Electric bikes (e-bikes) are becoming increasingly popular throughout Southern California and beyond. They let cyclists go further and faster than traditional bikes and explore more territory via steep mountain roads not easily scalable otherwise.
There’s been an issue, however, with e-bike batteries catching fire. Our readers have probably seen some of these fires, like the one at an e-bike store that killed four people in New York City this summer.
The fires are caused by the lithium batteries that power the bike. These are the same batteries that are in e-scooters, which have also been plagued by fires. E-bike fires seem to occur only when the bike is being charged. This can occur if the battery becomes overheated.
That’s why it’s crucial never to leave your bike unattended while it’s charging. This way, you can check it regularly to make sure it’s not getting too hot. If it is, unplug the bike from the charger and take it outside and away from people, pets and buildings until it cools down. Then have the battery checked by a professional before you attempt to charge it again.
Not all e-bike batteries are created equal
Many of the bikes that have caught fire had “aftermarket” batteries specially designed to charge a bike for an extended period. People who use their bikes for work (for example, delivery people or bike messengers) find these useful. However, they aren’t nearly as safe as those that have been properly tested and are UL listed. Batteries designed to hold a charge longer don’t have enough room between cells, which can cause overheating. It’s important to have a safety-tested battery that is the type needed for your specific bike’s motor.
Consumers shouldn’t have to assume that if they buy something with a lithium battery, fire is just a risk they have to anticipate. It’s advisable for anyone who suffered harm in such a fire to find out how they can best seek justice and compensation.