New Lithium Battery Regulations – The Aftermath of Recent Fires
Rising Safety Issues
The rise in popularity of E-bikes has brought about a surge in demand for lithium batteries, with the industry now a major consumer of lithium battery packs. However, with this increase in demand comes a new set of safety concerns which are leading to new regulations in the industry and a higher awareness of general battery safety requirements. In the case of E-bikes, these regulations aim to ensure the safety of both riders and the environment. As a result, manufacturers of E-bikes and lithium batteries must now adhere to stricter safety standards.
In New York City alone, E-bike fires occurred at a rate greater than one every two days during the first quarter of 2023 with at least five lives lost. As several of these fires occurred in high-rise residential buildings, hundreds of families were also displaced. The problem has become so bad that various building management companies are banning these kinds of batteries from their buildings. As a result, New York City has enacted legislation to require some minimum safety standards for electric bicycle systems, with more on the way.
Meeting New Requirements
The testing of any standard batteries, battery charge system or battery discharge systems usually involves several tests and certifications. All this testing and certification require an initial outlay for a battery or E-bike manufacturer of several thousand dollars for the certification alone. $50,000 would be a rough estimate of the cost for each system component. Ongoing fees to maintain the listing can run on the order of $10,000 per year. This is a significant cash outlay and is reflected in the pricing of the equipment that is tested and listed.
Cheaper battery packs and electric bicycle manufacturers cannot support this kind of expense. An inexpensive battery pack purchased off the internet may be defective and result in a premature failure or possibly tragically with a fire or explosion as a result. As a result, the quality of the suppliers of both the battery packages and cells now needs to be carefully considered.
Ways to Guard Against the Possibility of Battery Failure
- Always use a certified battery pack made by a reputable supplier.
- Always use the manufacturer’s designated charger and application.
- If the battery pack suddenly shows greatly reduced range/performance, dispose of it immediately.
- If the battery pack starts to get excessively hot during normal use, charging, or just sitting on a shelf, dispose of the pack immediately.
- Any battery pack that has been physically damaged should not be used. Cracked, broken, twisted, leaky or packs that have had their charging connections broken should be disposed of immediately.
- Do not leave battery packs to charge unattended. Most of the e-bike fires that have occurred are associated with being charged.
- Avoid cheap battery packs purchased over the internet. These are the most problematic battery packs.
- Avoid repairing E-bike batteries. Opening a battery pack and trying to repair them can be hazardous in and of itself. Worse, repairs can cause more problems than they fix. The battery management system could be damaged, or if cells are replaced in the pack are not of the correct type, disaster can result.
- Battery packs and electrical systems are not a good mix with water of any kind. Salt water is particularly bad. If a battery pack gets water into it, dispose of it immediately.
For details on the new regulations, their impact, and the process of meeting these requirements, Download our white paper on “New Lithium Battery Regulations – The Aftermath of Recent Fires.”