Moped, motorized two-wheeled vehicle that is smaller and lighter than a motorcycle. Also referred to as a motorbike or a scooter, the moped is a very economical form of transportation that is popular in Europe, Asia, and many other areas with warm climates and high fuel prices. In the United States, mopeds can be licensed for use on public highways and can also be driven on bike paths in certain areas. Some states allow persons as young as 15 years old to operate a moped with a special driverís license.
A moped is a small motorized bicycle. Mopeds travel at maximum speeds of only about 50 km/h (about 30 mph), but they are very fuel-efficient.
The weight, engine size, horsepower rating, and speed of mopeds are limited in most states. A moped typically weighs less than 60 kg (130 lb) and is powered by a small single-cylinder air-cooled gasoline engine (see Internal-Combustion Engine). Moped engines typically have a power output of 3 horsepower or less and are limited to a maximum speed of 48 to 56 km/h (30 to 35 mph).
Mopeds have suspension systems similar in design to those of full-size motorcycles. They also have safety equipment, such as lights, mirrors, and a horn. Simple hand controls for the throttle and brakes make operation as easy as riding a bicycle. Pedals were used on early mopeds, so that they could be ridden like a bicycle to extend their range and fuel economy; the pedals were also used to start the engine. Most mopeds today have an electric or kick-start mechanism, eliminating the need for pedals.
Some mopeds are battery powered with electric motors. The same weight and speed limits still apply, and range is limited by the amount of charge the battery can hold. In spite of the limited range, electric mopeds are growing in popularity because they produce zero emissions and do not require gasoline.
Many early motorcycles were essentially motor-powered bicycles. As motorcycles became larger, heavier, and more powerful, the bicycle pedals were discontinued. Following World War II (1939-1945), the need for a small, economical means of transportation led to the rebirth of the pedal-equipped motorbike in Europe. These motorbikes were called mopeds, because they had both a motor and pedals. Mopeds were produced in many countries, including Germany, Italy, Spain, France, England, and Japan. Hundreds of thousands of mopeds were exported to the United States during the 1970s, when they reached their peak in popularity as a result of high fuel prices. However, as the price of gasoline fell, many moped riders moved up to full-size motorcycles or automobiles.
Variants of the moped include scooters, motor-assisted bicycles, and minibikes. Scooters tend to be slightly larger and heavier than mopeds. They use larger engines than mopeds and have a flat floorboard and step-through frame for easier mounting and riding. Motor-assisted bicycles are ordinary bicycles with a small add-on electric or gasoline engine that is mounted over wheels. The motor is used only when going up hills or when the rider is tired. Minibikes are small, two-wheeled recreational vehicles designed primarily for off-road use by 10- to 15-year-old riders (although adults sometimes ride these vehicles also). Minibikes may not be licensed for operation on public highways. They are often assembled from kits that include an engine, a simple rectangular frame, front forks, handlebars, and a seat.