E-bike batteries raise safety concerns amid rise in fires: ‘Very hard to examine’
Fire or overheating incidents from these devices led to 19 fatalities in 2022.
Parents file lawsuit against e-bike manufacturer following daughter’s death The parents of 12-year-old Molly Steinsapir are demanding change after their daughter died in a traumatic e-bike accident last year. ABC News
The growing popularity of e-bikes in the United States in recent years has led to a rise in fires and other hazards, local and federal officials are warning.
At least 19 people died in the United States in 2022 because of fires or overheating incidents related to battery-powered products such as e-bikes, scooters and hoverboards, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said this week.
In New York City alone, fires caused by lithium-ion batteries powering these micro-mobility devices, also known as light electric vehicles (LEVs), have been responsible for at least 208 fires this year, resulting in 142 injuries and six deaths, a spokesperson for the New York Fire Department said.
In 2021, there were 104 fires caused by these batteries, 79 injuries and 4 deaths, according to city data. In 2020, there were 44 such fires, 23 injuries and zero deaths, the data shows.
Micro-mobility devices in 2022 caused four fires a week on average, based on data from the FDNY.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in a letter last week, urged over 2,000 manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers of LEVs to sell products that use batteries built with standards set by Underwriters Laboratory, an industry safety organization, in order to reduce the risk of injuries and deaths.
Compliance with these standards should be demonstrated by certification from an accredited testing laboratory, the agency urged.
While many battery manufacturers like Bosch follow the standards, experts say the standards need to be industry-wide. The move to required UL standards in all these products would make them far safer overall, they say.
Some industry experts see the recent moves by the CPSC as evidence it lacks the necessary regulatory muscle to cause a change in the industry. This concern comes as more Americans are embracing LEVs, with many expected to purchase these around the holidays.
The CPSC has jurisdiction over these products. The U.S. Department of Transportation established in 2018 the Lithium Battery Working Safety Group which includes officials from CPSC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute for Standard and Technology. The group advises Congress on additional ways to mitigate fire hazards from these batteries and ways to establish uniform regulations for these batteries.
When asked about why they were not seeking to make UL certification mandatory, instead of just encouraging companies to adopt those standards, a CPSC spokesperson said it is time consuming to adopt mandatory rules, making voluntary standards a more common course of action to get important safety information to industry and consumers as quickly as possible.
New York problem
Fatiumata Dialo has been delivering food on his e-bike in New York for the last year. An immigrant from Guinea, he said his e-bike, for which he paid 1750, is the most expensive purchase he has made since arriving in the U.S.
Dialo cycles between several batteries for the bike over the course of the day. He charges his batteries overnight at his apartment, and he also pays a monthly fee to charge a battery during the day at a e-bike shop in Brooklyn.
Delivery workers pay about 40 a month to charge batteries in one of these e-bike shops, according to a worker in one store. One location in New York’s Chinatown visited by ABC News contained over 80 batteries charging at roughly the same time.
According to FDNY Deputy Commissioner Frank Dwyer, charging stations where dozens or even hundreds of batteries are being charged at the same time could pose fire hazards.
That’s actually covered in the fire code. And we have our fire prevention people out there doing inspections on those properties if they’re not abiding by the proper fire code, Dwyer said.
ABC News reached out to the fire departments for the 25 largest cities in the United States. New York City leads its metropolitan competitors with the highest number of fires caused by these devices, according to a review of city data. It’s also the leading city actively tracking the fires and working with government officials to understand and regulate the issue, according to interviews with fire officials.
The Los Angeles Fire Department said it does not have any data about fires attributable to e-bikes, and the San Francisco Fire Department does not actively track fires from LEVs like New York does.
Despite concerns about charging safety, Dialo said he was less concerned about the risk of fire than getting into an accident or getting robbed, he said. Other delivery workers ABC News spoke to seemed to agree with this prioritization of concerns.
However, recent reports of fires due to charging e-bike batteries have raised calls for action by many New Yorkers. A Nov. 5 fire at a high-rise building in midtown Manhattan that sent 38 people to the hospital was caused by a lithium-ion battery connected to a micro-mobility device, fire officials determined.
In this Nov. 5, 2022, file photo, firefighters perform a rope rescue after a fire broke out inside a high-rise building on East 52nd Street in New York. New York Daily News/TNS via Getty Images, FILE
It’s not just that there are fires, it’s that there could be a fire in my building where I sleep and my children’s sleep, New York City Council Member Gale Brewer told ABC News.
The FDNY is attempting to learn more about how the fires are started. Often, the bikes and the batteries are too damaged by the fires to learn about the cause of the fire, type of bike and battery involved, and whether the cause could have been a manufacturing defect.
Portapower ebike Battery works but won’t charge. How to troubleshoot and hopefully fix
So, it’s very hard to examine the actual battery that fails due to the explosive nature of these fires, and the damage that they’re subjected to after the fire occurs, Dwyer noted.
Brewer sponsored recent legislation focused on e-bikes. The bills currently under consideration by the city council, which the FDNY has voiced support for, include measures to increase education about fire risks from batteries, ban the sale of second-hand batteries that have been reconditioned or manipulated and which are sold on the secondary market, require UL standards for bikes and improve reporting measures.
Some activists say the move is too late.
They pass a law to legalize [e-bikes], but they never thought about the batteries? I mean, they’re talking about the batteries three years later, said Hildalyn Colon Hernandez, the director of policy and strategic partnerships for New York City advocacy group Los Deliveristas Unidos.
The rise of LEVs
Light electric vehicles gained popularity as many Americans rethought common methods of transportation during the pandemic. A projected 1 million LEVs are expected to be sold in the U.S. in 2022, compared to the 288,000 sold in 2019, according to Ed Benjamin, chairman of the LEV Association.
But most consumers have gravitated to affordable models.
One of the priciest e-bikes listed in Consumer Reports retails at nearly 4,000, with the cheapest recommendation at 450,300. Some budget bikes retail on sites like Amazon for under 500.
In this Nov. 15, 2022, file photo, a delivery person rides an electric bicycle through the streets of New York. Spencer Platt/Getty Images, FILE
Ebike battery won’t charge? Here’s what not to do! Don’t try this at home.
According to Mike Fritz, a chief technology officer for micromobility industry consulting firm Human Powered Solutions, the economics of the 500 e-bike points towards concerns with the quality of the bike‘s battery. Just to buy a high-quality battery costs around 750. A complete bike that costs less than that amount raises questions about the quality of the battery and other components.
Some manufacturers have cut corners to lower manufacturing costs, according to Jack Hao of battery manufacturer Phylion. This includes reusing parts of used battery packs from electric cars, which can increase the likelihood of a fire hazard, he said.
Combined with a weak regulatory environment in the U.S., consumers are sometimes left with poor options, said Percy Chien, the executive chairman of the Taiwan-based Fairly Bike Manufacturing Company.
How lithium-ion batteries fail
A battery charges or releases energy by moving an electron-carrying ion between a node and a cathode, across a semipermeable barrier, Fritz said. If that barrier begins to fail and overheat because of a manufacturing defect or from an issue stemming from a faulty charger, an electrolyte liquid in the battery will begin to boil, trigger a pressure release valve, and push a gas out of the battery, which can then ignite when interacting with outside air.
An e-bike battery, which is made of dozens of small battery cells about the size of an AA battery, can cause a cascading chain reaction where one cell triggers other cells to fail, which can lead to a fire or an explosion in a worse-case scenario, he said.
A combination of cheap batteries, mismatched chargers, overuse, damage from weather, poor servicing, and other factors can combine to create deadly consequences, according to Fritz.
Keith Moravick, a vice president of engineering for Swiftmile, a manufacturer of charging systems for LEVs, noted factors that can cause battery deterioration include poor management system communicating between the battery and charger, a lack of weatherproofing for electric connectors, and the damage possibly done to a removable battery that is knocked around.
According to multiple industry experts, a move towards requiring UL standards for all batteries sold would reduce the risk of fires; however, the CPSC is only recommending such a standard at the moment.
Chris Nolte, founder of New York retailer Propel Electric Bikes, which only sells UL-certified Bosch batteries, said the issue has been mainly centralized in New York City in recent years, which is why the federal government has been slow to crackdown on the problem.
I feel that the federal government likely will step in by 2024 and require a certification, Nolte said.
Electric bicycle battery draining really fast and what to do about it.
Although the E-bike is more convenient and eco-friendly, regular issues with the battery are a common problem. The battery is a critical component that needs the detailed attention of the owner at the purchasing point.
With the understanding of these issues, we will discuss two areas throughout this article to list down the steps to follow in diagnosing the issues with the battery and recommendations to secure potential extended battery life.
There are several areas where you have to diagnose the issue. I have listed a few of those areas below.
Power connection issue
To diagnose the issues encountered with your battery, check the charging capacity and level. Plug into the charger and inspect the charger and the charging speed. Check whether there is any incorrect alignment of the charger or an error with the power connection.
We propose you keep records of your Battery charging period and time. If you have charged your battery for six months ago or less, it has to perform in good condition, or else you may have to undertake to troubleshoot.
Be notified on Battery Life Span
The other most common reason is battery life span. The life span of a Lithium battery is about 2 to 3 years. However, it depends on the number of charging cycles. The estimated battery charging is 300-700 cycles.
Sooner after the life span, the performance of the battery will gradually decline. However, it is fixable if it is due to some minor reasons such as a dead cell or faults related to circuits. Though it is cost-effective, repairing the battery is not always possible.
If it is repairable, get the advice of a professional service provider if you are not capable enough to undertake repairs.
Check the battery management System (BMS)
It is one of the most common issues related to the E-bike’s battery system. Once you troubleshoot the charger and battery separately and have zero faults with those items, it is most likely to be a fault with the BMS.
This system controls the balance of the battery’s cells during charging and discharging. Further, the BMS system ensures the quality of the battery by controlling power transport to the motor and regulating the battery’s heat. A fault BMS does not assure powering off the battery. Most issues related to the BMS are discharging of the battery and the unusual reduction of the battery power. Even though your E-bike is not in use, the battery has drained in an unusual pattern means it is an issue with the BMS.
You should be highly aware of the brand of the BMS you replaced with your off-branded battery or general battery. We do not recommend you open the battery in any instance on your own without proper instructions from a professional. You should highly care about the brand of the BMS when you are replacing it with your existing branded battery or general battery. Because of the connection between the battery and charger when replacing a BMS. We do not recommend you open the battery in any instance. over, you should be more aware of buying an unbranded battery for your E-bike.
Once you conduct the trouble-shoot of your E-bike you may recognize the issue with the battery. I have listed possible issues below.
- Bulge of the battery pack.
- Not charging the battery
Find the summary for each of the issues below.
Urgent e-bike recall: This bike can literally explode, so stop riding it immediately
Electric bikes are a great way to get around, especially during the pandemic. The electric motor can help during prolonged climbs or when you’re too tired to pedal your way home from work. But e-bikes must be safe for the user, considering the large battery each one carries. That’s why Ancheer issued a recall for one of its e-bike models, as the battery can spark, ignite, or even explode.
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The company has received six reports of incidents that involved fires, explosions, or sparks. In four cases, the battery problems even caused burn injuries.
Ancheer e-bike recall
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) published the report on the Ancheer recall at this link. The report notes that lithium-ion batteries in this e-bike model pose fire, explosion, and burn hazards to consumers.
The Ancheer e-bikes in this recall have model number AM001907, but you won’t find it on the bike itself. The model number appears on the e-bike packaging and the instruction manual.
One distinctive sign of the AM001907 model is the cylindrical battery that has the shape of a water bottle. The e-bikes are black and have 26-inch wheels. Finally, “Ancheer” is printed on the downtube.
Ancheer sold around 22,000 units from January 2016 through June 2022. They cost between 280 and 930, according to the announcement.
What you should do
Ancheer advises customers to stop using the e-bike model in this recall immediately.
You might not have experienced any issues with your e-bike’s battery. But battery overheating, swelling, and fires can happen spontaneously on electronic devices, even if these are rare events. You might not get any warning before something terrible happens.
The best course of action is to stop using the bike. importantly, stop recharging the battery. And you should consider storing the bike in a place where you wouldn’t risk any fires.
It’s also a good idea to contact Ancheer for guidance on handling a potentially faulty e-bike from this recall. Contact information is available from the CPSC at this link. The company set up a page for recalls, but it was not functional at the time of this writing.
As for the recall remedy, you won’t receive a full refund for the electric bike. The company has a different solution, offering free repairs to consumers.
Buyers should contact Ancheer for a free replacement battery and battery mount. That’s still a great solution, considering that people who bought the e-bike likely still want to use it to get around.
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Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.
Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it’s available.
Ebike cutting out due to connectors
Checking the connections for all visible wiring on your ebike seems like an obvious thing to check when trying to diagnose why your ebike may be cutting out, but its not always easy to spot without taking apart some casings where this is possible.
Check all connections/ plugs to the motor, battery and the controller as a process of elimination, if any of them look loose or are dirty then this could be the root cause of the bike cutting out. Could be as simple as one of the connectors has been unplugged.
Have you also checked the magnet and sensor on the wheel? If either of these are dirty it may be as simple as giving both the magnet and the sensor a clean just to be sure.
Ebike cutting out due to the controller problems
The controller is like the brain on an electric bike which basically transfers and regulates energy from battery directly to the motor, so if there are problems with the controller this would make sense why your ebike may be cutting out as it also manages the pedal assist and throttle functions.
Unfortunately seeing any visible faults in the main unit with the naked eye is difficult due to the internal wiring architecture being quite complex, but you can check the wires and connectors that come out of the unit.
Check to see if any of them are loose/ faulty which could be a simple soldering job. otherwise, if nothing is visible my advice would be to replace as they are usually fairly cheap.
If replacing, It is very important to make sure you replace with the correct controller recommended by the manufacturer otherwise you may end up with too much output (power) or not enough being transferred from the battery to the motor resulting in killing your battery and motor which are the most expensive components on the bike.
Why DoesMy ebike Battery Cut Out? – Conclusion
So, Why does my ebike battery cut out? Hopefully the above steps will help you get to the root cause of the problem. Sometimes it can be a simple fix like making sure the bike and connectors are clean, but if further investigation is required after you have checked all the above, then your local ebike store will be able to help.
I would love to hear from anyone who has had any issues with their ebike battery cutting out and how you managed to fix so please leave a message below.