What is a pedelec?

What is a pedelec?

Every industry has its own terminology for different groups, segments and kinds of products that exist in that field. Sometimes those terms spill over into the mainstream and become part of the conversation among consumers. Think of “wearables”, “SUV’s” or IP addresses. These all started out as terms used inside various industries and crossed over into the retail landscape and general use.

Sometimes there’s no need to ask marketers to come up with a better term than what you already have.  

The e-bike business has its own lexicon too. One of the terms that you may have come across is “pedelec”, a shortening of pedal electric cycle. It’s used in different contexts and, confusingly, doesn’t always refer to the same thing and so we thought it would be a good idea to clarify just what a pedelec is (and isn’t).

The primary identifying characteristic of a pedelec is an electric motor that helps to propel the bike forward. “Helps” is an important word here because something that is powered only by an electric motor is not a pedelec. E-bikes are pedelecs because riders are assisted by the electric motor but they cannot be powered by the motor alone—riders have to pedal in order to activate the motor. If the pedaling stops, so does the motor.

Pedelecs can be used as conventional bikes too, if you want. That is, you pedal to activate the electric motor but you don’t have to. A simple switch allows you enable or disable the motor whenever you like. This means that if you’re riding to get a workout, you can. It also means if getting a workout is the last thing on your mind and you just want to cruise along in comfort you can do that too.  

Pedelec is essentially a term that describes vehicles in the space between conventional bikes and scooters and motorcycles. E-bikes obviously have more power than a traditional bicycle but they’re still different than engine-powered transport that requires no effort from the rider.

Think of it this way. If you’re on two wheels and the only way to go forward is to pedal (or roll downhill…), then you’re on a conventional bicycle. If you’re on two wheels and you have a throttle that controls an engine and you can move around without any pedaling action on your part, you’re on a scooter or a motorcycle. But if you have motor assistance that only kicks in when you’re doing part of the work, you’re on a pedelec.

Got it?

The pedelec classification is especially useful in legal contexts and for the regulation of the use of different forms of transport. Many jurisdictions make special provisions and assign certain rights and responsibilities to riders of e-bikes based on their unique characteristics. Generally speaking, most jurisdictions treat pedelecs like conventional bikes when it comes to use of bike lanes, helmet laws, licensing, etc. Scooters, mopeds and motorcycles are typically subject to different rules when it comes to these and other related issues.

So there you have it. The next time you read something about “pedelecs”, think of cruising along in pedal-assisted comfort on a JIVR!

Don’t forget to read more about what makes JIVR stand out from the e-bike crowd here.