese production of ebikes nears 40 million. Scale economies are huge, enabling very competitive prices. Generally, Chinese imported cheap ebikes are not as robust and durable as e-bikes manufactured in Europe. Their overall quality is inferior. Rims can twist, brakes can be noisy and wear pads much faster, batteries are less performant, they mostly have hub motors with less torque (weak on climbs) no, sensors to harmonize electric assistance with pedaling. The quality of some Chinese Bafang is comparable to that of European and Japanese motors.

Some examples of common ebikes sold in the US

The 2023 best-selling ebike in the US is the Lectric XP Lite 3.0, for less than 1000 euros. This foldable ebike sports a 500 Watts motor, with a UL (safety against fires) certified 48V battery, roughly 350 W.

  • Top speed: 45 km/h (28 mph)
  • Torque: 55Nm
  • Range: Claimed up to 72 km (45 mi).
  • Battery: 48V 9.6 Ah (460 Wh)
  • Weight: 29 kg (64 lb)
  • Price: $999

At just $1,395, now on sale at $1,095, the Ride1Up Cafe Cruiser is quite a bargain:

  • Ride1Up Cafe Cruiser Quick specs:
  • Motor: 750W rear geared hub motor
  • Top speed: 45 km/h (28 mph)
  • Range: 50-80 km (30-50 mi)
  • Battery: 48V 15Ah (720 Wh)
  • Weight: 29 kg (65 lb)

At $1999, a RadPover 6 Plus offers:

  • Motor: 750W geared rear hub motor
  • Top speed: 32 km/h (20 mph)
  • Range: 45-72 km (25-45 mi) depending on throttle or pedal assist
  • Battery: 48V 14Ah (672 Wh)
  • Weight: 33.3 kg (73.4 lb)

Normally, in the US you can get more motor and battery power for your money, although the overall quality is a bit inferior to that of European ebikes with a comparable price. Practically, it seems taht in the US you get more power and range for your money, in Europe a slightly better quality. For instance, the Ariel Rider Grizzly:

Quick specs:

  • Motors: Dual 1,000W (500 W each) continuous hub motors (1,850W peak or 3.7 kW combined)
  • Top speed: 36 mph (58 km/h) when unlocked, but can be limited to Class 2 speeds
  • Range: Up to 75 miles (120 km), less when riding at top speed
  • Battery: 52V 35Ah (1,820 Wh) between two removable/lockable batteries
  • Weight: 105 lb (47.6 kg)

Price: $3,299

As in Europe, ebikes with middle motors cost over $2000. For instance, the Ride1Up Prodigy, with a Brose mid-motor, although is now on sale for around $1300

Quick specs:

  • Motor: Brose TF Sprinter mid-drive
  • Top speed: 28 mph (45 km/h)
  • Range: 30-50 miles (50-80 km)
  • Battery: 36V 14Ah (504Wh)
  • Weight: 58 lb (26 kg)
  • Price: $2,395

Quality e-bikes are expensive in the US too

See the Specialized Turbo Como SL, with a quality comparable to European ebikes:

Specialized Turbo Como SL Quick specs:

  • Motor: Custom Specialized SL1.1 mid-drive motor
  • Top speed: 45 km/h (28 mph)
  • Range: Up to 100 km (62 mi)
  • Battery: Downtube-integrated 320 Wh battery
  • Weight: 20.5 kg (45 lb.)
  • Price: $4,800

European ebikes and components ar competitive in the US

European made ebikes, motors (especially German Bosch and Brose) and components sell well in the US. The same can be said for Japanese and Taiwanese.

Quality US made ebikes are competitive in Europe

Trek, Specialized and Cannondale just to quote three thereof.

Some examples of ebikes sold in Europe

Chinese imported cheap ebikes similar to the above low-cost US Chinese ebikes cost in Europe at least 20% more, because of value added tax.

Ebikes at least partially made in Europe tend to be more expensive but feature better equipments and quality. For instance, thenot so expensive (1,600 euros) Nakamura E-Crossover A Connect


  • Connectivity: Bluetooth
  • Naka e-power application compatible: Yes
  • Wheel size: 28″
  • Suspension: Front
  • Battery capacity: 460Wh
  • Number of speeds: 8
  • Brake type: Hydraulic discs
  • Lighting type: Fixed
  • Product details: Kickstand, Mudguard, Luggage rack
  • Motorization (details): Naka E-Power central motor – Torque 80Nm – Power sensorAriel Rider

Then there are the typical high quality, robust German, Dutch, Austrian or Taiwanese ebikes.

For instance the Bergamont E-Sweep Tour is a lightweight e-bike for urban usage, Mahle X35+ 40 Nm of torque motor with 250Wh battery, and complete road equipment (light system 70 Lux, luggage rack, mudguards). It costs 2699 euros.

If you’re ready to spend more, you get top equipment and an outstanding quality across the board, such as this 4,399 euros KTM Macina Sport 720, with powerful Bosch Performance CX Smart System drive, 85 Nm, Bosch PowerTube battery with 750 Wh, 4-piston Shimano brakes, powerful 100-150 Lux lighting, super connected.

What’s your take?

Would you like to have a 32 km/h speed limit also in Europe? Do you think it makes sense to tax ebikes up to 24%, whilst at the same time subsidizing sustainable mobility?

Pictures: Lectric, Cafe Cruiser, Radpower, Ariel Rider, Specialized, Ride1up, Bergamont, KTM.

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