Electric Kick-Scooters & Electric Scooters, Are They Legal in the UK?
Kick-Scooters or E-Scooters
Electric kick-scooters or E-scooters, which are ridden standing up and need to be pushed off before the motor will engage can be confused with electric scooters. Electric kick-scooters are not legal for use on roads or pavements currently, but are under review with a number of rental schemes pilots in operation. Electric kick-scooters typically have a continuous power of 250 Watts and are generally limited to 15.5 mph, with a range of between 10-20 miles.
Will Kick-Scooters Become Legal in the UK?
Trials are under way in several UK cities with electric kick-scooter rental schemes. These regulate access by only renting to registered and validated customers of 16 and over. Under the trial, scooters are limited to 12.5 mph, cannot have a seat and cannot weigh more than 35 kg. It’s worth noting that this is massively heavier than the majority of e-kick-scooters you might have already seen, which weigh nearer 15 kg. The reason the government has permitted kick-scooters of 35 kg is to allow rental operators to fit much larger power packs, so that they have a greater range and need charging less often. The problem this presents is the increased weight makes them harder to stop and will demand more powerful brakes. A kick-scooter will have a far poorer stopping distance than a road-legal scooter, motorcycle, or a bicycle for that matter, which presents obvious safety issues and explains why speed has been limited to just 12.5 mph.
There’s increasing pressure to legalise privately owned electric kick scooters and we should expect legislation for this category of eco-friendly urban transport to be clarified during 2021.
The use of a privately owned, electric kick-scooter can attract a fine of up to £300 and result in six penalty points being applied to the offender’s drivers licence.
Are Electric Scooters Road Legal?
Electric scooters are road-legal motorcycles designed to provide a degree of weather protection to the legs and feet, which both sit inside the body of the scooter. Electric scooters have to be registered and insured, and just like motorcycles they fall into four different licence categories;
Moped-scooters limited to 28 mph which can be ridden on a CBT licence or with a car licence issued before Feb 2001
Scooters up to 11 kW (14.5 bhp) which can be ridden on a CBT or an A1 licence
Scooters up to 35 kW which require an A2 licence
Scooters above 35 kW which require a full A licence
Are E-bikes Legal?
Any vehicle that is self-powered, as is the case with electric kick-scooters, currently needs to be registered, insured and driven by a licenced operator. E-bikes get around this legislation by needing to be pedal-assisted and the motor will cut-out 15.5 mph. E-bikes are designed so they can only exceed this speed if the rider pedals fast enough to take over from the electric motor. The motor will only re-engage if the user is peddling when the speed falls below 15.5 mph and relies on constant rotation of the pedals. If an e-bike is modified to provide powered assistance above 15.5 mph it automatically becomes illegal, as it would technically require registration, insurance and a licenced operator wearing an approved crash helmet.
If an e-bike is involved in an accident and found to have been modified, the rider can be charged with riding an unregistered and uninsured motor vehicle, as well as riding without a crash helmet and a licence. Technically, e-bikes cannot travel at more than 30 mph unassisted, as their motors are limited to 250W, so they don’t have sufficient power to do so without pedal assistance or a fairly steep downhill run. The other limiting factor is battery size, as these become heavy if they are too large. Currently there’s no battery size limit, but anything greater than 1000 Wh (Watt hours) would weigh over 5 kg, so practically they’re usually closer to 500 Wh.