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Do You Need Insurance for an Electric Bike?


E-bikes are becoming increasingly popular throughout the UK due to significant improvements in battery life, motor design and lighter weight models entering the market. People are responding to the urgent need to reduce pollution and e-bikes help to boost physical activity while fulfilling transportation needs. In this post we look at the insurance considerations for electric bikes.

In our previous blog post: How to Prevent E-Bike Theft we considered the important topic of e-bike security. E-bikes tend to be priced at more than double the cost of a normal bicycle making them attractive targets for opportunistic criminals. Electric bike security is therefore vital so we have looked at insurance company security requirements later in this post.

Benefits of Riding an E-Bike

As well as improvements to e-bike design and technology, they are growing in popularity for a number of key reasons. One of the primary benefits provided by e-bikes is how they make cycling accessible to a far greater number of people than standard bicycles. The assistance provided by the e-bike motor means that people who would otherwise struggle with a standard bicycle can enjoy the benefits of cycling. Many areas of the UK are very hilly, making cycling a struggle for even the toughest cyclist. Motor assisted e-bikes overcome these challenging inclines, enabling riders to use their electric cycles for their day to day transportation needs without turning their legs to jelly, cycling up steep hills. People with lower fitness levels are using e-bikes to build their cycling confidence while gaining valuable exercise. And its notable how e-bikes are particularly popular with older people as 65% of electric bikes are sold to those over 55.

The important contribution electric bicycles provide to peoples health is another primary benefit. It has been noted that although e-bike riding requires less energy, compared with standard bicycles, riders experience greater fitness improvement as they tend to cycle more often and over greater distances than they would on standard bikes. The electric motor assistance means riders are far more confident on the roads and this encourages them to get out and about on the e-bikes, boosting their fitness in the process.

Another important benefit from riding electric bikes is how they significantly contribute to reducing pollution. Unlike cars and various forms of public transport, e-bikes don’t produce harmful exhaust fumes. And while they do consume electricity to charge their batteries, these are becoming increasingly efficient, don’t require much energy and can be charged using electricity derived from renewable sources such as solar and wind power.

Low on-going running costs are another key benefit enjoyed by e-bike riders. Although they are notably more expensive than standard bicycles, they are incredibly cheap to run. Regular maintenance costs are roughly the same as a standard bicycle and the costs involved in charging their batteries is minimal. And as long as the e-bike motor cuts out at 15.5mph (plus 10% leeway in Europe and the UK) there is no road tax to pay. Its also far cheaper (free) to park an electric bike than a car or motorcycle.

E-bikes can also take advantage of the growing network of designated cycle lanes, enabling commuters to avoid congestion and get to and from work reliably and often more quickly than by driving.

Electric Bikes and the Law

Its important to be aware of how the law applies to electric bikes. Anyone aged 14 or over is legally allowed to ride an e-bike as long as it meets certain specific criteria. Electric bikes are legally classified as: ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs). Riders are not required to take a test or have a licence and e-bikes don’t need to be registered, taxed or insured.

But it is important to be aware of what counts as an EAPC. An EAPC must have pedals that can be used to propel it. EAPCs can have more than two wheels, so electrically powered tricycles are legal. The cycle must show either the manufacturer of the motor or the power output. And either the maximum speed of the cycle or the battery voltage must also be displayed.

Importantly, the e-bike motor must have a maximum power output of just 250 watts and the motor must not be capable of powering the cycle when travelling at more than 15.5mph.

Where You Can Ride E-Bikes

As long as an electric bike meets these EAPC requirements its classed as a pedal cycle. This means it can be ridden anywhere that’s legal for standard bicycles, such as cycle lanes and cycle paths.

Legal Speed Limit for E-Bikes in the UK

Its interesting to note that strictly speaking, there is no speed limit for bicycles. And since e-bikes are classed as pedal cycles, as long as the motor assistance cuts out at 15.5mph, it is legally possible to ride e-bikes as fast as legs and pedalling allows. But its important to be aware of bylaws that may impose speed limits, along with sensible safety considerations.

Rule 124 of the Highway Code includes a speed limits table that defines the various maximum speeds for different vehicle types on various road categories. The table currently doesn’t include cycles or e-bikes.

Penalty for Riding an Illegal E-Bike on UK Roads

While it isn’t illegal to own, buy or sell an electric bike that exceeds the maximum power limit of 250 watts, it is illegal to ride these vehicles on UK roads. If caught by the police they will often give riders 14 days to resolve the issue. If this is not addressed as required the electric bike can be scrapped or sold.

The rider may also be prosecuted for driving without insurance, a driving licence or MOT, which are all compulsory for electrically powered motor vehicles with more than 250 watts of power. They can also find themselves facing 8 penalty points on their licence or possibly disqualification as well as a fine.

Are E-Scooters Legal in the UK?

Its important to be aware that e-scooters are not classed as EAPCs. Electric scooters fall within the legal definition of a motor vehicles and currently can only be used on private land, with the landowners permission. This makes it illegal to use them on pavements, in cycle lanes and in pedestrian only areas.

E-scooters are classed as motorcycles, as defined by the Road Traffic Act 1988. And due to their low speed they fall into the subclass of ‘moped’. This means that in order to use an e-scooter on a public road they must meet the same stringent requirements as other motor vehicles in this category which includes mandatory insurance, road tax, licensing and registration, driver testing, compliance with technical standards and the use of appropriate safety equipment. In practice this makes it virtually impossible to legally use e-scooters on public roads.

Its worth noting that although e-scooters are currently classified as a form of moped, due to their low speeds, there are many models that can achieve speeds in excess of 50mph. In Spain, Switzerland and Belgium the top permitted speed for e-scooters has been restricted to 15.5mph, the same as e-bikes. And in Germany, Sweden, Denmark and France the electric scooter speed capability limit has been set at 12mph (20km/h) with lower speed limits on pavements and in public areas.

The UK Government has announced its intention to create a new, low-speed, zero-emission vehicle category that would apply to electric scooters. But currently this is not established and anyone using electric scooters in public spaces is breaking the law.

There has been an escalating number of electric scooter related incidents of harm as the popularity of these vehicles has grown in recent years. For example, in 2021 nine deaths were recorded, all of whom were e-scooter riders, compared with just one in 2020.

Insurance companies are already offering e-scooter policies covering theft, damage, injury to third parties, property damage and personal injury.

Changing E-Bike Legislation

E-bike riders need to remain aware of legislation that applies to these vehicles as increased usage may result in changes. For example, the European Union has proposed an amendment to the Motor Insurance Directive that would make third party insurance compulsory for e-bikes.

Do You Need Insurance for an Electric Bike?

A question that’s often asked is: do I need insurance for an electric bike? The answer is that as long as the e-bike qualifies as an EAPC under current UK law and regulations, insurance is currently not a mandatory requirement.

However, many people do recommend electric bike insurance for a number of valid reasons.

Firstly, as noted, e-bikes are expensive and a prime target for criminals. Riders need to be aware of this risk and what it is likely to cost if their valuable electric bicycle is stolen.

Its also important to consider the costs involved in dealing with e-bike damage. This can occur as a result of an accident or due to criminals attempting to steal the cycle or even as a result of the e-bike remaining unused, in storage. When considering e-bike insurance these risks need to be borne in mind.

Another important insurance related consideration is the need to protect other road users. The risk of accidentally injuring someone or damaging their property needs to be considered. For example, if an e-bike is ridden on busy cycle paths and a pedestrian suddenly stepped in front and was injured, or if a car was scratched, there is the possibility of facing significant compensation claims.

Another reason riders look into electric bike insurance is to protect themselves in the event they experience personal injury. While most cycling accidents tend to be minor there is always the possibility of incurring more significant injuries.

Are Electric Bikes Covered by Home Insurance?

Another e-bike insurance related question that’s often asked is whether they are covered by home insurance policies. In most cases home insurance doesn’t cover electric bikes. Since these are generally considered to be high value items they need to be specifically added to home insurance policies. And importantly, even when added to home insurance this generally only covers them for theft or accidental damage caused within the home, not while out and about.

What Should be Covered by Electric Bike Insurance?

As long as an electric bike meets the requirements defined for EAPCs many standard bike insurance policies cover them. But its important to be aware that many insurers recognise the specialist cover required for electric bikes, classifying them as ‘Power Cycles’, while standard bikes are classed as ‘Pedal Cycles’.

An aspect of the insurance cover required for power cycles is the need to provide cover for battery loss or damage, which obviously doesn’t apply to regular pedal cycles.

The specific features of various e-bike insurance policies vary but most policies include cover for theft and malicious damage along with accidental damage. These provide compensation if the e-bike is stolen or vandalised along with the cost of repairing or relacing the e-bike if involved in an accident.

Other policy features that may be included or added as extras are:

  • Third party liability cover, that provides compensation to cover legal fees and costs involved if someone is injured or property is damaged.
  • Personal injury cover is another useful feature that can help cover costs in the event of an injury.
  • Accessories cover will provide compensation to pay for damaged equipment such as clothing, helmets and GPS systems.
  • Riding abroad cover provides what’s needed when taking an e-bike abroad.
Electric Bike Security

 Electric Bike Insurance Security Requirements

Its always important to be aware of the specific requirements and recommendations associated with electric bike insurance policies. If these are not complied with then its likely claims will not be honoured. For example, many insurers stipulate that e-bikes must be secured and locked using a high security cable or chain that’s looped around the cycle frame and attached, using a Sold Secure approved lock, to a permanent part of a building or robust ground anchor. If this requirement is not met then it would not be possible to claim on the policy if an e-bike was stolen.

Insurers have also stipulated that to comply with insurance policy requirements e-bikes must be charged during the day and not plugged into chargers over night. This is due to the fire risk associated with batteries overheating while on charge. If this requirement was not met and a building caught fire due to an overheating e-bike battery then it would not be possible to claim on the insurance.

See our range of bicycle and e-bike security products here.

If you have any questions about electric bike security remember we are here to help. Give us a call on 01273 475500 and we’ll provide you with free, expert advice.

This message was added on Thursday 27th April 2023

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