E-Bike Motor Legislation Change Leaves Industry Baffled

Sydney, NSW

A last-minute change in e-bike motor legislation in NSW has bike industry leaders confused about the purpose of the amendment.

On 24th February, the Government announced the NSW Minister for Metropolitan Roads, Natalie Wards, had changed legislation in the Road Transport Act 2013 that limited the maximum power of e-bike motors allowed on public roads.

The Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Electric Skateboards and Bicycles) Regulation 2023 increased the permissible level of continuous running power from 250 watts to 500 watts, even though industry representatives advised against the change during government consultation on the proposed amendment.

Bicycle Industries Australia general manager Peter Bourke said he hadn’t seen any information that provided a logical explanation for the change, which was adopted one month before the State election and a little over a week before the government went into pre-election caretaker mode.

He said reading between the lines, from the information he had received, it was possible an element within the disability access sector had successfully lobbied the Minister.

Repeating his advice to government representatives during the consultation, Peter said he could see no benefit to active transport and the bicycle industry from changing the restriction to 500 watts – and potential for some negative outcomes.

He said the change had taken NSW out of step with the rest of Australia and the majority of e-bike markets around the world, which all had 250 watts as the maximum.

While Europe has a 1,000-watt category for large cargo bikes, and the US has a 750-watt ceiling for e-bikes, the new NSW limit was not consistent with any of those markets.

Peter said as a result, it was almost certain none of the major e-bike drive train manufacturers would create a motor in line with the NSW 500-watt limit.

“I have also spoken to a couple of the smaller brands – who have total control of their bike designs and manufacturing – and even they say it’s probably not worth the hassle of having a model specifically for the NSW market,” he said.

“While a limit higher than 250 watts could be advantageous for larger people riding up hills, that potential benefit will probably be negated by the fact it’s unlikely they’ll be able to buy a bike with a 500-watt motor.

“We certainly support increased power for cargo bikes that carry heavy loads, but cut and paste a known quantity that is effective. There’s a specific level that has been operating effectively in Europe for the exact purpose of cargo bikes … introduce it.”

Peter said industry leader Bosch has already developed a 1,000-watt motor for the European market

He said Australia Post has expressed its need for 1,000-watt motors for its delivery vehicles, while an increase to 500 watts would not be enough to justify the expense of updating its fleet.

“While the benefits to the industry are negligible to non-existent, we can see some negatives, including the potential for people to take their 500-watt bikes across a border and ride them illegally in other States,” he said.

Peter anticipates an impending NSW Government announcement that might shed light on the reason for the legislative change and, in the meantime, BIA will continue to seek an explanation.

The amendment also strengthened definitions of scooters and e-bikes and their classifications as road users.


  1. Luke Van Kraanen on 7th March 2024 at 4:11 pm

    Now we can get away with having a front 250w and rear 250w for a combined 500w.

    They changed one thing and only by 50% of what people want (1000w and a 45kmh speed limit would be best in my opinion)

  2. Timz on 9th July 2023 at 2:39 pm

    The author doesn’t seem to understand that there is demand in Australia for e-bikes greater than 200-250W. For overweight, disabled, inexperienced, older, weaker riders it’s essential and having a throttle makes it safer. I’m lucky that I’m able bodied but have given up on 250W hub motors as I use cargo bikes since having kids and moved to mid drive kits as they integrate better with gearing. Fortunately kits are available that allow 350-500-750 which are mostly indistinguishable for the local police to detect. Poor policy forces people to break the law simply to get a better solution for their needs.

  3. Private EbikeRider on 5th May 2023 at 10:06 pm

    As a 59y.o who has been a licensed car driver since the age of 17y.o I feel it is wrong that I am so very limited with the ability of my 250w e-cargo bike. Yes, I am aware I can now use a 500w motor and have looked into it, however it is very expensive to upgrade. I don’t need a stronger motor, I merely need the ability to use a throttle as it is virtually impossible to start from the bottom of a hill without one. Also, I would like to point out to everyone here that e-bike riders are allowed to ride faster than 25km per hour!
    Most people seem to believe the legal limit is 25kmph when that is not exactly true or correct.
    Due to this when riding my 250w e-cargo bike at approximately 40kmph which I can easily achieve without the assistance of a motor (once it cuts out at 25kmph), I’m constantly concerned that some “do-gooder” is going to call the police and try to cause problems, or I will be stopped by a police officer who also has only basic knowledge of the legislation as do most people. I feel that exemptions should be in place for licensed drivers for the use of a throttle or they should make throttles legal on all legal e-bikes.
    The Transport N.SW site reads as follows, and the source is also listed below.
    How fast can I go on an e-bike?
    The electric motor should not assist the rider when travelling more than 25km/h but does not prevent the rider travelling faster with their own pedalling or going downhill.
    Source = https://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/operations/walking-and-bike-riding/e-bikes?fbclid=IwAR1lhK5i455I1nrJP__6Xkdc3kdG9HEkE-GGTRnCavyzC4Iv44OdHGq3ZKA

  4. Lee on 28th April 2023 at 10:01 am

    Everyone knows a top speed of 25kmph is inadequate for many users, especially given bikes are governed by road laws and speed limits. Australia’s nanny state experiment with mandatory helmets has been a complete disaster with generations of Australians unable to ride a bike, let alone have experience with how to deal with bikes on shared roads. Instead, we have an obesity epidemic, suburban sprawl, zero cycling infrastructure and a population of compliant rule observers are snitches. Its time we set the speed and power output to suit the purpose and let adults choose their own level of risk

  5. Kurt Rihs on 10th March 2023 at 3:29 pm

    We must find a national solution for e-bikes. Motors up to 1000W – no matter for cargo, or fat bikes, hub or crank; taking riders and cargo well over 150kg in weight. Thumb or twist throttle operation up to 25km/h, including cargo; pedal assist maximum speed of 35km/h. Sealed, pre-programmed maximum speed limits, unable to be overridden, except for lowering them, for riders unable to safely travel at those speeds. The regulation must also allow for indicator and brake lights to be fitted. No matter what regulation is agreed to; its strict enforcement by a specialised police unit is essential for reducing accidents, often caused by illegal, unlicensed, high speed e-bikes and e-scooters.

  6. Max Ring on 10th March 2023 at 12:21 pm

    I know of e-bike retailers, in WA, offering 500watt options for so called off road use.
    They don’t advertise it but its available if you ask. 500watt conversion kits are readily available from on line retailers. It sounds like the authors are a little out of touch saying 500watt is not available.

    • tribebikes on 10th March 2023 at 7:37 pm

      500 watt are readily available in Hub drive or after market mid drive (that use a standard bottom bracket), but are not as popular in integrated mid drive motors which are the most efficient and are on most of the high end bikes.

  7. Michael Roth on 10th March 2023 at 12:05 pm

    750 W or 1,000 W are the 2 obvious choices if a power limit is desired, to follow standards in USA or EU and enable cargo bikes.

  8. tribebikes on 10th March 2023 at 8:49 am

    Maurice, I know BIA have been lobbying for increases to the max limit from 25 to 32km. Regarding being consistent with European standards, they’ve obviously got a much more established industry, particularly when it comes to cargo. I think being consistent with A major market (whether it be US or Europe) just makes sense when it comes to brands bringing bikes and components into Australia.

    Personally I do welcome the change, even with its inconsistencies. As a cargo bike company, we’ve long been lobbying for higher power limits to haul heavy loads and deal with the hills that most Australian cities are built around. However, until it is adopted at a national level, there’s simply no point in bringing out a line of bikes for a single state.

    Regardless, it feels somewhat pointless tinkering with these laws when seemingly every second e-bike sold in Australia blatantly flouts them. In my suburb, 14 year old kids are flying down footpaths with throttles, hub motors that have to be 750w and brakes that are not fit for purpose. Unfortunately it will likely take a tragedy for something to be done about it, and then even those of us who work hard to comply will be swept up in more regulation and red tape.

  9. maurice2552 on 10th March 2023 at 5:42 am

    I’m a little concerned reading things like “should be consistent with the European…”. This was the logic used when the 250W/25kph system was introduced in Australia. The premise of copying Europe is flawed due to two false assumptions:

    1 – Everything is great in Europe and no changes are needed
    2 – Needs in countries outside of Europe are the same as inside Europe

    Anyone who has cycled in Sydney or Auckland as well as Berlin and Amsterdam knows that the second assumption is completely flawed – the road layout, topography and distance between home, work, leisure and education is completely different.

    Perhaps fewer people know that the 1st point is also an incorrect assumption as it does require a bit more research and thought. While certainly there are more people riding in Europe than Australia and the adoption of the European laws last decade did introduce a lot more e-bikes to the Australian market, that doesn’t mean the rules are perfect. 25kph is a drag in Europe just like here – you can see that by the size of the ‘tuning’ industry in Europe and the popularity of 45kph Speed Pedelec models (in the narrow set of situations where they are permissible to ride). You also just need to have a look at how many cities and villages in Europe have cycling conditions that resemble Australia more than Holland.

    It’s true that having just one state introduce a 500W rule is a clumsy move for all the reasons pointed out in the article. However, that doesn’t mean we have to make it just like Europe to get access to more bikes. Come have a look at the situation in New Zealand – the rules are just a little more relaxed than Europe which means we have access to all bikes not just from Europe but others too. The max power is 300W and there is no max speed limit. Throttles are allowed and so are e-scooters etc. The result – our default speed for Bosch, Shimano motors etc is 32kph and there’s an abundance of 45kph options too. We also have bikes with throttles, which in addition to being more disability-friendly, are generally the most useful city transport e-bikes, especially given the scarce cycle infrastructure

    • liam on 28th April 2023 at 11:03 am

      Rational and Logical and sensible NZ is a great example and INNOVATION is growing rather than just IMPORTERS who pump and dump.

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