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, just like those delivery guys on electric bikes, but if you get pulled over, you might be facing a ticket. Or going to jail.
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) Jetson Electric Bike
The Jetson bike is a nice looking electric scooter/bike with 500 watt direct drive hub motor built right into the alloy rear wheel. While it does have pedals, it only has one speed for pedaling, which means it’s ultimately best suited to electric drive. The Lithium Ion battery is removable for convenient charging and will propel you at 20mph up to 40 miles per single charge. It features an optional boot for storing stuff and the lights, turn signals and horn for safety when riding in crowded environments.
3) TaoTao ATE-501
This is a Chinese electric scooter, and while it’s probably not the best in its class (it’s not even close), it is very cheap for a street legal electric scooter. Powered by a 500 watt brushless hub motor along with a gel lead acid battery it goes up to 20mph, and it will take you to about 20 miles on a single charge. The battery needs 8 hours to fully recharge. It has all the features you need to ride around town, and the overall quality matches the price.
5) X-Treme XB-504
X-Treme XB-504 by X-Treme Scooters is designed as an alternative for commuters that want to cut the expense of owning and operation a vehicle like a motorcycle or a car. It comes with a 500W brushless rear hub motor powered by 48V battery pack. Since it is classified as an electric bicycle you won’t needed a registration or a driver’s license to operate it. XB-504 is loaded with all the features you will find on a full size gas scooter, and it will save you gas money. The top speed is 20+mph, and the range is up to 20-25 miles on a single charge. The only downside is that you will have to assemble it yourself, since it is not delivered fully assembled.
3)Volta by weride
The Volta is very versatile electric moped, with an unbeatable combination of value and features that suit any rider. It’s design is very Italian, thus it’s named after Alessandro Volta, one of Italy’s most famous scientists. He made a lasting impact by creating the world’s first battery, his Voltaic pile for storing electricity. The Volta has the biggest battery as well as the longest range of the wēride lineup of 100% electric mopeds. It features a 2000W electric motor and 72V 20 ah battery.
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.