Explainer: Differences between e-scooters, bicycles, e-bicycles and speed e-bikes

There’s been much attention to new regulations covering e-scooters, which come into force today, but legal changes also come into effect governing a range of electric bikes — from e-bicycles to types of bikes that are now clearly viewed legally as mopeds, in other words, light motorcycles and not bicycles.

Only low-power electric scooters are now legal on Irish roads — the speed limit of 20km/h is widely seen as artificially low, especially when it’s 5km/h lower than for electric bicycles.

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Electric bicycles were previously defined in the Finance Acts related to the Cycle to Work Scheme, now clarity is given to their status in the Road Traffic Acts.

The explainer table below — and the version on Google Sheets — are published by IrishCycle.com, based on information published by the Department of Transport. It is an overview of the differences, not an exhaustive list of rules that apply. For example, it does not cover the requirements for lights during lighting-up hours or brakes, which are mandatory for all bicycles.

Devices are classed depending on their full requirements. For example, if a bike has pedals but the motor can go faster than 25km, then it will be classed as a higher-powered moped. If a scooter meets all other requirements but doesn’t have a manufacturer’s plate outlining the required detail, it is not road-legal. Similarly, if a bike’s motor max speed is 25km/h but it has a throttle, it may be classed as an L1e-B moped.

UPDATED: The motor tax for the e-mopeds listed below is €35 per year. Your bike will first need to be registered.

Image version of the explainer table:

Text version of the table:

Legal categoryPersonal Powered TransportersPedal cyclePedelecL1e-A e (higher-power) pedelecL1e-B speed pedelecL1e-B throttle
Other name/sLow power electric or e- scootersBicycle, trike, cargo bike, etcElectric or e- bike, e-cargo bikeMoped, e-mopedMoped, e-mopedMoped, e-moped
Appearance?Scooter which you stand onBicycle, trike, cargo bike, etcBicycle, trike, cargo bike, etcBicycle, trike, cargo bike, etcLike bicycle or light motorcycleLike bicycle or light motorcycle
Mechanically Propelled Vehicle?NoNoNoYesYesYes
Rules like a bicycle?Similar to bicycleIs a bicycleExactly the sameMix between bicycle and mopedMore like mopedMoped
Minimum user age?16-years-oldNoneNone16-years-old16-years-old16-years-old
Can carry passengers?Expressly not allowedIf designed to (ie extra seat)If designed to (ie extra seat)TBCTBCTBC
Legal category
Personal Powered TransportersPedal cyclePedelecL1e-A e (higher-power) pedelecL1e-B speed pedelecL1e-B throttle
Pedaling needed?No pedalsYes, unless freewheelingYes, unless freewheelingYes, unless freewheelingYes, unless freewheelingNo
Can move with throttle?YesNoNoNoNoYes
Motor cuts out at?20km/hNo motor25km/h25km/h45km/h45km/h
Faster with effort?NoDepending on user abilityDepending on user abilityDepending on user abilityDepending on user abilityNo/Depending on user ability
Rated continuous output?400WDepending on user ability250W1000W4000W4000W
Personal Powered TransportersPedal cyclePedelecL1e-A e (higher-power) pedelecL1e-B speed pedelecL1e-B throttle
Licence, tax, insurance etc
Licence needed?Not requiredNot requiredNot requiredNot requiredRequiredRequired
Motor tax needed?Not requiredNot requiredNot requiredRequiredRequiredRequired
Registration needed?Not requiredNot requiredNot requiredRequiredRequiredRequired
Insurance needed?Not requiredNot requiredNot requiredNot requiredNot requiredRequired
Motorcycle helmet needed?Not requiredNot requiredNot requiredRequiredRequiredRequired
High vis needed?Not requiredNot requiredNot requiredNot requiredNot requiredNot required
Personal Powered TransportersPedal cyclePedelecL1e-A e (higher-power) pedelecL1e-B speed pedelecL1e-B throttle
Road use allowed
Can use footpathNoNoNoNoNoNo
Can use cycle lanes/paths?YesYesYesYesNoNo
Can use bus lanes?YesYesYesYesNoNo
Can use local to national roads?YesYesYesYesYesYes
Non-motorway dual carriageway?YesYesYesYesYesYes
Can use motorways?NoNoNoNoNoNo
Personal Powered TransportersPedal cyclePedelecL1e-A e (higher-power) pedelecL1e-B speed pedelecL1e-B throttle
Certification and other
EU-Type Approval needed?Not requiredNot requiredNot requiredRequiredRequiredRequired
Manufacturer’s plate needed?Required (see notes)Not requiredNot requiredEU-Type Approval plateEU-Type Approval plateEU-Type Approval plate
Minimum wheel diameter?200mmNoneNoneNoneNoneNone
Max weight25 kg (including batteries)NoneNoneNoneNoneNone


Relevant legislation:

CORRECTION: The table above originally copied the Department of Transport’s wording regarding max power when what should be listed is “rated continuous output”, this was corrected within hours of the article being published. As part of the editing process, it was also incorrectly changed to show that L1e-A e (higher-power) pedelec and L1e-B speed pedelec required insurance. This is not the case; only bikes that fall under the L1e-B throttle category require insurance. This was also corrected as soon as it was pointed out.


  1. Interesting reading but 2 that stand out an e scooter is an mpv as you don’t use foot power it’s throttle only also the higher powered peddlers needing insurance will be interesting as no licence is required so how do insurance companies work that out. Thirdly the plate requirements will mean most current ebikes and scooters will be illegal as I haven’t seen plates on any of them or ones available in shops or online

  2. I believe insurance is not required for speed pedelec according to the information of gov.ie

    Thanks, for this. An article on how to register your e-moped would be fantastic. It’s not something ebike owners would be very familiar with.

    • That’s true as normally a sales garage does that for normal e mopeds I’d assume it will be similar to UK imports etc bring to nct centre to get reg

  3. So basically you can now legally cycle most higher powered pedelecs as long as you register it, pay your 35 euro a year road tax and hold an AM license? That’s actually an improvement

  4. Good read and thanks
    you so much for compiling that.
    I presume the barrier to building new light electric vehicles that are L1-e A is the cost of passing EU type approval which may run into hundreds of thousands of money units….is that right?

  5. Thanks for the article.
    I completely understand the lower speed limit for scooters. Only two points of contact and those small wheels. A dangerous mix, pitty they didn’t opt for a bigger wheel as size, comming into force down the road for future sales. They should also take every opertunity on these releases to educate users to pass slower cyclists safely with a respectable distance (1m min). A lot of people have no manners.

  6. As the Manager of LEVA-EU, I have been and still am very closely involved in the European technical regulations for light electric vehicles, including Regulation 168/2013. From that position I can report with certainty that there are two errors in the article above. In the Department of Transport’s table, it’s stated that L1e-A and L1e-B Speed Pedelecs, are not allowed to move with a throttle. I’ve had a lengthy discussion with the European Commission on this, which resulted in the Commission’s explicit confirmation, that any type of technology is allowed in L1e-A, including throttles. I have the written document to prove this. As for L1e-B, there is nothing in Regulation 168/2013, nor in the 4 Implementing Regulations that would legally prevent Speed Pedelecs to have a throttle.
    Second error is the correction of “maximum power” to “rated continuous power”. The correct term is “maximum continuous rated power”. LEVA-EU has been working relentlessly to have the power requirement removed because it’s a huge obstacle, currently especially for cargobikes. Furthermore, it’s completely irrelevant for the safety of the vehicles. Two vehicles with the same weight and the same speed but different maximum continuous rated power, still have the same kinetic energy. It cannot be explained to any sensible person that these two vehicles are subject to completely different technical rules. That goes to show that when the European Union devised the current rules
    they were not exactly hindered by a lot of technical knowledge of the light electric vehicles involved. We have now been waiting several decades for adequate and adapted rules for light electric vehicles. We sincerely hope that the new EU Commission and Parliament will give light electric vehicles the attention they deserve, given their potential contribution to sustainable mobility.

    • Hi AE – EU,

      Just for clarity, people in Ireland need to follow Irish law, not directives.

      If a directive is incorrectly transposed in a way which isn’t allowed, that’s an issue for the European Commission to raise if they choose to.

      I’ll look at changing the minor, technical difference in wording. Thanks.

      I’d agree too that there seemed to be an issue with focusing on power output and with the different rules, but this article isn’t my opinion, it’s an explainer of the law

      • Sorry, your reply sounds like a whole new approach to European law. A Regulation is a European law that is directly transposed into national law, whereas a Directive first needs to be approved by the National Parliaments. Usually there are provisions in a Directive, which give some latitude to member states. That is not the case for Regulations. The Regulation I’m mentioning is 168/2013, which defines the different L-category vehicles. Every member state, including Ireland, had to implement those categories in its national law. That includes category L1e-A, powered cycles. The definition of that category was unclear about whether it only allowed for pedal assistance or for all technologies, including a throttle. It took me a long time and a lot of hard work to obtain, from the European Commission, the confirmation that it does indeed allow for all technologies. I would therefore appreciate optimal accuracy in the “explainer of the law”. So please correct the table where it states that a throttle is not allowed on an L1e-A and on a speed pedelec because a throttle is allowed in both cases.

        • Hi again,

          My job with this article is to reflect Irish law as best as possible. If the article does not reflect Irish law, you might please point out the Irish regulations which you think differs from what’s in the article.

          Member States are regularly are not compliant with following EU law like they should — but in this case the Irish law went thought the EU-level regulatory process. If you’re not satisfied with it, you should contact the European Commission and/or the Department of Transport.

          Sorry, I’m not being pedantic here, and there may be a future article around the above but this article is about what law people in Ireland need to follow when they are using the roads here. They need to follow Irish law and, even if Irish law is not what it should be, it could be a prolonged and costly case for the average person to make that case in Court, so, I can only advise them to follow Irish law for now.


    • But a higher powered vehicle will get a heavier driver up to maximum speed faster, with a larger kinetic energy
      Or could impose larger force on a lighter driver, with a risk of loss of control


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