Tag: lithium-ion battery

E-bike batteries – what you need to know

Ready for new adventures?

Yesterday I put the finishing touches on a long Advisory about e-bike batteries. Joe took a look and pronounced it too long and too “educational.” I accepted these comments with hardly a grimace because by the time I had put the work in, I felt the same way!

So today, the new, shorter and I hope punchier version. With one simple message:

An e-bike is a significant piece of machinery with lots of promise – as long as you take care of it! At the top of the care list: the lithium-ion battery.

(Note: This post is meant to serve as a supplement to any materials provided by the e-bike manufacturer. It does not replace manufacturer recommendations!)

Short background from 2005. I was an early adopter of e-bikes. My first bike featured a heavy and off-balance acid-lead battery, but how I loved riding it! My only problem: wrestling the bike up onto the porch!

Jump to 2022. E-bikes are clearly the rage – “… the largest growing transportation sector in America. (ABC, August 26, 2022. https://www.abc10.com/article/news/local/e-bikes-are-gaining-popularity). At the same time, if you dig a bit deeper (as I did), you’ll discover some disquieting news. Lithium-ion e-bike batteries can catch on fire and even explode!

My initial question was: Are these batteries really dangerous?  

My research shows that it’s not fair to think all e-bike batteries are just waiting to explode. In fact, many of the fires (and there have been hundreds) have actually been associated with lithium-ion batteries in scooters, hover-boards, etc. and NOT bicycles.

Unlike these smaller device manufacturers, the bicycle industry has been busy setting safety standards for its batteries and charging procedures. Those are what this post is all about!

Every e-bike rider needs to know these basics. They should be in the manual. Read everything and follow the directions!

What should you be looking for? For sure, your e-bike manual should have plenty of clearly spelled-out details regarding battery use and maintenance:

  • The initial charge, when and how often to recharge, where to charge, how to store the battery, etc. Always use the original charging cord.
  • Regular checks for punctures, swelling, weird smells or sounds. If you find any damage, stop riding and get that battery checked out.
  • Recycle your dead battery through your manufacturer’s program or at a hazardous waste collection center. Do NOT throw it into the trash!

If the bikes you are looking at don’t seem to provide all these details, do more research yourself online. Remember, battery size and design vary – they are meant to fit the way you want to use your bike. But whatever style bike you’re looking for, experts recommend you only consider an e-bike whose battery has been certified to UL (Underwriter Research Labs) standards. That battery will probably be a name brand – and not the cheapest.

(The battery is probably the most expensive component of the e-bike. This comment from e-bike industry consultant Mike Fritz makes the relationship between cost and quality pretty clear: “ . . .a quality battery pack sells (edit added: to the manufacturer) for about $300, so it’s unlikely that a complete bike that includes such a battery could retail for $800.” https://www.bicycleretailer.com/industry-news.)

The one piece of info that you probably will NOT find in the manufacturer’s materials – what to do if your battery actually does catch fire.

Yes, it’s rare. But we’re into preparedness, right? A lithium-ion fire is extremely dangerous. You probably can’t put it out yourself. Evacuate the area and call 911. Above all, do not put water on a lithium-ion fire! Professionals know how to smother the fire or let it burn itself out.

OK, that’s it for today. I hope you’ll get the right e-bike and enjoy its benefits: efficient commuting, improved air quality, great exercise. And so much fun! Just treat it with the respect it deserves!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. I’m not an expert on e-bikes or their batteries. This information came from a variety of sources “deemed to be reliable.” As you consider your own purchase, please don‘t treat it casually. Do your own homework and ask your own questions.