Whenever you’re shopping for a new electric scooter or electric bike, there’s one thing you should look for above all else — it just may save your life.
Remember all those stories about hoverboards catching fire? When hoverboards started gaining popularity, a good number of them had defective wiring that caused them to ignite, causing lots of property damage and injuries. In fact, it got so bad that the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission issued a recall for all hoverboards sold in the United States.
Out of that came a new third-party certification standard, UL 2272, that helped ensure that the batteries in hoverboards would be less susceptible to spontaneously igniting. It was expanded to include electric scooters and, in 2019, UL created a new standard, 2849, that also covers electric bikes.
“UL” stands for Underwriter Laboratories, an organization that tests all sorts of consumer products, from appliances to furniture to toys, to help ensure they’re safe to use.
Last year in New York City, e-bikes and e-scooters caused 216 fires, 147 injuries, and six deaths, according to The New York Times. As of April 10, there have already been 59 fires with five fatalities in 2023. That’s because, unlike other fires, those caused by lithium-ion batteries — the kind you find in e-bikes, e-scooters, and electric cars — are much more difficult to put out
While those are pretty low figures when you compare it with the number of scooters and bikes sold — an estimated 40 million worldwide this year, according to ebicycles.com — it’s still something you don’t want to happen to you or someone you know.
Most fires caused by electric scooters or e-bikes are either the result of poorly made components or because someone tried to repair or modify the device’s battery or motor. A product that’s passed UL certification, though, is far less likely to experience any of these issues.
When shopping for a new scooter or e-bike, make sure that it’s been certified by UL or some other recognized third-party testing agency; the CSA Group is accredited in Canada and the U.S. In Europe, the CE label is the one to look for, though manufacturers are required to do their own testing, rather than submit it to a third party.
Most of the companies that make the best electric scooters — Segway, Razor, et al — should have this certification. It's when you start looking at cheap scooters from no-name brands that you can run into trouble.
New York City residents will soon not have a choice: the New York City Council passed a measure that any company selling or leasing an e-bike or e-scooter in the city have a battery that’s certified by a third party by September 16, 2023.
And, if your e-bike's battery does get damaged, do not attempt to repair it yourself, or have someone who will fix it "for cheap." Contact the manufacturer and make sure it gets repaired properly.