South Carolina ebike laws

Last Edited
November 14, 2021

South Carolina ebike laws

Christian Angelo

South Carolina is a beautiful place to ride a bike in. First time visitors and longtime residents enjoy strolling around, having solo or group rides, and conquering exciting trails in South Carolina. While regular bicycles are fun to play with, electric bicycles are also paving the way for a new bicycling experience.

E-bike regulation and legislation in South Carolina is not as clear as the other states. The state is behind others who have already updated their e-bike laws to match federal standards. Here’s what you need to know about the e-bike laws in South Carolina.

Are e-bikes defined in South Carolina?

In 2020, the law on motor vehicles was updated to finally give e-bikes their own definition. An “Electric-assist bicycle” and a “bicycle with helper motors” is defined as  a low-powered electrically assisted bicycle having:

  • Two or three wheels
  • Fully operable pedals
  • An electric motor that does not exceed 750 watts or 1 horsepower
  • A top assisted speed of less than 20 miles per hour
  • Met the requirements of the Federal Consumer Product Code
  • An electric motor that disengages or ceases to function when the brakes are applied or the rider stops pedaling

How are e-bikes regulated in the state?

All bicyclists that operate an e-bike are subject to rights and must hold responsibilities applicable to bicyclists. E-bikes do not need to be registered. You don’t have to bring a license when riding. Insurance is not required. Since an e-bike is considered a vehicle, you have to follow the rules of the road. 

How about e-bikes with high-powered motors?

The legal definition does not include e-bikes with motors that exceed 750 watts. This means that your e-bike may fall under another vehicle category depending on how powerful it is. 

If the electric motor is between 750 watts - 1500 watts, the e-bike falls under the moped category. Mopeds are subject to registration, and the rider needs a license to operate one. Insurance for mopeds are not required, and having a title depends on your choice. 

If the electric motor exceeds 1500 watts, your e-bike is now considered a motorcycle. Motorcycles require registration, liability insurance, and a motorcycle license.

Quick Chart

Here’s a quick summary for e-bikes that fall under the legal definition:

Liability insurance

Comparison with other states

South Carolina, along with 43 other states and the District of Columbia, define electric bicycles in some manner. The rest lack specific e-bike definitions and usually place it under categories like mopeds or motorized vehicles. A total of 26 states use a three-tier classification in defining e-bikes. South Carolina does not. 

South Carolina, along with 23 other states, does not implement helmet laws for e-bike operators and passengers.

Do’s and Dont's when bicycling

Here are important reminders to stay safe while enjoying a fun e-bike ride:


  • Wear a secure and protective helmet when riding.
  • Follow the traffic at all times.
  • Always use hand signals from the left side to indicate your movement.
  • Left turn signal - extend hand and arm horizontally
  • Right turn signal - extend hand and arm upward, except that a bicycle operator may signal from the right side of the vehicle with the hand and arm extended horizontally
  • Stop or decrease speed signal - extend hand and arm downward
  • Only ride on your bike’s permanent seat.
  • Ride in the safe direction as the traffic
  • Ride to the most practical and safest right-hand curb or edge, unless overtaking, making a left turn, avoiding fixed or moving objects, avoiding vehicles, pedestrians, and potential hazards, or the lane is too narrow
  • Ride abreast only when allowed on paths or roadways for exclusive bicycle use.
  • You must keep one hand on the handlebar at all times. 
  • Equip your e-bike with front and rear lights, and side reflectors to increase visibility at night or in the rain.
  • Check local laws first before riding your e-bike on trails.


  • Do not carry anything that would prevent you from having at least one hand on the handlebar.
  • Do not overload the e-bike.
  • Do not attach yourself or your e-bike to any vehicle or trolley
  • Do not use hand signals if it will make you remove two hands on the handlebars
  • Do not overtake faster vehicles.
  • Do not drive under the influence of alcohol.
  • Do not leave your e-bike in the rain for a long period of time.

What to do in a crash

  • Stay calm, take your time to recover, and move slowly
  • If possible, take a picture for documentation (note the license plate number of any vehicle involved)
  • Move in a safer place, preferably the sidewalk or shoulder
  • Move you bike as well if you are able to, ask help when necessary
  • Conduct a head scan
    • Any signs of concussion
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Are you able to look in every direction without any pain
    • Helmet cracks
    • Are you aware of your surroundings (date, time, location)?
  • Conduct a body scan
    • Broken or dislocated bones, blood loss
    • Limbs 
    • Wounds or injuries
  • Limit your movement to prevent any further injuries
  • Contact your local emergency services for fast medical attention
  • Bystanders are always there to provide assistance
  • Do a safety check on your bike
  • Do not travel with your e-bike, if you are not capable of doing so or the e-bike is not functioning properly and safely

You may watch this video from Global Cycling Network to learn more about what to do in the event of a crash.


South Carolina is an amazing place to be in, especially with an e-bike. The legal definition of e-bikes in SC covers those with motors that do not exceed 750 watts. Higher-powered e-bikes may fall under mopeds or motorcycle categories. E-bikes are regulated like bicycles and they hold the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities. 

It is essential to remember the do’s and don'ts’ in bicycling. The safety reminders will ensure that you are safe from the moment you take your bike outside to the time you arrive home. Remember to always have fun and be responsible on the road!

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