Electric scooters always were one of the children’s favorite toys, but lately they are getting very popular among young adults as well, especially among millennials that are looking for new ways to get around as an alternative to owning a car. Part of the appeal of the electric scooters is that some of them are advertised as vehicles that can be operated without license and registration. But does that mean they are banned from roadways? And what about the e-scooters labeled as “street legal”? Are they classified as motorcycles, mopeds, motor scooters or something else? In the USA, it can get very confusing to understand what is street legal electric scooter and what is not in the electric vehicles space. In this article we will try to throw some light on this complicated matter
DISCLAIMER: This page is provided as help only and does not constitute legal advice. The information in this article may not be comprehensive or current. You are solely responsible for knowing and obeying the laws which pertain to you.
What does “street legal” mean?
The term street legal refers to the vehicles that can be legally ridden on the street, i.e. meet all the requirements determined by the authorities to be allowed on public roads. This usually means that the vehicle needs to have specific configurations of lighting, signal lights, and safety equipment to be compliant with certain safety standards.
Trying to figure out whether you need a license to operate your electric scooter on public road is not as simple as straightforward as you might hope.
Federal law from 2002 defined electric bikes as “two or three wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals, a top speed when powered solely by the motor under 20 mph and an electric motor that produces less than 750 W (1.01 hp).” If the electric scooter falls into this category, it’s street legal, and doesn’t require license and registration in most states. To fit within these guidelines some manufacturers have slapped on a pair of pedals onto the vehicles that look more like a Vespa, less like a moped, and nothing like a bicycle. This not only looks very strange, but also makes pedaling very difficult and, in some cases, practically impossible. But if you are willing to get over this, you will be allowed to ride on public roads at a speed of up to 20mph without registration.
BUT, if you are riding a street legal e-bike that looks like a gas-powered scooter, it might be difficult to convince your local policeman that it fits the legal definition for a bicycle. We know of several cases of people getting fined for driving these vehicles without a license, even though it’s perfectly legitimate according to law.
Law requirements in different states
California laws recognize “motorized scooter” as any two-wheeled device that has handlebars, a deck that is designed to be stood upon when riding, and is powered by an electric motor. Motorized scooters are not defined as motor vehicles, so they do not require registration; additionally, no insurance is required and license plates do not have to be displayed.
Electric scooters may be operated on a trail, bicycle path, or bikeway; however, if the governing body of a local agency or local authority has jurisdiction over a trail, path, or bikeway, these governing bodies may prohibit the operation of an electric scooter by ordinance. You are not allowed to operate an e-scooter on the sidewalk. The driver must be at least 16 years old and must wear properly fitted bicycle helmet meeting regulated safety standards.
Electric scooters are permitted on roads that do not have bicycle lanes as long as the speed limit for that road is no more than 25 mph. Unless turning left or passing, the scooter must be ridden close to the right hand curb.
Florida statutes point out the difference between motorized scooters, motor scooters, mopeds, and motorized bicycles. According to Laws of Florida “motor vehicle” is “any self-propelled vehicle not operated upon rails or guideway, but not including any bicycle, motorized scooter, electric personal assistive mobility device, or moped.”
Motorized bicycle is defined as a vehicle propelled by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 mph on level ground.
Moped is “any vehicle with pedals to permit propulsion by human power, having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels; with a motor rated not in excess of 2 brake horsepower and not capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 mph on level ground; and with a power-drive system that functions directly or automatically without clutching or shifting gears by the operator after the drive system is engaged.” These vehicles can be operated on the roadways, no title is required, but registration is. However, if the top speed is limited to 20 mph even if it looks like a moped, it can be classified as electric bikes and thereby avoid the registration requirements for mopeds (e.g. Gigabyke Groove fits this category).
Any vehicle not having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, designed to travel on not more than three wheels, and not capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 mph is classified as a “motorized scooter” and is not allowed to be operated on the roadways.
Motor scooters (like Razor EcoSmart Metro) are motor vehicles, so they are allowed on Florida roadways, but must be titled and registered. Also, the driver must possess a valid driver’s license.
If you love the idea of riding an e-scooter on city streets, but happen to live in New York, you’re outta luck, the electric scooters and the electric bikes are illegal. Here’s a list of vehicles that cannot be registered or operated on New York State sidewalks, streets or highways, according to the DMV.
- Motorized Scooter – a device with a motor attached and a handlebar for a standing rider.
- Mini-bike – a small, motorized device with two wheels, created for off-road use that doesn’t qualify as a moped, a motorcycle or an ATV.
- Off-road Motorcycle (Dirt Bike) – A motorcycle designed for off-road use.
- Go-Kart – a small, motorized device with four wheels, created for off-road use, which is neither a motor vehicle nor ATV.
- Golf Cart – a small motorized device with four wheels designed to carry people.
- Motor-assisted Bicycle – a bicycle to which a small motor is attached. It doesn’t qualify for a registration as a motorcycle, moped or ATV and doesn’t have the same equipment.
Maybe this won’t stop you from rebelliously decide to zip around NYC on your e-scooter, but if you get pulled over, you might be facing a ticket. Or going to jail. However, the future looks bright for pedal-assist bicycles. The Department of Transportation recently published a new rule clarifying the legality of so-called pedal-assist bikes. The rule, which took effect July 28, 2018 legalizes electric bikes, also known as e-bikes, with motors that turn on only when the cyclist is pedaling and turn off when the speed hits 20 MPH.
The state of Texas defines electric bikes as a device that is designed to be propelled by an electric motor, exclusively or in combination with human power and cannot attain a speed of more than 20mph in electric only mode. Electric bikes may not exceed a weight of 100lbs. There are no licensing and registration requirements for electric bikes. The department or a local authority may not prohibit the use of an electric bicycle on a highway that is used primarily by motor vehicles.
Motor-assisted scooter is defined as a self-propelled device with:
- at least two wheels in contact with the ground during operation;
- a gas or electric motor not exceeding 40 cubic centimeters (40cc is approx. 1.2 hp, or just under 900W);
- a deck designed to allow a person to stand or sit while operating the device;
- the ability to be propelled by human power alone.
This does not include a pocket bike or a mini motorbike.
A motor-assisted scooter may be operated only on a street or highway for which the posted speed limit is 35 mph or less. Traffic laws which apply to bicycles also apply to motor assisted scooters and the operator must obey the usual traffic laws that bicycle operators must obey such as speed limit, signal turns, etc. TRC 551.302(d) states that some laws that apply to a motor vehicle do not apply to these scooters, which means you do not need safety inspection, driver’s license, registration or insurance to operate an electric scooter with up to 750w motor.
If you planning on taking an electric scooter on the road you are highly recommended to familiarize yourself with any local or municipal legislation. The best source of information is your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV). Start by going to their website and looking for Transportation Code that applies to you.
Is your scooter road-ready?
If you’ve somehow managed to clear the confusion about whether you are allowed to take your scooter on the road, let’s now talk about whether you should do it.
Riding small, toy-like electric powered scooters on the road is generally not allowed, and for a good reason. They are just not sturdy, fast or safe. Unlike smaller electric scooters that are designed for recreational operation, roadworthy scooters have to be sturdy enough and powerful enough to keep up with the traffic on the types of roads it travels. Street legal electric scooters have to be equipped with right tires, suspension system and steering for road driving and certain safety features, such as review mirrors, lights, turn signals, horn (requirements can vary by state.)
When you are riding your bicycle, skateboard, scooter or other device on the road, the road rules apply to you. And regardless of the regulations in your state, we always recommend wearing a helmet.
Street Legal Electric Scooters Examples
If all the explanations above were too confusing for you, let’s just cut to the chase. Here’s a list of 6 e-scooters that are allowed on the road. Some of them require driver’s license, some of them do not, which, again, varies from state to state. Go through the options and hopefully you’ll get an idea of what will fit your needs best.
1) Ford OjO Scooter
OjO is an electric scooter that perfectly fills the gap between the cheap motorized kick scooters that are definitely not intended for the road, and full-size motorcycles. But according to its extensive set of features, it is a perfect example of a roadworthy electric scooter. OjO scooter boasts strong aluminum chassis, has a headlight and a tail light, horn, both front and rear disc brakes. Every component is waterproof, and the all-weather motorcycle grade tires add to the stability and grip. The 500W hub motor propels this smart scooter to top speeds of 20mph, and you can go 25 miles on a single charge. On the list of amazing features are also the on-board charger with retractable cord and plug, and dual waterproof Bluetooth speakers that you can use to blast music while zipping around.
2) eDrift UH-ES295
As the electric scooter industry evolves, new design ideas pop up so fast, that it is hard to keep track. But some of the looks seem to stick around, just like this fat-tire electric scooter inspired by minimalist choppers with oversized tires. This electric scooters is powered by 2000w hub motor, and it’s very fun to ride. Low decks with low centers of gravity make for a great ride feel and handling, and you can turn by leaning, so the steering is kept at minimum. The top speed is 30mph, and the lowest range is 20 miles, while the 30Ah battery models it can go up to 65miles on a single charge.The scooter is very stable and robust it can haul up to 350lbs of weight, but it is also pretty heavy, weighing over 100lbs. Features of E-Drift electric scooter include LED Front Light, Keyed ignition with Digital Gauge, Hydraulic Disk Brake system, front suspension.
3) Razor EcoSmart Metro
It’s hard not to fall in love at first sight with this charming little electric scooter. Looking like a vintage bike, Razor EcoSmart Metro is pretty unique in many ways. This scooter has many features that make it completely road-ready: 16-inch pneumatic tires, rear disc brakes, adjustable seat and handlebar. EcoSmart Metro can go up to 18 mph, thanks to the 500W motor and 12V battery. It also comes with a nice bonus – its own set of tools. We are not sure if this scooter is technically “street legal”, but we have seen people riding it on the road, without problems. Just make sure that you wear helmet and get some bike lighting and reflective decals if you plan riding it at night.
4) GigaByke Groove
This is a 750w motorized bike that goes around 20 mph and reaches up to 35 miles per charge (in ideal circumstances). Because it is technically classified as an electric bicycle GigaByke Groove can be ridden without a license or insurance in most US states. It can comfortably transport two riders, and even has a foldable pegs for the passenger. Because of the steel frame and Lead Acid batteries it is heavy (148lbs) and rather uncomfortable for pedaling. However the motor makes up for this with the smooth ride and the ability to control speed with twist throttle. It also has lights, fenders, mirrors and a very sturdy build with front and rear suspension. All in all, it is a great deal, considering it is truly a proper vehicle at a very decent price.
5) Doohan iTank
Doohan iTank 2.0 a different kind of electric scooters, that stands out for its 3 wheel design. Powered by 1500W Bosch hub-drive electric motor, featuring a 28Ah 60V Li-Ion battery that provides max range of 70 miles and top speed of 28 mph, with the real ability to climb hills at 20mph, which is pretty impressive. Twin front wheels improve wet grip and braking, while the unique three wheel design gives you an improved stability, great handling and smooth turns. The reverse comes in handy, as iTank does not have a great turning radius. All in all this is an all-purpose, street-ready, electric moped. The only thing that would possibly turn you off this scooter is the price, which is a bit on the higher side. However if you consider that you are getting an actual vehicle, plus calculate all the money you would save on gas, it is a good deal after all.
In most states the electric scooter that can be classified as an e-bike, does not require you to have driver’s license to ride it, and doesn’t need registration or insurance. This usually mean that the electric motor that powers the scooter is up to 750W, and the top speed that you can reach is 20mph on the motor only. In this article we have tried to show you some options that require no license, no registration, which you can ride safely (and legally) on the streets of your city. If you have anything to add, or a question you can send a message or follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and leave a comment.