Electric Motorcycles: UK Law, Licences and Regulations


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Last Updated: 4th October 2021

First things first – electric motorcycles and mopeds are perfectly legal in the UK. But they do require a license and insurance.

Just to be clear, we’re not talking about pedelecs, electrically-assisted push bikes, or powered micro-scooters.

Our discussion focuses on machines that mimic traditional, combustion bikes and scooters in terms of size, speed, handling, and braking power.

There are weird new EVs popping up every day – often faster than legislation can keep up with them. For this reason, we’ve limited our discussion to motorbikes already covered by the law.

Different Laws – Similar Principles

Despite some confusing messaging, the legalities of electric motorcycles are underpinned by the same logic as those surrounding combustion motorbikes.

More powerful electric bikes have age and license restrictions. Electric motorbikes, mopeds, and scooters with limited power are easier to get a license for and easier to insure. 

L1e-B Electric Scooters And Mopeds

Electric scooters and mopeds restricted to 28mph are in category L1e-B. They are governed by laws very similar to those concerning standard 50cc mopeds.

Riders must be 16+ and have passed a CBT.  If you have a category AM or P on your existing driving license, you can also use this class of scooter/moped. 

The AM or P stamp is found on most full UK driving licenses issued before 2001. Anyone with these stamps on their driving license or with a full motorcycle license isn’t required to take a CBT course before riding an electric scooter/moped.

We would, however, recommend doing a rider skills course of some kind if you’ve never ridden a two-wheeler before. 

For riders with licences issued after 2001, you will need to take a CBT and follow the same restrictions as for combustion engines.

You can find out more by reading the following articles:

L3e-A1 Electric Motorcycles And Scooters 

Electric scooters and motorcycles that can go faster than 28mph fall into this classification. Obviously, this is a much bigger category than L1e-B.

There are subdivisions based on power but all riders need to be 17+ and have passed a CBT at a minimum. Holders of a full motorcycle license can also ride any machine in this class. 

VehicleLicenseRequirementsMinimum Age
Up to 11kwA1CBT, Theory Test, Practical Test17
Up to 35kWA2Direct access route – theory and practical
Progressive access route – 2 years experience on A1 motorbike and a further practical test
19
UnrestrictedADirect access route – CBT theory and practical (you must be at least 24)
Progressive access route – held an A2 licence for a minimum of 2 years – practical test (21 or over)
24 (direct access)
21 (progressive access)

Peak Power vs Continuous Power

One huge difference between combustion and electric vehicles is how their power is rated under the law. Combustion motorcycles are rated on peak power (the highest average power output recorded over a specific time).

The rating/homologation of electric bikes is based on continuous power – an output the motor can maintain indefinitely under normal circumstances. 

This is significant because of the way most electric motorbikes are deliberately restricted to satisfy legal criteria.

The power output that many of these bikes are capable of isn’t reflected in their consumer configuration. An 11kW motor, for example, is capable of much higher peak power if unrestricted. The 11kW output is deliberately enforced by a control unit. If this unit is bypassed or altered (which is generally not difficult to do), the same motor can crank out much more power.

This is illegal for road use but very common.

Insurance companies may be slow to cover electric bikes due to the sheer number of people who modify their road-legal machines after purchase. 

Editors Note: Altering the output of your bike so that it’s higher than the OEM setup is potentially illegal and could void your insurance.

E-Torque

Torque is another huge factor to discuss. E-torque is a totally different animal.

Looking at the kW or bhp numbers of an electric motorcycle can be disingenuous to those used to combustion machines. Even with relatively low bhp numbers, these bikes are capable of massive torque.

Even the smallest of electric machines deliver a kind of smooth, continuous acceleration that is totally unique to the format – and potentially dangerous to the uninitiated.

This may explain why, despite their legal status, electric motorcycles aren’t always easy to insure. Read more about electric motorcycle insurance.

FAQ’s

Do I need a license to ride an electric motorbike?

Yes. Which license you need depends on the power output of your bike. Look at the power output of the bike in kW then compare it to the chart in the article above to see what license is required. 

What are the consequences of not having insurance on an electric motorcycle?

There is a range of consequences, none good. You could be fined 300GBP on the spot, have 6 points added to your license, or go to court to face an unlimited fine and potentially get disqualified from riding. The Police can also destroy the bike, at their discretion.

Do I need insurance to ride an electric motorcycle?

Yes. Just like combustion bikes, if you want to ride your electric motorcycle on public roads, you must have third-party insurance at a minimum. Read more about electric motorcycle insurance in the UK.

Why is insurance for electric motorbikes a hassle?

This is a new category of vehicles. Insurance is a very old kind of business, built on minimising risk. They don’t have loads of data yet, so many companies are slow to offer packages. 

Do I need road tax for an electric motorcycle?

As they are emission-free, electric mopeds and motorcycles are exempt from road tax.

Do I need licence plates for an electric motorcycle?

Yes, license plates need to be displayed in the normal way.

Do I need an MOT for an electric motorcycle?

Yes, an MOT is required three years from the date of the vehicle’s first registration.