eBikes and Safety
You’ve probably seen recent News stories where eBikes are blamed for causing death. Whether it’s Cardiff, Manchester or now Cambridge. Inevitably, this will cause great concern, so we thought it important to dig a little deeper on the facts and also to explain our approach here at elctrc.
Safety has always been a key factor in determining which eBikes we wish to sell. Consider that we have 70-80 eBikes, each with it’s own battery in our Shop at any one time! Soon after we opened back in 2015, we learnt of an eBike Shop in Germany that ignited and since then, Safety has been paramount in our selection of products. We sell reputable branded eBikes, with Motors and Batteries from reputable companies: EG: Bosch; Yamaha and Fazua.
Let’s look at some of the issues:
So what is the issue with Fire? Most, not all, eBikes have battery cells made with Lithium-Ion. At a chemical level, L-Ion be dangerous and it can ignite if mis-treated. One issue, is that if l-Ion ignites, it’s VERY hard to extinguish. Often it just has to be left to burn out and the Fire Brigade will probably focus on limiting the damage of the surrounding area!
Every household now has many devices with batteries: Lap-tops; tablets; mobile phones; kick-scooters; cars and eBikes are just a few. There is nothing fundamentally different with an eBike battery, compared to other devices. You may remember some years back that a leading Mobile Phone and Tablet manufacturer had some products that ignited. But currently the News cycle (pun intended) is all about eBikes!
Commercially, consumers want ever more battery capacity and ever shorter charging times. Weight and profit also come into it. This creates a desire to pack ever more capacity into smaller spaces and also to create Cells that have a greater energy density. The engineering of the battery matters and of absolute importance is the Battery Management System (BMS). It’s the BMS that controls ‘how’ the battery charges – which is determined by a very complex set of parameters.
Whilst no scientific expert, I believe the BMS is one of the key differentiators of a high-quality system. For sure, we know that the batteries on lesser eBikes, have significantly shorter life-cycles and cause a much large number of issues, than the better quality eBikes that we sell.
I had a long chat with the Uli, the technical Lead at Bosch eBikes many years ago and they were absolutely adamant that Bosch would never succumb to the commercial pressures, that can compromise safety. We see the evidence that Yamaha (and others) also follow this approach.
So for sure, there are risks involved with most things in life. The challenge is how to mitigate those risks. As a business, we can make good margin on selling some of the cheaper eBikes, but being aware of ALL of the benefits of issues they create, have always maintained a strategy to sell mid-range upwards. We’re aware that sometimes this results in us losing a Sale, but it also means we’re confident in the products we sell.
Good precautions to take when charging include:
- Only use the Charger that came with the Bike – or an ‘original’ replacement.
- Make sure all wires and connections remain undamaged.
- Make sure the power-point is not over-loaded.
- Ensure that the Battery is not located on soft, or inflammable materials.
- The Charger should/will turn off when the battery is fully charged. If it doesn’t, its faulty!
- Make sure that the physical battery has not been damaged. It’s cheaper to get a replacement battery, than a new home!!
If you do have a Battery that is damaged, or end of life, your local authority are likely to have specific Battery re-cycling facilities – NEVER put them in the domestic rubbish!
Illegal Products; Speed and the Police.
For any vehicle to be used on UK Roads and Public Spaces, all ‘vehicles’, of any description, must pass appropriate safety tests. This is all controlled and managed by the Government Agency known as the: Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). There are numerous categories of vehicles, ranging from Articulated Lorries, to Mobility Scooters and Bicycles. Each one has a set of criteria that must be fulfilled before approval is granted.
In addition to the normal Construction & Use criteria that all Bikes must fulfil, eBikes must also meet additional criteria. You can read the details here:
Sadly, there are many products for sale that do not meet the required standards. There are some products that are simply dangerous. Sadly, there’s people in society that prefer the thrills of speed, more than they care about the responsibility of safety! This is developing into a major issue and needs tackling at multiple levels. The Police have responsibility for enforcement of the Laws, but as is all too obvious, some of the people riding these Bikes don’t want to be stopped. The Police therefore have to make ‘real-time’ decisions on whether to pursue, or not.
We’d also encourage a much greater involvement by the Trading Standards Authorities, so that the issues can be addressed long before it becomes a life-threatening situation.
Locally, we engage with the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership (SSRP), which is pre-dominantly funded by the Police. We recently hosted a session whereby SSRP were looking at some real-life examples of eBikes and the Law and also how to engage their colleagues and inform strategies.
We’re very confident that overall eBikes make a great contribution to society. Of course, it’s tragic that people die in any Fire, or Gas leak or even of Air Pollution. But it is important to keep this in perspective. If you buy an eBike, from elctrc or other reputable Retailers, it is highly unlikely that you’ll have any safety issues.
- Jake Rowe