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How to Legally Drive an E-Bike in China

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Category: Useful Tips
How to Legally Drive an E-bike in China

Getting around in China is surprisingly easy – all major cities have extensive bus and subway networks that allow you to get to your destination in a very affordable way. Still, nothing beats the convenience and freedom of having your own vehicle. Buying a car in China can get pricey, and you will also need to obtain a local Driving License before you can hit the road.

Take a look at some of our previous articles: How to Get a Driver’s License in China

That’s where e-bikes come into play. In addition to offering a more maneuverable and cheaper alternative to traditional cars, electric bikes are arguably one of the fastest ways to weave through the sometimes chaotic traffic in major urban areas.

However, there are a few important rules to be aware of before you make the decision to purchase your own e-bike. In this article, we give you the lowdown on how to legally buy and drive an e-bike in China.

What You Should Know About China’s New e-bike Regulations in 2019

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released extensive new regulations regarding the use of e-bikes across the country, effective since April 2019. Based on international standards enforced in the EU and Japan, the new regulations bring major updates to the technical requirements of e-bikes. Specifically, vehicles should now respond to the following criteria:

  • Speed cannot exceed 25km/h
  • Maximum 48V or 400W engine
  • Weight should be lower than 55kg

The full legal document, Safety Technical Specifications for Electric Bicycles, is available here in Chinese. Failure to meet any of the above requirements effectively means that your vehicle will not be considered as an e-bike by authorities. This is the case of most scooter style electric bikes, which according to the new regulations, would require the owner to have a proper Driver’s Permit to legally drive around town.

As a prospective buyer, you are now left with fewer options than before, mostly lightweight bikes with integrated pedals like the one on the left below.

China ebikes- allowed and forbidden

Where to Buy an E-bike

You can buy an e-bike online through Taobao, although we would recommend to purchase it offline at a local retailer shop. This way you will get to compare different models and get a better sense of the size and features of each e-bike. The seller you bought the bike from may also help you with the registration process. Asking other expats for recommendations n where to purchase is always a good idea.

Cost-wise, a standard e-bike will set you back about 2,500 RMB – 3,500 RMB (260 USD – 500 USD) with higher-end brands usually retail their vehicles between 5,000 RMB and 8,000 RMB (730 USD – 1,200 USD).

How to Register Your New E-bike

To alleviate traffic congestion in China’s busiest cities, authorities have started to clamp down on unlicensed e-bike drivers. Regulations vary from city to city:

  • Beijing: Owners must register their e-bike within 15 days from purchase and get the proper license plate
  • Shanghai: Owners must register their e-bike within 15 days from purchase and get the proper license plate
  • Shenzhen: e-bikes must be registered with a proper license plate. In addition, helmets are required – failure to wear one will result in a 200 RMB (USD 30) fine
  • Guangzhou: e-bikes are not allowed

If you are not sure about the current regulations in your city, try to check with the nearest traffic Management Bureau (交管局).

In theory, any bike sold after April 15, 2019 should meet the latest requirements. However if you decide to buy a second-hand bike from an individual seller, it is important to verify that the bike is eligible for licensing. Local traffic management authorities now keep a catalog of all authorized electric vehicles eligible for a license plate.

You can check if your e-bike model is on the list here if you live in Beijing or here if you live in Shanghai.

The registration process is fairly straightforward as long as you have all the documentation ready. More specifically, you will need to bring the following documents with you:

  • Passport (original and photocopies of the cover page and visa)
  • A copy of your temporary housing registration
  • The purchase receipt of the e-bike
  • Certificate of conformity (合格证 in Chinese), which you should receive form the seller

You will need to go to the Traffic Management Bureau in your area and fill an application form to register your e-bike. The process is free, and the license plate will usually be issued after 10 working days.

Conclusion

E-bikes are truly one of the best commute companions for expats in China. The fact that you do not need a specific Driving License to use one makes it an appealing option for foreigners who do not want to go through the process of getting their own car here or are just in China for a short term.

Still, it’s crucial not to rush to buy an e-bike, especially if you are buying a second-hand one. With new regulations in place, you might find yourself in a tricky position if your brand-new e-bike does not meet the latest standards.

Similarly, if you own a bike but haven’t registered it yet, make sure to do so as soon as possible to avoid hefty fines. Offenders can be fined up to 2,000 RMB if caught driving an unlicensed e-bike.

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