The National Bicycle Dealers Association Takes Strong Stance On E-Bike Fire Risks

I have a rule not to regurgitate press releases from companies and organizations but I’m breaking my own rule for this one. While the statement falls short of asking for governmental oversight, it is the strongest stance yet about addressing the potential fire hazard related to e-bikes. Kudos to The National Bicycle Dealers Association. This is so encouraging after reading an article by a cycling trade publications that attempted to point the blame at other products rather than address the problem like the NBDA does here. Following is their release in its entirety and unedited.

July 15, 2022: The National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) has recently concluded a 4-part webinar series around e-bike regulation and risk. The webinar series is part of their work to continue to educate retailers, and the industry at large, about the growing safety problem that has been created by the surge in consumer purchases of electric bicycles and scooters that utilize Lithium-Ion Batteries as the power source for electric propulsion systems. The organization believes that there is an immediate need for not only independent testing, but for an information campaign to retailers, suppliers, and the consuming public to make them aware of safe charging and storage protocols for Lithium-Ion Batteries.

“The bicycle industry needs to take immediate action. After extensive consultations with experts in the field; e-bike and e-scooter lithium-ion battery safety is a large and immediate subject that we need to act on now. The advisement statement we have prepared for retailers takes the interest of e bike continued growth within the industry and safety for all. If we do not address the core issue, we may see this propel to something beyond our control” stated NBDA President Heather Mason.

The NBDA welcomed George Healy, Deputy Chief, New York City Fire Department (FDNY), who referenced the growing number of fires and sadly, deaths attributed to unsafe practices associated with charging e-bike and e-scooter Lithium-Ion batteries. Several of the webinars specifically focused on the voluntary electrical bicycle systems standard UL 2849 with experts in the field from both UL and Bosch joining the discussions. Many of the issues the industry is seeing are with the new lower end e-bikes and e-scooters on the market with poor uncertified systems, which make the importance of the UL 2849 standard at an all-time high.
UL 2849 is the ANSI-accredited national safety standard for electrical systems for e-bikes and covers safety requirements of e-bikes powered by lithium or other rechargeable batteries. It provides requirements with respect to the following: the electrical drive train system, the battery system, the charger system combination, Interconnecting wiring, and e-bike power inlet.

“The battery, charger, drive unit, display and interconnecting wiring make up a complex e-bike electrical system. The UL 2849 safety standard has been developed to test and certify the complete system for electrical, fire and mechanical hazards, and to evaluate the functional safety (robustness of the software that monitors and maintains critical safety functions) of the system, as opposed to only certifying the battery–which is just one component of this system. The complete Bosch e-bike system is certified to UL 2849, and Bosch would like to encourage all companies to certify their products to this safety standard.”
–Kunal Kapoor, Senior Manager, Quality & Compliance, Bosch e-bike Systems

The NBDA has been working jointly with the team at Human Powered Solutions (HPS) including Mike Fritz, Chief Technology Officer, an expert on electric bicycles and related propulsion systems, to bring education and resource forward. HPS and the NBDA recently visited the UL headquarters in Northbrook, IL. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss safe charging and storage protocols for lithium-ion batteries and establishing a national registry of e-bike brands that have certificates of compliance to the UL 2849 voluntary electric bicycle systems standard.

The NBDA advises all retailers to push on their vendors and suppliers to conform with testing standards to ensure the industry has safe products in the market with this statement:

In the interest of public safety all NBDA dealerships should require e-bikes or e-bike systems installed on e-bikescertified to UL 2849 from your vendors. Certified to UL 2849 (or in other words Listed to UL 2849)” means e-bike system is certified to UL 2849 and this certification could be achieved by using paid services from UL, Intertek, SGS or any other NRTL (Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory) who is accredited to perform certification activities to be able to certify to the UL 2849 safety standard.

The NBDA will be providing retailers a letter to send to their e-bike suppliers notifying them of this request for certification to be obtained no later than 2024.

In addition to the recent webinars, the NBDA has made available for members, documents prepared by HPS around safe storage and charging in store, as well consumer facing materials. These are available for NBDA members on the NBDA member resources area of the NBDA website.

“It is important that retailers do not put themselves or riders at risk. The best way is to start by requesting that vendors work with certified quality components. Following this, we can further help retailers manage risk in store and at riders’ home by stressing the importance of the safe storage and charging protocols we have prepared and provided the NBDA” added Mike Fritz.

For those looking for the recordings of the 4-part webinar series the NBDA hosted earlier this year, the recordings are available on the NBDA YouTube channel.

“If we do not continue to inform retailers, and push on the industry to raise their standards we will have more fires resulting in loss and death. Additionally, we could have a decline in the growing e bike market due to safety concern. To note, very few brands can say they would meet the statement above. Our hope is that sharing our findings and further making this statement will educate retailers and the industry alike that we see a potential for a much larger issue. We need to start demanding vendors invest in safe certified products to protect retailers, riders, and the sport alike” Mason summarized.

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