Electric mopeds are exploding in popularity, especially thanks to new models with higher speeds and power levels. As more electric moped startups begin producing the popular mini-EVs, legal questions have begun to stir about how and where these bikes can be ridden.
Their pedals might make them bicycle-like, but their motorcycle-level speeds and power can place them outside of standard e-bike regulations.
Legalizing fast electric mopeds
Huck Cycles, a relatively new player in the electric moped market, is trying to head off such concerns at the pass by producing electric mopeds with valid vehicle identification numbers (VINs) and manufacturer certificates of origin (MCOs).
The company only got its start earlier this year, but has been inundated with demand from new riders.
While Huck Cycles’ entry-level 750W electric mopeds are street legal as glorified e-bikes nearly anywhere in the US, the company’s 1,000W to 3,000W models hang out in decidedly murky waters, legally speaking.
They can be electronically limited to 750W levels (the max allowable power for an electric bicycle in most of the US), but when unlimited, they can reach speeds as high as 60 mph (96 km/h) with their 3kW motors.
That makes for a thrilling ride on trails or private property, but can quickly run afoul of the law on the street when attempting to operate under electric bicycle laws.
Huck Cycles isn’t alone in this dilemma. ONYX’s RCR electric moped can also reach nearly 60 mph (96 km/h) and has proven incredibly popular with commuters who use electric mopeds to beat traffic (especially in lane splitting states) and enjoy a more thrilling commute.
The vehicles themselves aren’t necessarily illegal on public roads, they just aren’t legal as electric bicycles. Instead, they often fall into moped or light motorcycle classes based on their speeds and performance.
To register the vehicle at most state DMVs, a VIN and MCO is required. But for low-volume production vehicles like electric mopeds, this is often an expense that is forgone by most companies.
Now Huck Cycles has gone through the process to obtain proper VINs and MCOs so that its electric mopeds can be registered as legal mopeds or motorcycles, should riders desire.
The process wasn’t easy or simple, as company owner Brett McCoy explained to Electrek. But by building their frames locally in North Carolina and assembling their bikes on site, they have more control over the process.
Brett explained that part of his goal for creating Huck Cycles was to create true electric motorbikes that riders could use responsibly on roads, and not to simply create hooligan bikes.
By facilitating a way to legally register this growing class of high-speed electric mopeds, he believes this is a step in the right direction for responsible riding.
I love it. I’ve long championed the cause of high speed and high-power electric bikes and mopeds as viable transportation alternatives. I wrote a whole manifesto about it last year. And while I get my fair share of criticism, I’m undeterred. I think these types of EVs can be a hugely important part of moving the US toward more sustainable transportation and cities that are nicer to live in.
There are those that don’t want to register their electric mopeds because they enjoy not being “part of the system” or paying yearly fees. For those people, I say just stick to an e-bike. You can go up to 28 mph (45 km/h), and that’s fast enough for many people.
But for anyone that wants to ride even faster than typical e-bike speeds, registering as a legitimate electric moped seems like the right thing to do. The more responsible riders we have, the better we can make the case that more cars should be replaced by smaller, efficient two-wheelers like these.
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