6 On Your Side: Consumer Confidence, Prevent E-Bike Battery Fires
(ABC 6 News) – Maybe you’ve seen one of those new battery-powered bikes around town or even on an off-road trail.
Electric bikes have grown in popularity, and with it, growing numbers of battery fires, some of them fatal. Consumer Reports explains the very real dangers of e-bikes and how you can prevent a fire if you own one.
Back in December 2021, one man died and two children had to cling to an exterior pipe to escape a fire in New York City.
A year later, New York City’s fire department attributed an astonishing 202 fires, 142 injuries, and six deaths to fires caused by electric bike or electric scooter batteries. Similar incidents can be found across the country, all linked to the same problem.
“When the lithium-ion batteries used in e-bikes are poorly made, overused, overcharged or used with the wrong charger, they can cause fires – and those fires can be very violent and difficult to put out,” says Consumer Reports’ Ben Preston.
With very little oversight, some companies that make low quality e-bikes and batteries are finding loopholes to sell their products on e-commerce sites like Amazon.
A quick Amazon search shows dozens of e-bikes under $800, which is not a coincidence.
“Thanks to a trade law unofficially known as the ‘Amazon loophole,’ which allows items under $800 to sort of dodge taxes and regulations that other products might have to go through,” says Preston.
Amazon tells Consumer Reports, “We continuously monitor the products sold in our store for product safety concerns and when appropriate, remove a product from the store.”
“Because there’s a lack of oversight it’s really up to the consumer to look after your own interest,” says Preston.
If you’re shopping for an e-bike, look for one with a UL certified label.
Then, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and storage and always use the power adapter and cord supplied by the manufacturer.
Don’t ever leave the battery charging overnight or while you’re not home.
If you need a new battery, buy it from the same manufacturer as your e-bike.
If at any time your battery starts doing anything unusual–like making a hissing sound or if it smells odd – unplug it immediately.
One other safety tip from Consumer Reports, always keep batteries away from heat sources such as heaters or direct sunlight when charging. Also, make sure there’s no flammable material nearby.