What is the difference between Pedelec and S-Pedelec E-Bikes?

ebike on mountain trail

When searching for information on the types of e-bikes available for purchase and the laws surrounding them, you will come across the terms ‘Pedelec’ and ‘S-Pedelec’ quite a lot. Here, we will dive into the differences between them to help you to decide which one is the best fit for your needs.

Pedelecs are pedal-assist e-bikes. They assist while pedalling up to 25km/h and output is limited to 250 watts. They usually don’t have restrictions such as licences, insurance or age limits. S-Pedelecs assist while pedalling or with a throttle up to 45km/h, without power limits. There are licence or insurance requirements, age limits, and often are forbidden on cycle paths.

Of course, there are plenty more nuances and country-specific laws to understand the different categories of e-bikes out there. Read on to understand how it affects you.

Detailed Overview of Pedelecs and S-Pedelecs and the Differences Between Them

“E-bike” is used as a generic catch-all term for all electronically driven bicycles. Most of the time, it refers to the popular Pedelecs category (Pedal Electric Cycle). However, the term has not yet become commonly used in everyday language, which is why most people speak of e-bikes, although they actually mean pedelecs.

Pedelecs are specifically pedal-assist electric bikes. There is an electric motor, most commonly a hub motor, that assists while pedalling up to 25 km/h (15.5 mph) or 32 km/h (20 mph) depending on local laws. Pedelecs are commonly used for commuting as they allow the rider to sweat less on the way to work. They are especially useful in hilly areas.

S-Pedelecs (Speed-Pedelecs), on the other hand, are often classed as mopeds, and require a licence, insurance, and are subject to minimum age requirements in most countries. S-Pedelecs often deliver a boost up to 45 km/h (28 mph). There are also throttle-controlled, power-on-demand type S-Pedelecs, which deliver power to the wheels regardless of whether or not the cyclist is pedalling. These are also classified as mopeds or even motorcycles and are also subject to licence requirements. You will need special tires capable of handling higher speeds if you wish to cycle one of these high powered machines.

Pedelecs at a Glance

  • The maximum output for the pedal assist is 250 watts
  • The electric motor assists the rider up to 25km/h (15.5mph) in Europe and 32 km/h (19.9 mph) in some US states. Above this speed, the motor cuts out and you are pedaling on your own power
  • A pedelec is legally regarded as a bicycle (in many countries), meaning that a licence, insurance or a helmet is not mandatory. It’s always advised to wear a helmet of course!
  • A pedelec may be used on cycle paths in most jurisdictions, however, you should double-check your local laws and guidelines
  • Using a child seat and trailer with a pedelec is permitted
  • In the EU, there is no age restriction for pedelecs. In the US, there some are state-level minimum age restrictions, ranging from no age limit, or from 14 years up to 18 years depending on the class of e-bike. In the UK the minimum age is 14 years old

S-Pedelecs at a Glance

  • In the EU, the maximum output is a whopping 4000 watts, and pedal-assist works until 45 km/h (28 mph)
  • The typical motor of an S-Pedelec outputs much higher power on average, 500 watts being common, and up to 1000 watts and beyond are also available
  • S-Pedelecs are classed as mopeds in the EU, therefore insurance and a licence are mandatory
  • S-Pedelecs usually are subject to age limits, as they are often classed as a moped
  • S-Pedelecs are usually not permitted to be used with a bike trailer for children or dogs, or a with a child seat
  • A helmet is required, a road-legal motorcycle helmet is advised due to the higher average speed
  • The usage of cycle paths mostly depends on national and sometimes local laws within the EU. In Denmark for example, S-Pedelecs are permitted on cycle paths
  • Due to the greatly increased power output, S-Pedelecs usually must have heavier duty components, such as bike chains and brakes, to cope with the increased power

Pedelecs vs S-Pedecles Comparison Table

The following table provides a useful between comparison between these two categories of e-bike. These figures are for the EU. Note: the laws can change at any time. Always check with your local laws to be sure you are in compliance with local regulations.

Common usesCycling to work, casual city riding, assisting those with mobility issuesEnthusiast level e-bike category for those who wish to travel at higher speeds, those who wish to achieve maximum performance in mountainous areas, those who wish to travel longer distance on cycle tours
PopularityPedelecs are the most common types of e-bikes soldS-Pedelecs are comparatively rarer, due to their higher price tag, heavy-duty components, and more restrictive ownership requirements
Motor outputUp to 250 wattsEU- no limit. In Germany- up to 4000 watts
Motor assistance cut offUp to 25km/h (15.5mph)Up to 45 km/h (28 mph)
Mandatory driver’s license?NoYes – country dependent
Mandatory insurance or license plate?NoYes – country dependent
Mandatory helmet?NoYes – country dependent
Is a child seat or trailer allowed? YesNo
Can I use cycle lanes?YesDepends on the particular country. In some countries, S-Pedelecs are only permitted on the road
What is the minimum age requirement?No limit16 years

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Pedelecs?

The advantages of pedelecs are their convenience, the huge range of models available, their relative affordability compared to S-Pedelecs, and their wide availability around the world. There are now hundreds of millions of pedelecs on the roads around the globe, so they’ve caught on in a big way, and with good reason. They enable people who previously were intimidated by the thought of jumping on a bike – such as users with limited mobility – to regain their freedom on the road. They take cars off the roads by enabling convenient commutes to millions of people. And they are simply great fun to ride!

The main disadvantages of pedelecs is their higher cost compared to regular bikes, the fact that the power cuts off at 25 km/h – a speed that is reached very quickly on a flat cycle path, and their increased weight and complexity compared to a regular bike. They are also somewhat more complex to maintain, for example, if you change the tire on a rear-wheel hub motor pedelec, it’s more difficult to get the wheel and hub off the bike frame.

From personal experience, the 25 km/h speed assist cut off point is the biggest disadvantage for the average cyclist. I cycle to work every day on a flat cycle path, and not being able to get the maximum power assist to maintain speeds of 30km/h or somewhat is frustrating. Overall though, the advantages of pedelecs outweigh the disadvantages.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of S-Pedelecs?

The main advantage of an S-Pedelec (Speed-Pedelec) is, of course, it’s higher speed! If you want the maximum e-bike performance without compromises, an S-Pedelec is the e-bike for you. You will get to work quicker, and if you’re using an S-Pedelec in a city with bad traffic, you’ll almost certainly save time and headaches on your commute. If you opt for a throttle assist S-Pedelec, you can even take a rest while you zip along at high speed.

The main disadvantage of a S-Pedelec is the higher price, the heavier weight, and the fact that there are some additional mandated requirements such as licences, registration, licence plate and so on. Of course, having such a high powered machine increases the risk of e-bike theft too. Make sure to check out the article on e-bike theft prevention.

What is the typical Price for Pedelecs?

Many quality Pedelecs fall into the price range of approximately €1,500 to €3000 (approx $1700-$3500). Of course, you can pay much more than this if you wish to go more upmarket with premium brand Pedelecs. If you find new pedelecs cheaper than this, you will likely be making quality sacrifices, often from Chinese bike makers. If you are shopping for a pedelec with a limited budget, it’s better to buy a high quality used pedelec rather than an unknown product from a supplier who may not adhere to safety standards.

What is the typical Price for S-Pedelecs?

High-quality S-Pedelecs typically sell in the €3000-€7000 ($3500-$8300) price range, although the prices can be much higher! Premium carmaker Audi have released an e-bike that cost upwards of $20,000 (approx €17,000)!

So there you have it! I hope you found this comparison between Pedelecs are S-Pedelecs useful.

Happy cycling!

Nikolaj Carlsen

Nikolaj loves cycling! He currently owns two bikes. He used to commute to work with a car but switched to an e-bike in 2017. He loves e-bikes and sharing his knowledge on everything cycling related. He has been part of the Amped Cycling Team since early 2020.

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