Engineer's Dilemma: 'Hot Rod' Your E-Bike, Pay $34,000 or Go to Jail in France

France will level harsh charges against engineers who tune-up e-bikes, but there are ways around it.
Brad Bergan

For engineers, sometimes the personal gets political. Or so it does in France when e-bikes are tuned up for more speed or power. Previously a pet project, tuning up an e-bike is now punishable by law, and the maximum sentence is hard to believe, reports Electrek.

Tuning up e-bikes for higher speed could land a casual engineer with a maximum fine of up to €30,000 (US $34,000).


Suped-up e-bikes come with jail time

Even moneyed engineers who can pay the fine will find themselves charged under French statutory provision L317-1, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

No joke, the way out for the criminal mastermind behind tuning up e-bikes is hard-time in jail. If that's not enough, one's driver's license can be suspended for up to three years.

And this goes just as hard for the economy of e-bike tuneups. The law restricting speed an power enhancements on electric bicycles also goes for importers, dealers, and distributors. Any person or company who imports, sells, or creates devices that derestrict e-bikes might be served the same maximum fine, but with a two-year jail sentence.

Limits of e-bike power in France

In France, the legal limit for e-bike power is 25 km/h (15.5 mph) for standard electric bicycles. Some e-bikes, like the special class, called the Speed Pedelecs are allowed to go up to 45 km/h (28 mph).

However, few e-bikes in France conform to the strict 250W regulation, mostly because the actual wattage (or horsepower) isn't easy to measure without sophisticated lab equipment. Slapping on a "250W" sticker is often enough to bring 400W e-bikes into compliance, but all e-bikes have to follow the speed limit because going much faster is something only high-powered e-bikes can do.

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E-bike company compliance

Several e-bike companies let suped-up e-bike modifications slip by as open secrets, mostly because it's allowed them to sell compliant bikes while letting customers take on the liability that comes with tuned-up bike performance.

Other companies, however, have taken steps to curb unlawful tune-ups. Bosch's motors actually lock users out if they attempt to modify e-bike speed limits, which sends the user back to the dealer to unlock the bike.

France is renowned (or infamous) for taking harsh measures to regulate personal electric vehicles. In 2019, France enacted new speed limits specifically to reduce scooter speeds in Paris, bringing the limit down to 8 km/h (5 mph). This goes to show that even if we can take the danger out of vehicle emissions with e-bikes, but the need for speed remains.