Bottom Line: Prevent e-bike battery fires

Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 8:18 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC/CONSUMER REPORTS) - 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 that popularity is a growing number 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.

In Dec. 2021, the New York City Fire Department said a battery from an electric bike was the cause of a fatal apartment fire in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan.

One man died, and two children had to cling to an exterior pipe to escape.

A year later, the FDNY attributed an astonishing 202 fires, 142 injuries, and six deaths to 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.

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.

That’s 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.

“We continuously monitor the products sold in our store for product safety concerns and, when appropriate, remove a product from the store,” said Amazon.

Because there’s a lack of oversight, it’s really up to the consumer to look after their own interests.

If you’re shopping for an e-bike, look for a battery 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 the battery starts doing anything unusual, like making a hissing sound, or smells odd, you should unplug it immediately.

One other safety tip from Consumer Reports: Always keep batteries away from heat sources such as heaters and direct sunlight when you’re charging them, and make sure there’s no flammable material nearby.

“Consumer Reports TV News” is published by Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization that does not accept advertising and does not have any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site

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