News stories about e-bike battery fires are causing fear among electric bike owners.
Media coverage is startling for consumers because it’s true, a lithium-ion battery can pack a large amount of energy.
This same news of ebike fires has Pedego Electric Bikes Canada frustrated because problem manufacturers are not being called out. All ebikes are lumped together in reports when cheap, unregulated products are inundating the market to detrimental effect.
“We want to reassure our customers that when charged, stored and recycled properly, your Pedego battery is safe to use,” says Pedego Canada’s Mike Clyde. “This is because we take great care in production.”
Pedego batteries are made with premium brand name lithium-ion cells supplied by the top manufacturers LG, Panasonic, and Samsung. They are covered by a 5-year prorated warranty reflecting confidence in the quality of components.
These Li-ion batteries are model 18650, named after their size (18mmx65mm). There are two types of 18650 cells – those made by reputable, name brand suppliers and everything else. Name brand cells are much safer and more reliable than cheaper cells.
Emergency Officials and Industry Responding
The rash of ebike battery fires in New York City prompted New York City Fire Department to focus their annual symposium on the topic. Veteran bike engineer Michael Fritz was in attendance as an independent industry expert with 35 years experience. Fritz was also instrumental as director of engineering on the Pedego team.
Fritz says unless an ebike company uses name brand battery cells, he’s out. Fire hazards are largely due to lower quality batteries being used improperly.
“Do Pedego lithium-ion battery packs pose an unreasonable risk to customers? My answer is no – you can have confidence in this product,” Fritz says. “Pedego does an excellent job. The best in the industry.”
Fritz explains why an ebike battery may fail. Heat, pressure, and water are the enemy of an ebike battery. As well, if Li-ion cells are made poorly and/or there are improper cell protection separators, the rate of cell failure increases. If a single cell fails, propagation is relatively slow. If multiple cells fail at the same time, the results can be explosive.
Unfortunately, in 2015, Pedego received reports of six battery fires, and subsequently recalled 5000 battery packs. They acted fast. The ensuing investigation found that their supplier was not using a clean room for manufacturing. As a result, Pedego now buys solely from name brand suppliers and no further issues have arisen.
Even without further incident, Pedego continues to strive for better. Last year, Chief Production Officer, Paul Auclair started the process toward UL certification. UL (Underwriter Laboratories) certifies products, facilities, processes, or systems based on industry-wide standards. The UL certifications that are targeted toward the ebike industry are UL2271 for battery systems and the more in-depth UL2849 for entire electrical systems.
“For product reassurance, Pedego wants certification at the highest level. The process will take time, but we are pleased to have the project underway prior to the recent Consumer Product Safety Commission recommendation,” says Auclair.
Auclair goes on to explain, as of today, Pedego products are UN38.8 certified as well as meeting all the manufacturing quality control standards and processes of our ISO9001 Certified assembly factories and cell manufacturers.
What to Look for When Buying an Ebike
It’s important to do homework and shop smart to inform a solid decision. It’s especially important to research the battery as it makes up the largest cost of an ebike.
Ask the seller what make of cells are used in their bike’s lithium-ion battery. To ensure it complies with relevant safety standards, what certifications does the product have?
Does the seller back their product with a warranty that makes a customer feel reassured? What does that warranty look like?
Does the seller even know the answers to your questions?
How to take proper care of an ebike battery
While Pedego is confident in their batteries, even with the best cells and top certification, proper care and attention should always be taken. Dangerous events can still possibly occur.
Only use the charger that was supplied at the time of purchase. Never attempt to charge the battery with a different charger or power supply. (A suspected cause of NYC battery fires is use of incompatible chargers.)
Charge the battery on the bike or, if off the bike, ensure it’s on a non-flammable surface in a clean, dry location away from flammable materials.
Do not charge the battery unattended or overnight. Monitor and unplug when fully charged.
Charge the battery in an area with a working smoke detector.
Do not attempt to charge the battery when it’s cold – less than 7 degrees Celsius.
If the battery is dropped, damaged, overheats or is immersed in water do not attempt to charge it. Store it in a safe place (preferably outdoors) and call a local Pedego dealer for appropriate next steps.
For extended periods of non-use, store a battery in a clean, dry environment that has a temperature between 4 and 38 degrees Celsius. It’s best stored between 30-40 percent charge. Avoid storing 100 percent or 0 percent charge.
When transporting an ebike, take the battery off the bike. Simple but smart.
Care and Recycling
Do not attempt to have a Pedego battery refurbished.
Do not open or otherwise tamper with an ebike battery. There is no reason to do so as there are no serviceable parts inside it.
When a battery reaches its end of life, it’s important not to throw it away. Return it to a local store for safe and proper recycling. Pedego Canada is a Call2Recycle participant.
Do not replace the battery with a pack from a third-party supplier.
Acceptance of Risk
Electric bikes are relatively new on the scene and alarming news coverage does little to reassure consumers leery of the technology.
An ebike battery has a great deal of stored energy. For perspective, Fritz explains a car with its full gas tank in the garage “contains enough stored energy to propel a 3,000 lb. car 400 miles.” This is substantially more than an ebike battery.
Even a candle lit on the dining room table carries risk to safety at home with its threat of fire or particulate in the air.
Yet, people have become accustomed to these risks and how to manage them.
News of ebike battery fires is worrisome for people who want to feel safe about their electric bike purchase. Fire hazards are largely due to lower quality batteries being used improperly.