Scooters, Mopeds, Etc... in California

What exactly is a scooter? Motorized bicycle? Or an electric bike, for that matter? Do you need the same kind of license for them as you do a traditional motorcycle?

Well, yes and no. Let’s find out how the state defines these other types of motorized vehicles and whether you need to get a special license or endorsement with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

CA Motor-Driven Cycles

California defines motor-driven cycles as motorcycles with engines of 149 cc or less. (The motor-driven cycle category doesn’t include motorized bicycles.)

Note that you:

Mopeds (Motorized Bicycles)

You need a motorcycle license OR M2 endorsement to operate most motorized bikes or mopeds.

Motorized bikes and mopeds in California are defined as having:

  • 2 wheels or 3 wheels.
  • The ability to go no faster than 30 mph on level ground.
  • A motor that produces under 4 gross brake horsepower.
  • An automatic transmission.
  • An electric motor.
  • Pedals IF it’s NOT powered only by the electric motor.

NOTE: CA law requires manufacturers of mopeds to notify buyers that their insurance provider may not cover mopeds. Contact your insurance provider to find out if your motorized bicycle is covered.

Specialty Plates and ID Card

You will need to obtain a specialty license plate and ID Card for your motorized bicycle. To apply complete a Motorized Bicycle (Moped) Instructions/Application (Form REG 230) and submit it along with payment for the $21 fee to the address listed on the form.

Motorized Scooters

California defines motorized scooters as having:

  • 2 wheels.
  • An electric motor.
  • Handlebars.
  • A floorboard to stand on while riding.
  • The option of a driver’s seat.
    • The driver’s seat CAN’T restrict your ability to stand while riding, or the option of human propulsion.

You can operate a motorized scooter with any class of valid CA driver’s license and without registering it with the DMV.

Electric Bicycles in California

California electric bicycles have:

  • Fully operable pedals.
  • Electric motors of fewer than 750 watts.

You don’t need a driver’s license or an endorsement to operate an electric bike in CA; however, it’s important to understand the state’s regulations when it comes to operating these types of bikes.

There are 3 classes of electric bicycles:

  • Class 1:
    • Low-speed, pedal-assisted electric bike.
    • Motor provides assistance ONLY when you’re pedaling and stops providing assistance once you’ve reached the maximum 20 mph.
  • Class 2:
    • Low-speed, throttle-assisted electric bike.
    • Motor EXCLUSIVELY propels the bike and does not provide assistance once you reach the 20 mph threshold.
  • Class 3:
    • Low-speed, pedal-assisted electric bike.
    • Has a speedometer.
    • Motor provides assistance ONLY when you’re pedaling and stops assisting when the maximum speed of 28 mph is reached.

Class 3 electric bike operators:

  • Must be at least 16 years old.
  • Have to wear a bicycle safety helmet.
  • Can’t carry passengers.
  • Can drive in bicycle lanes ONLY if local ordinances allow it.

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