Scooters and e-bikes are almost must-have items if you have a need to travel around the city often. Not having to rely on public transportation to get around the city grants you a degree of freedom that can greatly enhance the experience of living and working in Shanghai.

It is highly recommended that you wear a quality helmet at all times. As this industry is new to China, the cheap options on Taobao or at the motorbike shop tend not to meet foreign safety standards, and generally speaking aren't worth the price you pay for them.

Scooters and the law

Many curious laws surround scooter and e-bike ownership and regulation in China. While weight and speed regulations may be confidently flouted due to near-zero enforcement, a driver's license and vehicle license are required for riding a gas scooter. If you are involved in an scooter accident or stopped by a police officer without a valid driver's license or license plates, be prepared to pay a hefty fine, or worse.

While driving, please follow the road rules and remain alert at all times, otherwise you probably don't belong on the road in the first place. If you are noticeably of non-Asian descent and riding a scooter in Shanghai, like it or not you are an ambassador for all foreigners and should practice good road etiquette at all times.

Scooter or E-Bike: what should I buy?

Here is a link to a recent thread on /r/China by /u/TheMediumPanda with useful discussion on issues to consider when shopping for an e-bike or gas scooter.


Scooters in China can approximate full-blown motorbikes if souped up by a Shanghai mechanic. While offering quick acceleration, cheap fuel and long distances between refuels, scooters are heavily regulated in Shanghai and need careful registration.

Gas scooter motorists are required by law to have a driver's license. e-bike riders require no license.

Vehicle prices themselves may be cheap, but a 沪C yellow license plate needed to legally operate scooters in the city costs upwards of 13,000 RMB. To counter this, many motorists buy fake plates, but this is obviously beyond the scope of this article . Fake license plates can even lead to conflicts at the fuel pump, as some stations will only sell fuel to legal scooters.



Mopeds (left) and Vespa-style (龟王 guīwáng; right) E-Bikes are a common sight around Shanghai and can significantly enhance a long-term resident's quality of life. Always follow road rules and remember you are an ambassador for all foreigners living in China.

The definition of 'e-bike' for the purpose of this article includes mopeds, pedelecs and electric bicycles (which retain a pedal power option).

The most common type of e-bike is the Chinese Yamaha-branded circuits encased in a variety of different chassis, powered with either lithium-ion or lead acid batteries.

Vespa-style e-bikes are a popular option for expats, and sell for anywhere from 1500 to 25000 RMB (excluding battery and charger); smaller and slower options can retail for even less.

Shops are spread all over Shanghai, with large supermarkets such as Carrefour selling smaller mopeds and pedelec models.

Lithium-ion batteries

These batteries weigh approximately 10kg and are more mobile than lead acid batteries, but cost more. 30-40km is possible on a single charge with a new battery, and speeds of up to 55km/h are attainable without seeking an upgrade specialist. Expect to pay 1000-2000 RMB for a lithium-ion battery, depending on quality.

Lead acid batteries

These batteries are much heavier and are pretty much useless if you need to take it and charge it away from the bike itself. Charging is therefore limited to outdoor power sockets. Travel distance and high speeds are also lower than yields from lithium-ion batteries. Lead acid batteries retail for about 400-1000 RMB, depending on quality.

Scooter riding tips for Shanghai

  • Paint on the road becomes extremely slippery when wet, especially immediately after rainfall as rainwater mixes with surface fuel. Never perform any operation (accelerate, turn, brake, etc.) while your wheels are passing over road paint wet with rainwater.
  • Yellow charging stations are available around town, and are coin-operated with 1 RMB granting you 10 minutes of charging. 60 minutes should give a full charge. Please check power settings for the charging station match the specifications of your bike. Be aware that due to the fact that these quick charge stations use a higher voltage, it can have an adverse effect on the life span of your battery.
  • Many roads in Shanghai do not allow scooter or bike transport, notably Huaihai Lu, Nanjing Xi Lu, and underneath many overbridges. Scooters and motorbikes are never allowed to travel on overbridges.
  • Given the spread out nature of Pudong and the wide boulevards, a scooter or e-bike is almost mandatory for Pudong residents in the absence of a driver or car.
  • Jianguo Lu and Fuxing Lu are good thoroughfares for scooting west and east respectively (i.e. against car traffic) in the former French Concession area.
  • Winter in Shanghai is cold, and hurtling along on a scooter can exacerbate cold temperatures. While seeming silly at first, a pair of fur-lined gloves attached to your handlebars and a pair of strap-on velcro faux-leather chaps can make a winter ride extremely comfortable.

Laowai lingo

  • 电动车 - diàndòngchē - e-bike
  • 电磨 - diànmó - e-scooter
  • 龟王 - guīwáng - Vespa-style bike
  • 电瓶 - diànpíng - battery
  • 加油站 - jiāyóuzhàn - petrol station
  • 轮子 - lúnzi - wheel
  • 踏板 - tàbǎn - pedal
  • 刹车 - shāchē - brakes, to brake
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.