In the late 80's the first market-ready product was developed by the Swiss. The Japanese were first to mass produce this product in 1993 and nowadays the Chinese produce about 30 million items annually. In Germany, the popularity rose and it became a downmarket product. This product is the electric bicycle... a bicycle which simplifies the traditional riding experience through additional assistance - by means of an electric engine, a battery and a controller.
Although a worth mentioning number of electric bicycles was not only sold in the Netherlands but also in Suisse and in Germany in 2008, there still are disagreements about an universal term. Concretely, the categories of electric bicycles in Europe consist of pedelec, s-pedelec and e-bike. A pedelec (short form for "pedal electric cycle") with pedal assistance up to 25 km/h and a s-pedelec that goes up to 45 km/h are distinguished from an e-bike which can also give electric assistance without pedalling. More specifically, assistance of e-bikes is limited to a maximum of 45 km/h. De facto many market players, specialist journals or sector experts use the term "e-bike" synonymously for electric bicycles and thereby as a generic term for all mentioned types of electric bikes. That term is more common and shall better reach the general public.
So the term "e-bike" often leads to confusion because in contrast to a pedelec an e-bike can also be ridden without pedalling. The only thing you have to do is to twist the grip or to press a button and speed off. However, the fast market development ensured that it is comprehensively spoken of "e-bikes" instead of pedelecs nowadays.
E-bikes without pedalling are legally classified as light motorcycles and are permitted to go up to 45 km/h. If the e-bike gains higher speeds then it is called e-motorbike.
The cyclist himself can set the power provided by the engine via twist grip. An enhancement of the total power is attainable while pedalling.
An e-bike with a maximum engine power of 500 Watt and a maximum speed limit of 20 kilometers per hour is considered a moped in Germany and there is no requirement to wear a helmet. However, an operating license, an automobile insurance and a license plate are mandatory.
Especially for people with physical limitations who normally could not rely on a bike - an e-bike suits perfectly. With the help of an e-bike even people who do not exercise will be able to manage long distances and ascents.
E-bikes as well as pedelecs are suited the commute to work or to go shopping. Particularly when going to town these bikes are advantageous compared to using cars - for example when you try to find a parking spot.
Before you buy an e-bike you should definitely do a test drive. E-bikes often differ in handling and riding experience. You should make sure to ride the bicycle on different terrains to get a fair general impression.