As the electric bicycle industry matures, new laws and regulations will naturally follow. Probably the most important of those are in regard to the safety of ebike batteries. Battery fires have prompted the call for certification to ensure that the lithium-ion batteries and electrical systems that power ebikes are safe.
Lithium-ion batteries that are designed and built correctly pose little risk. However, the market has been infiltrated by cheap brands and even home-built batteries that may be hazardous. The days of the wild, wild west of anything goes for the ebike industry are coming to an end. That’s a good thing.
How Do Ebike Batteries Work? What’s inside an ebike battery?
You wouldn’t be alone if you’re not well-versed in ebike battery design, but the makeup of an ebike battery is relatively straight-forward.
Ebike batteries contain lithium battery cells. Think of a whole bunch of batteries, the size of a C or D battery or smaller, all linked together. They are connected in parallel, meaning that they function as one battery, instead of a bunch of individual ones.
To ensure that the battery functions properly and charges safely, ebike batteries have a BMS, or battery management system. It functions as the brains of the battery, by making sure that all the cells are at the same voltage. The BMS also prevents undercharging, overcharging, and overheating.
Obviously, it’s important to choose batteries that are built with a good BMS and with good quality cells, such as from Samsung or LG. Most of the battery fires we hear about are caused by poorly manufactured batteries and/or chargers. Fires can also be caused by using the wrong charger. It’s imperative to only use the charger that was specifically designed for the battery in your bike. A properly functioning battery and charger won’t allow overheating or overcharging.
Make sure to read about the battery in your bike and its proper care. Reputable brands will provide this information.
UL 2271 and UL 2849
There are different UL certification numbers to be aware of. UL 2271 pertains only to the battery. UL 2849 pertains to the entire electrical system of the bike including the battery, wiring, controller, and motor. Some ebikes only have UL 2271 certification, while others have UL 2849.
Most ebikes sold in the United States are certified to EU standards, so you will probably see CE printed on the label for the battery and/or charger. This means the product has met EU requirements for health, safety, and environmental concerns. However, it is not a test mark. It simply ensures that the product has been manufactured to meet minimum safety standards to be sold and transported in the EU.
UL certification requires the product be tested independently by UL, which stands for Underwriters Laboratories. It’s a lengthy and expensive process, and voluntary. That’s why many ebike manufacturers don’t pursue certification.
How Do I Know Which Ebikes Are Certified?
Labels, like this one on a charger, will display the UL symbol if the product is UL listed. However, you likely won’t be able to tell if the motor, controller and wiring are also certified, unless the company provides this information. Currently, there is no database of ebikes that are UL certified.
It may be difficult to determine if an ebike you’re interested in is UL listed, but as more consumers demand it, brands will likely display this information prominently. If it isn’t explicitly stated, contact the company and ask what type of certification the bike you’re looking at has.
Ebike Brands That Sell UL Certified Bikes
Below are some brands sold in the United States that sell ebikes with UL certification. Be sure to confirm the model you’re looking at is UL certified, because it may vary from model to model.
Also, Bosch motors and batteries are UL certified. Many higher-end ebike brands use Bosch systems.
Are Ebike Batteries That Aren’t UL Certified Unsafe?
Not necessarily. Just because an ebike battery isn’t UL certified doesn’t mean it’s going to burst into flames any second. Remember that UL certification is voluntary in most places, at least for now. Many ebike batteries are built to UL certification standards, but haven’t gone through the certification process.
There are other certification methods, such as EN 15194, which is the European certification standard for ebikes. It is similar to UL testing. Rad Power Bikes, one of the largest ebike companies in the United States, uses this certification, though is also pursuing UL certification.
Over the next year, expect many more brands to become UL certified. Brands that skip this step risk losing a significant number of sales.
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