The AM licence is the one you can get at 16 if you want to ride a 50cc moped that can go no faster than 28mph (45km/h). It’s good enough, freeing you from the tyranny of your parents’ taxi service, but opens you up to all the annoyances of vehicle ownership, like insurance, maintenance, and buying fuel - unless you go electric. (Oh and by the way, if you're a bit older, you may already be permitted to ride these bikes with your current driving licence.)
Electric mopeds still need insurance, but you’ll never need to put a drop of petrol in one and the maintenance they need is much less. They’re a great choice for a first vehicle, inclement weather allowing.
You can ride one immediately after taking a compulsory basic training (CBT) course if you display L-plates everywhere you go. These can then be removed if you pass the theory test and practical test to get a full AM licence.
Strikingly, if you passed your driving test before February 1, 2001, you can legally ride these sorts of mopeds with no L plates, without taking CBT or a full moped test.
If you’re into importing cars, there's a version of the all-electric Renault Twizy, the Twizy Urban 45, that’s limited to 28mph and accessible to 16-year-olds on an AM licence. Sadly, it has never been sold in the UK, but across Europe drivers as young as 14 can jump behind the wheel and make the most of the freedom a 4kW motor gives you.
In the UK, however, an AM-licence moped is the best you can get at such a young age (until Podbike's Frikar and similar low-power electric vehicles launch, at any rate). Here are some of the best we’ve seen.
Offering up to 80km (50 miles) on a single charge, the NQi Sport is a simple design, but has power and intelligence where it really counts. Going uphill will cause the engine management system to release more power so you don’t grind to a halt, and a dedicated app provides GPS location, unauthorised movement detection, and all sorts of stats about how far you’ve travelled and how much energy you’ve used up doing so.
NIU claims to be the number one electric scooter brand in the world, with over 400,000 units sold, and on this showing it’s pretty clear why. The step-through design and rear-wheel motor mean it’s only a matter of seconds to get on and ride off, while features such as helmet storage, a USB charger, built-in LED lights and disc brakes at front and rear (with regenerative braking capabilities) and pop-out footrests for a pillion passenger mean it might provide everything a young city commuter needs.
You have to pay to look good. And if you want to look like you just fell through a timewarp from East Germany, then you also have to pay. The Govecs Schwalbe has a genuine DDR pedigree, and is now hand-built to order with just one UK importer. This is why it’s expensive.
If you love the looks, however, it might be worth the cost. Under the retro styling is a Bosch drive system that’s bang up to date, front and rear disc brakes, energy recuperation and a top speed that sneaks it in under the AM licence bar. It’s available with dual batteries, comes in five colours, and will charge your phone, for which there's also a dedicated app.
You can pick up a Super Soco CUx for £2,249, but a few hundred extra gets you this Ducati Edition, which either looks like the coolest thing on two electric wheels, or makes a mockery of a revered motorcycle racing brand by limiting it to 28mph. Your call.
We prefer to think of it as an homage, and the idea of zipping about town with this level of Italian style makes us all the more glad that electric mopeds exist. You get a range of up to 40 miles, a charge time of seven hours, a removable battery, LED lights front and rear (plus disc brakes too), USB charging and an app. There's not much that’s been left out. You can even fit on a passenger or an optional luggage rack.
And speaking of Italian style, who can beat this? We love the Vespa Elettrica, picturing ourselves riding the streets of Naples, in an open-necked shirt and wayfarers, with a special friend on the back, at 28mph.
It’s not all romance, as the Elettrica has one annoying feature: its battery isn’t removable.
If this is something you can accommodate, and the price something you can swallow, then you’re getting a great package here. With a range of 62 miles, and a charge time of four hours, you get a retro aesthetic that’s underpinned by some great technology. There's a 4.3in colour screen that connects to your phone, a disc brake at the front (and a drum at the back) with energy recovery, and practically no maintenance thanks to the belt drive. There's also a range of stylish accessories, if you really want to bring a slice of Italy to your corner of town.
Available in white, which is mostly black; and black, which is entirely black; plus red (which is black); and blue (which is white), the confusingly coloured e-Ludix is the electric version of a popular French moped that’s sold a lot since its introduction in 2013.
At 31 miles, the e-Ludix’s maximum range is slightly lower than that of others, but that’s still more than enough for a city commute. The battery is removable, and you get regenerative braking to return some of the spent energy to the battery as you slow down.
The result of a glorious accident involving a scaffolding van, a light artillery unit and a lorry full of electric motors, the SOL (Speed of Light, apparently, though we’re not sure which licence covers that) Pocket Rocket may or may not be available in the UK, but we’ve included it here because we like seeing pictures of it.
The L1e model should fit the requirements for the AM licence, and we cannot wait to see the young and horizontally mobile nipping around the streets on one of these. You get a removable battery and a charging time as short as two hours, though that may not be to 100%. Claiming to combine the ‘best of bicycle and scooter,’ the Pocket Rocket appears to rely on your phone as its display, while making an ‘eye-catching statement in the urban space’. Yes indeed.