E bike

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Pedelec Lapierre Overvolt HT 900 with Bosch mid-engine
Pedelec rear hub motor retrofit kit from BionX
Pedelec bottom bracket motor retrofit kit from Sunstar P

An e-bike , electric bike or pedelec ( acronym for Ped al Ele ctric C ycle ) is a bicycle with an electric auxiliary motor. The terms are largely used synonymously.

Legal definitions in some countries

In countries other than the following countries, different definitions and regulations may apply to pedelecs, e-bikes and electric bicycles.


There are three legal categories of electric bicycles in Germany:

  • Everything that drives a maximum of 25 km / h with motor assistance (with a maximum of 250 watts continuous power) and requires pedaling from 6 km / h is treated in the same way as a bicycle according to Section 1, Paragraph 3 of the Road Traffic Act: The same regulations apply to the use of cycle paths . There is no license plate, liability insurance , driver's license or helmet requirement . There is also no strict liability on the part of the driver for operational damage in accordance with Section 7 (1) StVG . 95% of all electrically assisted two-wheelers sold fall into this category.
  • Everything h and engine support (with a maximum of 4 kW) between 25 km / is a 45 km / h, is a moped , no moped .
  • Anything that does not travel more than 25 km / h and does not require you to pedal yourself is both a moped and an e-bike within the meaning of Section 39, Paragraph 7 of the StVO : a single-seat, two-wheeled moped with an electric drive that moves at a speed of more than 25 km / h switches off automatically . If the design-related maximum speed is up to 20 km / h, it is also a light moped without mandatory helmet .

In the last two cases, it concerns vehicles of the EC vehicle class L1e , they require an operating license and insurance; License plate, driver's license and helmet are mandatory. If you do not need to pedal yourself, this is especially a bicycle with an auxiliary motor .

Section 2 (4) of the StVO says: “Outside built-up areas, you can use bike paths with mopeds.” Further things are regulated by corresponding traffic signs,all of which are listed and explainedin the Moped article.

A number of manufacturers offer moped tuning / vehicle tuning that switches off the respective throttling / locking at certain speeds. Vehicles modified in this way no longer fall into the original category. You are therefore obliged to take out insurance in accordance with Section 1 of the PflVG . The use in public space without car insurance is therefore a criminal offense ( § 6 PflVG).

Up until the new version of the StVO from 2013 there were legal uncertainties due to Section 42 (2) No. 5 StVO: "Anyone who moves a moped by pedaling must use the [signposted] cycle path". In the early days, the assignment to vehicle categories was also handled differently than today, which entailed further legal uncertainties.

Austria (StVO and KFG)

According to § 2 Abs. 1 Z 22 of the StVO 1960 two types of electric bicycles are distinguished:

  • lit. "B) a [bicycle] that is additionally equipped with an electric drive according to § 1 para. 2a KFG 1967 (electric bike)" (hence hybrid drive according to the definition of pedelec )
  • lit. "D) an electrically powered vehicle, the drive of which corresponds to that of an electric bicycle within the meaning of Section 1 (2a) KFG 1967" (hence an all-electric drive)

Electric bicycles - regardless of whether they are hybrid (pedelec) or exclusively electrically driven - are not considered motor vehicles according to Section 1, Paragraph 2a of the KFG, as bicycles within the meaning of the StVO 1960

  1. a maximum permissible power of not more than 600 watts
  2. a design speed of not more than 25 km / h

If the above criteria are not exceeded, such an electric bike / pedelec is not considered an electric motorcycle under Austrian law and therefore does not require a type approval or vehicle registration. As for normal (muscle-powered) bicycles, the provisions of the Bicycle Ordinance also apply to electric bicycles . The same road traffic regulations apply to steering these as for muscle-powered bicycles, etc. a. the obligation to use cycle paths with single-track bicycles. The product liability provisions apply to their (commercial) placing on the market.

"Fast pedelecs" (with pedal assistance up to 45 km / h) are not permitted as bicycles in Austria. Whether it is a moped according to Art. 1 Para. 2 lit. a) Directive 2002/24 / EC (or as a motorbike according to § 2 Para. 1 Z. 14 KFG) can be typified and registered as a motor vehicle has not yet been handed down (October 2010).


In Switzerland, an e-bike with a maximum 500 watt motor that supports up to a maximum speed of 25 km / h is legally considered a light motorbike . A bicycle with a maximum speed of up to 45 km / h (S-Pedelec) is legally considered a moped with a driving license - and a moped license plate is mandatory.

With regard to the rules of Swiss road traffic , e-bikes and pedelecs are treated the same as bicycles ; Nevertheless, a category M driver's license is required . However, if the user is at least 16 years old, light motorcycles can also be ridden without a driver's license. It is compulsory to wear a helmet for those e-bikes that are assigned to the motorbike category ; only a recommendation is made for light motorbikes. The motor bike ("moped") is regulated in Art. 175 VTS . The minimum age for riding a motorbike is 14 years according to Art. 6 VRV .

Allocation of e-bikes and pedelecs to the categories of motorcycles and light motorcycles:

Light motor bike:

  • Motor power: maximum 500 watts
  • design-related maximum speed: 20 km / h
  • Maximum speed with pedal assistance: 25 km / h

Motor bike:

  • Motor power: between 500 and 1000 watts
  • design-related maximum speed: 30 km / h
  • Maximum speed with pedal assistance: 45 km / h

Electric bicycles with three wheels are considered rickshaws, they form a separate vehicle category Electric rickshaw within the meaning of Art. 14 VTS .

The bfu - Advice Center for Accident Prevention has published a tabular summary of the Swiss rules on electric bicycles in its bfu fact sheet No. 4 .

In particular, the permissible engine outputs are higher than in the EU directive , namely 500 W with pedal assistance up to 25 km / h. For S-Pedelecs with pedal assistance up to 45 km / h, up to 1000 W is permitted. However, the pedelec drive is not explicitly prescribed, but only implicitly assumed between 20 and 25 km / h or between 30 and 45 km / h.

European Union

"Bicycles with pedal assistance, which are equipped with an electric motor auxiliary drive with a maximum rated continuous power of 0.25 kW [250 watts], the support of which decreases progressively with increasing vehicle speed and when reaching a speed of 25 km / h or earlier if the driver stops while pedaling, is interrupted [.] "

are explicitly mentioned in Art. 1 Para. 1 lit. h) Directive 2002/24 / EC, as one of several exceptions to which the Directive does not apply. According to Article 20 (3) “the Member States may not prohibit the first entry into service of vehicles that meet the requirements of this Directive.” According to Article 23, the Directive entered into force on May 9, 2002 and was held by the Member States until May 9, 2003 to be implemented in national legal and administrative provisions in accordance with Article 20 paragraph 1.


Specialized Turbo from 2013

The first bicycles that can be called e-bikes already existed before 1900, but this name did not exist at that time.

Egon Gelhard from Zülpich laid the foundation stone for the pedelec principle in 1982 with a study, the Gelhard e-bike . The motor support depends on the pedaling power and is only given when the pedals are turning. This idea was first realized in a bike that took part in the Tour de Sol in 1990 and won the corresponding category. It came from Michael Kutter, who founded the Swiss company Velocity (now Dolphin E-Bikes ), brought prototypes onto the market from 1992 and went into series production in 1995. Kutter is the inventor of the EVO control ( EVO stands for Electronic Variable Overdrive ).

From 1993 the Japanese company Yamaha made the pedelec more popular in Japan under the name Power Assist . Yamaha introduced the PAS control ( PAS stands for Power Assist System ).

From 1995 the first flyers from the Swiss company BKTech AG (now FLYER AG ), founded in the same year, were launched on the market in small series. They also became known outside of Switzerland. In Switzerland, the Flyer brand name has become synonymous with the pedelec.

At the end of the 1990s, a few large bicycle manufacturers (such as Merida , MKB / Yamaha, Kynast ) dominated the market. In 2005, after a five-year downturn, a new sales boom began with the use of the new and lighter lithium batteries . Design changes also contributed to this; the e-bikes became “fancier” and worked less as a means of rehabilitation .

Some manufacturers (including Victoria ) have installed the original distinguishing feature - namely the throttle twistgrip  - in e-bikes. However, on these bikes you still had to pedal in order for the motor assistance to switch on.

In Germany, the number of e-bikes more than doubled from 1.3 million to 2.8 million between 2012 and 2016; the share of electric bicycles has risen to 13%.

In Switzerland, over 100,000 e-bikes were sold for the first time in 2018; around every third bicycle sold was an e-bike.

Conceptual development

The term pedelec was created in 1999 by the linguist Susanne Brüsch in order to clearly differentiate bicycles with automatic pedal assistance from those with drive controlled by the throttle grip .

The term pedelec was originally used for those electric bicycles that only switch on electrically when the driver pedal. This is differentiated from e-bikes in which the driving speed can also be regulated independently of pedaling, for example only by turning the handlebars. In general, this definition is often not used. On the one hand, more and more dealers are referring to their pedelecs as e-bikes, not least because e-bikes in the real sense, in which pedaling only plays a minor role, are rarely sold in Europe. On the other hand, pedelecs increasingly have starting aids that make it possible to accelerate using a twist grip without pedaling. This means that a clear distinction between the terms e-bike and pedelec is no longer possible.

Electric drive

Pedelec: switched on when the crank turns forwards
E-bike: switch on / off with hand switch

E-bikes differ from normal bicycles in that they have an additional electric motor , a traction battery , control electronics for the motor and a sensor for crank movement detection. The electric motor can be installed as a front-wheel, rear-wheel or mid-engine. Most models also have a battery charge indicator and a motor power setting, either continuously or divided into support levels. Components such as frames and brakes are also adapted depending on weight, motorization and battery placement, and standard bicycle parts are often used.

A hydrogen drive is under development . An initial series of 600 bicycles was sold in 2017.


Electric bike from Deutsche Post in Braunschweig

Using an e-bike has various advantages (usually higher average speed than conventional bicycles; possibly even higher in urban areas than with a car; depending on the condition of the rider, greater range of action).

The lower emissions (only low noise emissions ) are advantageous compared to other motorized means of transport, in particular to vehicles with internal combustion engines , provided that e-bikes or pedelecs are used as an alternative to these.

The acquisition costs are considerably higher than for a conventional bicycle . In addition to the costs of normal wear and tear , there is also the need to replace the battery at a later date . Compared to other means of transport, however, the electricity costs of a few tens of cents per 100 km are very low .

General usage experiences

Pedelecs from Deutsche Bahn with a hub motor in the rear wheel and a battery in the frame , model Jetstream by Riese and Müller

E-bikes reach speeds of 25 to 45 km / h and more , depending on the power of the motor, the person driving and the approval . Average trained riders achieve roughly the performance of non-motorized bicycle athletes with a fast e-bike, but get less far with the usual batteries (without replacement). The high average speeds of fast electric bikes make them the fastest vehicles on average over shorter distances in urban areas.

The earlier hesitant acceptance of electric bicycles resulted primarily from the history of accumulator technology. If bicycle technology is considered mature, this has not been true for battery technology for a long time. Batteries with a short or very short range, memory effect , etc., hindered their popularity, especially in the low- price segment . Since European manufacturers in particular had the over-50s target group in mind for a long time, only appropriately designed bikes were placed on the market for a long time. This led to the initial “grandma bike image” of electrically assisted bikes, which in some cases still lasts.

Modern electric bicycles today have traction batteries , mostly based on lithium polymer accumulators , more rarely based on lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO 4 ) accumulators . In contrast to older technologies, modern rechargeable batteries show clear advantages (high energy density, thus greater range with lower weight, longer service life, no memory effect). A battery must be designed for the short-term maximum current consumption of the motor. However, this is generally ensured with modern accumulators. Older lead-acid batteries only existed if special high-current drive batteries were used. In the past, numerous e-bike batteries could not withstand the high current load in the long term because the cells used were not capable of withstanding high currents, which led to overloading in particular when electric bicycles were frequently ridden on inclines. This problem is also eliminated in modern accumulators by what is known as battery management; the current flow may be interrupted in the event of overload or overheating.


Electric bicycle filling station in Brautgasse at Ulm Minster

A battery with a capacity of 10 Ah at a voltage of 36 V (mass 1.9–5.1 kg) has an energy content of approx. 36 V × 10 Ah = 360 Wh (corresponds to the energy content of 32 g gasoline). The conversion of electrical energy into mechanical work takes place, depending on the efficiency of the motor and the motor control, with heat loss. Typically, this results in losses of around 25 percent. Thus, an e-bike with a 70 kg rider (total mass ≈100 kg) could theoretically travel 21 km on a 1.4% gradient on battery power - although this calculation example is never relevant in practice because the rider is on a pedelec always have to pedal myself. The total range depends on a large number of factors (weight, incline, size of the battery, tire pressure, selected support mode, etc.). It is therefore almost impossible to give a general range. With the current state of the art, depending on all these factors, this is roughly between under 40 and over 120 km. (This limitation of the operating range only applies to those driving operations in which motor assistance is available). On some models, two rechargeable batteries that can be switched on one after the other are accommodated in luggage bags as standard.

Regeneration, the so-called recuperation , is only possible with wheel hub motors with direct drive (without freewheel) . As with a dynamo, the kinetic energy during braking is converted into electrical energy for charging. This can significantly increase the range in city traffic or in hilly areas. In independent tests, the range was increased by 11%. Both in test reports and in the operating instructions of some manufacturer models it is pointed out that the outside temperature also influences the range by similarly high factors. Overall, the influences (with the same battery capacity) are described as so diverse that z. According to Derby Cycle, for example, "the greatest achieved range can be up to 7 times greater than the lowest range".

Unlike a gasoline-powered vehicle, the battery cannot be “refueled” within a few minutes; a battery charging cycle takes several hours, depending on the model. Many models can be changed in a few seconds.

Electric bikes have a much cheaper power-to-weight ratio than conventional motorcycles, but their range is much smaller.

Life span of the accumulator

Bosch Li-Ion battery "Powerpack 400" (36 V, 11 Ah, 400 Wh) for Bosch pedelecs

The capacity of the accumulator is exhausted after a certain number of charge-discharge cycles, so that the range drops too far. How many cycles it enables depends on the chemistry of the battery, the quality of the control and charging electronics used and the usage behavior of the user. The most commonly used lithium cobalt dioxide accumulator is specified with around 500 cycles. With the rather seldom used lithium iron phosphate accumulator , cycle numbers of over 1000 are possible; thereafter the capacity has decreased to approx. 60%. Advanced battery management concepts with conditioning of individual cells during operation increase the service life of the batteries. They are particularly found in high-quality lithium-based batteries. According to several studies, Li-ion batteries have a significantly longer service life if they are frequently recharged in between instead of always completely discharging a battery and then fully charging it again. The specified number of charging cycles can be roughly doubled by regular partial charging while avoiding complete discharges as far as possible. However, several partial loads only count partially as a charging cycle. The ambient temperature also plays a significant role when charging and storing the batteries. As a rule, room temperature is the guideline here; Values ​​around 10 ° C are ideal. Li-ion batteries should not be stored unused for a long time, either when they are fully charged or when they are empty. A charge level of around 50% is ideal.


For e-bikes, specified technical requirements apply in order to continue to be legally considered a bicycle and to meet the corresponding safety requirements. With fast pedelecs (assistance up to a maximum of 45 km / h), the higher speeds pose additional risks. So it can be B. when passing maneuvers to misjudgments of the speed. In order to clarify the consequences of such critical situations, the Accident Research of the Insurers (UDV) carried out a research project with driving tests, technical tests and crash tests.

In 2016 (2014), 3901 (2223) people had an accident in Germany in which a pedelec or e-bike was involved, of whom 62 (39) were fatal. In 2018, the research institute “Accident Research of Insurers” ( UDV ) reported that the number of accidents has increased by 30 percent every year since 2015, also because with electrical support “even older road users [...] generally drive faster”.

In the event of a battery fire - e.g. B. After the battery has exploded - as with electric cars, special containers are required for removal.


Web links

Commons : E-Bike  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: E-Bike  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Electric bike  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Electric bike  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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  2. according to the two-wheel industry association, quoted from [1]
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  4. What you should know about the insurance protection of pedelecs ( Memento of the original from March 27, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. - Information from the Association of the German Insurance Industry @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.gdv.de
  5. z. B. E-Bike and Pedelec Tuning: Increasing the power of the motor support
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  1. See pp. 5–15.
  2. See p. 9.
  3. p. 12ff.
  4. p. 14ff.