Electric bikes are becoming increasingly more common in most places across the US. Today an electric bike is the most popular electric vehicle in the USA and since 2020 sales of e bikes have outstripped those of electric cars and hybrids combined. And with annual sales of e bikes now hitting the million mark in the US alone, this looks like a trend that is here to stay.
Recently there have been concerns about e bike fires being caused by the batteries overheating. The stories in the news sound alarming after all so is there anything you need to do to avoid an ebike battery fire?
Let’s check out e bike batteries, the risks of electric bike fires and how to best avoid them.
E bike batteries
Most e bikes are powered by lithium- ion batteries. This is the same type of battery used to power electric vehicles, power tools, laptops and our cell phones. They work fantastically well but if they are defective or become damaged they can overheat and this can lead to fires.
The problem with some makes of ebike comes down to the quality of the battery. Not all ebikes on the market use named batteries. Cheaper models often come fitted with unknown batteries that may not be adequately tested as safe.
One way to avoid this risk is to choose an ebike that comes fitted with a good quality named battery you can trust. All Hovsco e bikes are fitted with high quality components. The batteries in all models of bike are Samsung / LG of varying strengths according to the model of bike. This means you can be confident that these batteries are fully tested and labelled and conform with stringent industry testing standards.
Buying a quality e bike from a reputable supplier such as Hovsco ensures that your battery is suitable for your bike and fully conforms to safety standards.
The plug in charger
The plug in charger is often overlooked as just another accessory that can be replaced with any type of charger but nothing could be further from the truth.
When you buy your e bike it comes with a plug in charger which is tested and evaluated for safety when paired with the specific lithium battery on your ebike. These two factors are designed to be the safest and most efficient option for charging your ebike.
According to National Fire Protection Service, the plug in charger can be danger point for users. The problems arise when customers look to replace the battery charger, if the original one gets damaged, lost or left somewhere and they choose a battery charger which is incompatible with their system.
E bike customers need to understand that the battery charger which comes with the bike is the only one that should ever be utilized for charging. Buying an aftermarket charger from another manufacturer will likely increase the risk of fire if the charger is incompatible with the bike’s battery system.
What about generic plug in chargers?
It is important to be aware that just because an ebike battery charger is sold as being compatible with your e bike, you have no guarantees that it is safe. Many battery chargers are sold as being compatible with e bikes in general but fail to mention specific bike models or makes. This can lead to a great risk of causing an ebike battery fire. In addition using a different over the counter plug in charger will invalidate the guarantee on your ebike.
If you do need to buy a new plug in charger for your ebike, always return to your original bike dealer. Hovsco will provide you with new plug in charger that is compatible with your e bike model so always contact the company before you start searching through Amazon or visiting unknown bike repair shops for a deal.
Charging your ebike safely and efficiently
Charging your e bike battery is safe and convenient but there are a few dos and don’ts to remember when you are charging your battery.
- Always follow the instructions from the manufacturer. That way you can be confident that your battery is charging safely and to optimum power.
- Do not overcharge your ebike battery. Once it is fully charged unplug it. You may increase the risk of an ebike battery fire if for example you leave it plugged in all night to be ready for the next morning.
- Charging an e bike battery from completely flat takes around 3.5 – 4 hours to get to 100%. You will notice that the battery charges fast in the first 1.5 hours or so, reaching 80%. It automatically slows down its charging rate for the remaining 15% to 20%. This is perfectly normal and not a cause for concern. Always read the manual to find out more about charging your ebike.
- To preserve the life of your battery, try to let it get to between 30% - 40% before you put your battery on charge again.
- Keep the battery at room temperature when charging. Do not charge your battery in cold conditions or when it is too hot. In general this is less than 32 F or above 105 F
- Do not store an ebike battery in direct sunlight or keep it in a hot car. Keep your e bike battery away from liquids and children.
- Don’t store your ebike, battery or both near an exit door or near anything that can get hot or catch fire such as a kitchen or in the back yard if you are burning trash or having a barbeque.
- Never overload the electricity circuit by plugging in multiple devices at the same time. Never charge your ebike from an overloaded extension block. Doing this has been a major cause of ebike fires.
The popularity of e bikes has led to cut price options
According to industry professionals, speaking in an interview with ABC News, low cost budget ebikes are the major cause for concern.
E bikes sell on sites such as Amazon for as little as $500 yet with a good quality lithium battery costing around $750 alone , this raises serious questions about the quality of the ebike and the battery.
In addition some manufacturers have cut corners with the batteries in order to keep costs down. This includes re using parts from electric car batteries which creates a real fire risk.
Because the ebike industry is so new and because of the lack of safety regulations in the US, consumers are sometimes offered very poor options that turn out to be extremely unsafe.
Why is an ebike battery fire so dangerous?
Lithium batteries charge or release energy by moving an electron carrying ion between a node and a cathode across a semi permeable barrier. If the barrier begins to fail because of a faulty charger or a manufacturing defect, it causes the battery to boil and starts a chain reaction within the other battery cells. This releases a pressure valve that pushes gas out of the battery and the whole thing can ignite on contact with air.
Another cause for fire is overloading the electrical system of the building where the ebike is being charged. If the circuits in the home are faulty or the system is overloaded with multiple devices all on charge at the same time, it can cause a short circuit and lead to fire.
A new industry of charging stations has set up in cities such as New York. Here people pay to charge their ebike batteries simultaneously and this has caused multiple fires and even deaths in some cases. The authorities will clamp down on charging stations in the future but at the time of writing, this service is perfectly legal.
So are ebikes safe?
The answer to this question is that ebikes are safe. Thousands of people ride ebikes every day without any issues and this is a trend that is only going to expand in the future.
However it is important to be aware of the risks of an e bike battery fire. To keep safe, always buy your ebike from a reputable supplier such as Hovsco. That way, you know that the bike has been manufactured in a safe responsible way and that the battery and plug in charger is reliable and fully conform to safety standards. These features are guaranteed with Hovsco ebikes so don’t cut corners with your safety for the sake of saving a few dollars.
Never buy a cheap ebike from an unknown supplier, always charge your battery with the correct plug in charger and always follow the instructions on charging.
According to the NFPA, stop using your ebike if you notice anything strange with your battery, such as an unusual odor, change in color, overheating, leaking, smoking or not keeping a charge.
In many cases, e bike fires are caused by negligence. According to Mike Fritz , chief technology officer with a human technology company speaking in an interview with ABC News,” A combination of cheap batteries, mismatched chargers, overuse, damage from weather, poor servicing, and other factors can combine to create deadly consequences. ”