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Low powered vehicles

There is a range of low-powered devices that New Zealanders use for travel or recreation. While these vehicles and devices offer the benefit of increased mobility, they can also increase your safety risks on and around the road.

Low-powered vehicles that do not require registration or a driver licence

The following do not meet the definition of a motor vehicle or have been declared not to be a motor vehicle and you can use them without registration or a drivers licence. 

Electric scooters or e-scooters

An electric scooter is designed in the style of a traditional push scooter, with a footboard, two or three wheels, a long steering handle and an electric auxiliary propulsion motor. In order to meet the requirements for a low-powered vehicle, the wheels must not exceed 355mm and the motor must have a maximum power output not exceeding 300W.

Read the Gazette notice(external link)

Please note: the maximum possible wattage stated of the electric motor is not necessarily the same as the maximum power output of the e-scooter.

Maximum power output is determined by multiplying the battery voltage by the controller’s maximum amperage output. For example, a 600W motor and a 12V battery with a controller that has a maximum output of 21amps creates a maximum power output of 252W – so 252W is the relevant figure, even though the motor has a potential output of 600W.

E-scooters can be used on the footpath or the road – except in designated cycle lanes that are part of the road (which were designed for the sole use of cyclists).

On the footpath the user must:

  • operate the device in a careful and considerate manner
  • operate the device at a speed that does not put other footpath users at risk
  • give way to both pedestrians and drivers of mobility devices.

On the road, e-scooters must be operated as near as practicable to the edge of the roadway.

A helmet is not legally required to be worn when using an e-scooter, but is recommended.

Mobility devices

Mobility devices are vehicles designed and constructed for people needing help with mobility because of physical or neurological impairment and powered by a motor of up to 1500 watts.

Read more about mobility devices

Power-assisted cycles

A power assisted cycle has an auxiliary electric motor with a maximum power not exceeding 300W and is designed to be primarily propelled by the muscular energy of the rider. Refer to the definition and requirements(external link).

The rules for cycles will apply (see cycles below).

The following examples are not power-assisted cycles but are mopeds:

  • Cycles fitted with petrol motors
  • Low powered scooters/mopeds
  • Cycles designed primarily to be propelled by an engine not the muscular energy of the rider 

Yike bikes

  • You must wear an approved cycle helmet; and
  • On the road, you must keep as close as possible to the edge of the roadway.
  • On the footpath:
    • you must ride carefully and be considerate of others on the footpath
    • you must not ride at speeds that put other footpath users at risk
    • you must give way to pedestrians and drivers of mobility vehicles.

Read the full requirements(external link)

Requirements

You are responsible for finding out the requirements for using low-powered vehicles. The configuration of the vehicle or type and power of the motor may determine whether there are specific requirements for its use, such as wearing safety helmets. Manufacturers and retailers won’t always provide this information.  

The requirements that apply will generally depend on whether your vehicle is defined in transport law as a ‘vehicle’ or a ‘motor vehicle’.  It is important to determine which you are using. To be sure, check out the full and complete legal definition of vehicle and motor vehicle in the interpretation section of the Land Transport Act 1998(external link) and in the gazette notice given above.  

All other low-powered vehicles

Except for those listed above all other powered vehicles require registration, an appropriate driver licence and must meet appropriate equipment and safety standards for the appropriate class of vehicle.

Check out our vehicle definitions

The following are examples of vehicles that meet the definition of motor vehicle but have difficulties meeting the safety standards and other requirements. This means they cannot be operated on the road. 

  • Motorised skate boards, e-scooters above 300W, and roller skates
  • Segways* and similar
  • Powered Self Balancing Unicycles
  • Cycles fitted with either petrol motors or designed to be propelled by an engine

Note that ‘road’ is a very broadly defined

*A District Court case found that a particular Segway was a mobility device. There remains uncertainty as to their general classification under current legislation. Riders should follow usage requirements in the Road User Rule.

Unpowered vehicles

Skateboards, scooters, skates etc powered by foot or gravity

There are requirements on where and how you can use them.

  • On the road, you must keep as close as possible to the edge of the roadway.
  • On the footpath:
    • you must ride carefully and be considerate of others on the footpath
    • you must not ride at speeds that put other footpath users at risk
    • you must give way to pedestrians and drivers of mobility vehicles.

Find out about safe skateboard and cycling skills(external link)

Read the requirements for wheeled recreational devices in section 11 of the Road User Rule(external link).

Cycles

For requirements on using cycles please see cycling smart and our cycles factsheet [PDF, 96 KB].

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