Home » Fires And Deadly Crashes Have Put The World In A Love-Hate Relationship With E-Bikes

Fires And Deadly Crashes Have Put The World In A Love-Hate Relationship With E-Bikes

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New Year’s Eve 2023 was an intriguing case of the Sunday scaries. For some, this Sunday celebration came with the existential panic that they hadn’t done everything they’d wanted that year. For others, it was about finding a place to party out the end of a suboptimal year. For me? Well, the scariness was a bit closer to home. If it weren’t for waking up late and having to do laundry, I could’ve been caught next to a massive e-bike fire that filled a subway car in Toronto.

As Global News Toronto reports, a fire erupted on a northbound subway car at Sheppard-Yonge station around 3:00 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2023. Specifically, it was on the first car of a northbound train, and for whatever reason, I often end up on the first car of most trains. If I’d gone with my backup plan of heading to a Hong Kong cafe up Yonge street, I might’ve had to say goodbye to my good coat.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Unsurprisingly, the subway line was shut down for a period of time, although it had re-opened by 5:15 p.m. or so. Mercifully, only one person was injured and there were no fatalities, but that doesn’t stop the footage from being absolutely shocking.

 

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Yeah, that’s a lot of fire. While I’ve heard of e-bike fires before, I didn’t expect one to happen in my own backyard. That being said, electric micromobility adoption is growing, although not all of these little commuter devices are made equally.

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The New York Times reports that eBike fires killed 13 people in New York between the start of 2023 and mid-June. Something had to be done, and indeed, a legal change was in progress. See, New York had passed legislation mandating that all new e-bikes sold from September onward needed UL 2849 certification. Yep, prior to this, e-bikes in NYC didn’t need to pass third-party safety testing for batteries, motors, controllers, anything. How wild is that? While this measure could’ve been taken sooner, it illustrates one of the key issues with the e-bike market right now.

As far as critical components go, building an e-bike is fairly simple. With a hub motor, a motor controller, a battery pack, a throttle, and some sort of display to illustrate state-of-charge, a normal bicycle can be turned into an e-bike. While this is great for mobilizing the masses, it also means that entities looking to make a quick buck can slap together some shoddy components and sell a bike at far cheaper than average pricing. It’s not hard to find cheap e-bikes sold online that make no mention of safety certification, and that should be a red flag.

Aliexpress E Bike 2
The AliExpress listing for this bike makes no mention of UL certification.

Of course, battery fires aren’t the only way e-bikes can lead to people getting hurt. According to a report released by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, e-bike injuries are on the rise by an order of magnitude. Keep in mind that this particular set of numbers excludes electric scooters, as that’s a whole different can of worms.

Staff estimates 53,200 ED-treated visits for e-bikes from 2017 through 2022. The 2022 ED treated injury estimate of 24,400 for e-bikes reflects an increase of 21,000 ED visits from the 2017 estimate, which is statistically significant.

Yeah, I’d call approximately a 617 percent increase in injuries statistically significant too. Mind you, these are still estimates. Not every injury gets proper medical attention, especially in a nation of privatized healthcare. If we zoom in on e-bike fatalities, they seem to follow the injury trends. The same report details 104 fatalities involving e-bikes from 2017 through 2022, ramping up as the years went on. In 2017? Zero fatalities. In 2022? That climbed to 42. Breaking things down further, e-bike riders aren’t the only ones who suffered.

Accidents involving pedestrians resulted in 8 fatalities; 2 e-bike riders were killed due to blunt impact caused when they struck pedestrians; and 6 pedestrians were struck by ebikes and died from blunt impact/fall.

While six pedestrian deaths is still a series of tragedies, there’s a possibility that the danger of e-bikes to pedestrians may be overstated. Keep in mind that 7,508 pedestrians died in collisions during 2022, so mass definitely plays a role. Pieces such as The Atlantic‘s “The E-Bike Is A Monstrosity” and Men’s Journal’s “Electric Bike Riders Are Killing Pedestrians” aren’t entirely inaccurate, but sometimes it helps to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. From The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

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Sixteen e-bike fatalities were due to control issues, such as crashing into other fixed objects (i.e., gate, sign, post, barricade, railing, dumpster, median, fence), and striking road curbs.

In 2 fatalities, e-bike riders were intoxicated at the time of the accident.

One fatality was due to a rider hitting a speed bump and becoming airborne, then crash landing.

Two decedents were involved in two separate residential fires caused by e-bike batteries.

Unknown falls accounted for 17 e-bike-related fatalities, but staff does not have sufficient scenario-specific information to determine what caused the falls.

I’ve got nothing to say about these incidents, other than that you can probably still get charged with operating a conveyance under the influence if you hop on an e-bike after a few wobbly pops, so keep that in mind. The overarching takeaway is to simply e-bike responsibly, and remember that collisions with motor vehicles are still the leading cause deaths involving e-bikes.

Aliexpress E Bike 1
This folding e-bike looks quite charming. Shame it’s banned from some places.

Unsurprisingly, between fire risks and other hazards, several jurisdictions and organizations have shut the door on e-bikes. The New Haven Register reports that late last year, Yale University banned e-bikes from campus dorms, claiming potential fire risks. As Yale’s Associate Vice President of Public Safety and Community Engagement Ronnell A. Higgins wrote in a letter to students, “Although these devices have become a popular way for getting around campus, storing or charging them in densely populated residential spaces poses a severe fire and safety hazard.”

In 2022, Axios reported that NYC landlord Glenwood Management banned e-bikes from its properties. As per the news organization, Glenwood’s notice to tenants stated that “Our leases are also being amended to state that residents and/or their guests are prohibited from having an e-bike in their apartment.”

While some entities in America have been quick to ban e-bikes, some jurisdictions restricted legality long ago. In Hong Kong, electric bicycles are classified as motorcycles, and at least the vast majority don’t meet type approval. As a result, they’ve been frequent targets for police, and the South China Morning Post reports that crackdowns continue. From the news site, which mentions that in Hong Kong one can be imprisoned for riding an E-Bike:

Despite the widely reported problems of traffic congestion and air pollution facing the city, riding any sort of e-bike on the roads of Hong Kong is strictly illegal. Offenders face a fine and maximum penalty of three months imprisonment.

Many advocates of the e-bike in Hong Kong are furious that citizens can double-park fume-belching vans and trucks on double yellow lines in Central district with apparent impunity but if someone is apprehended riding at 20km/h on an environmentally friendly, battery-assisted bicycle, they could end up behind bars.

The law in Hong Kong has unique and exquisitely bureaucratic logic for excluding their citizens from the health and social benefits of e-bikes. Here, all e-bikes are classified as motorbikes (which they clearly are not) but because they do not precisely conform to the same exacting safety standards as petrol driven motorbikes, they are forbidden on Hong Kong roads.

It’s concerning that e-bikes are being vilified because many of them are quite good. Last year, I got to try a pedal-assisted electric bicycle and it was marvelous. With a long wheelbase, big tires, and a smart bit of electric assistance, I could glide around in the open air without working up too much of a sweat. It felt remarkably natural, eventually running into a pillow-soft limiter around the speed of traffic. The thought of cycling longer distances felt positively trivial, especially since traffic doesn’t really move in Toronto rush hour anyway. In the warm months, an electric bicycle would be an absolutely fabulous way of getting around.

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Motocompacto
Ah, the Honda Motocompacto. Now that’s an e-scooter.

Oh, and electric bicycles aren’t the only micromobility solutions that are a ton of fun. In November, I got a chance to ride the Honda Motocompacto, an electric scooter roughly the size of a small folding table. You know what? It was more fun than most new performance cars I’ve driven in my nearly five-year run as an automotive writer. There’s something effervescent and pure and simple to the fun you have on an eBike or electric scooter that’s just missing from so many modern vehicles. The Motocompacto and a Kia EV6 GT couldn’t be more different if one was made of penne and wallpaper paste and the other ran on dilithium crystals, but I can tell you which one I’d rather own in a heartbeat.

Like electric cars, eBikes aren’t practical for everyone, but for the people who can make them work, they’re awesome. We’re talking about a vehicle as compact as a bicycle that uses a fraction of the raw materials needed to make an electric car, yet you won’t arrive at work drenched in sweat, nor will your coworkers call you a lycra-clad buffoon. Unfortunately, a brilliant concept has been somewhat spoiled by a lack of oversight, inadequate or confusing regulations, and a handful of individuals who have injured or killed pedestrians while riding these green little machines. If things keep going this way, e-bikes could go the way of the Segway, a footnote in the history of transportation. That would be a shame, since electrically-assisted bicycles and electric scooters have so much potential.

(Photo credits: AliExpress, Thomas Hundal; top graphic E-bike via Joseph/stock.adobe.com )

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CrystalEyes
CrystalEyes
3 months ago

I love my electric kick style scooter, putting more than 3000km on it last year, a lot of them on bike lanes. I make a special effort to be careful and courteous while riding because, quite frankly, I feel like I’m on borrowed time before some kind of ban-hammer of ill thought out and impractical laws comes down on the whole thing. Why? Because people are discourteous idiots, the same reason as everything. Bikers don’t trust me because I can easily go faster than they can when it is entirely inappropriate and unsafe to do so. I don’t do that, but I don’t blame them for thinking I might. I cringe every time I see someone riding a scooter too quickly for conditions/traffic, passing without a friendly call out or ring of a bell first (electric scooters tend to be considerably quieter than a bike), or otherwise being an entitled jack-ass (to be fair that last one is hardly restricted only to the powered versions of two wheeled conveyances). At the same time, drivers hate me because I can’t keep up with freely moving traffic but can’t be trusted to stay to the side either. To be clear, I can; but they are not wrong to expect otherwise. Eventually it will all get sorted out, but as things stand now it’s a mess. All I can do is try to set a good example for other scooter riders while trying not to lend weight to whatever negative stereotypes drivers and bikers already have of us. Things would be so much easier if that attitude was shared and expected from everyone on the road, including pedestrians, but alas. A big part of the problem is the lack of shared understanding regarding what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour in any particular circumstance. That being the case, I stick to the same primary rule I use when driving; to never do anything that to other drivers is sudden or unexpected. In practice, that means mostly eye contact and signaling well ahead. This is made easier on my scooter because it has both brake lights and turn signals. Neither is currently common on bikes or other scooters, but there’s no reason they couldn’t be. That and a few clear rules that everyone knows and is expected to follow at least sounds like a more realistic goal than advocating for more courtesy and common sense.

Six
Six
3 months ago

Getting e-bikes regulated enough that risky batteries aren’t imported anymore would be a huge leap. And for people who will never quit driving, don’t you want other people to quit driving and bike instead? Fewer cars on the road would be better for drivers.

Chronometric
Chronometric
3 months ago

E-bikes are:
Faster than a Model T
More crashworthy than a classic Fiat 500
Less explosive than a Pinto
More portable than a Peel P50
Better handling than a Reliant Robin
More weatherproof than an Austin Healey Sprite
Cheaper than today’s Mitsubishi Outlander shitbox

So what’s not to love?

Last edited 3 months ago by Chronometric
MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
3 months ago

I have put over 2000 miles on 2 e-bikes. I handed my first one down to my 20 year old son who doesn’t drive. He uses it to commute to his college classes and work. I use mine for last mile commuting. I can get anywhere in Downtown LA from Union Station in 10 minutes regardless of traffic or parking. I never leave it unattended while charging, and take both bikes to a shop regularly to keep the brakes/tires safe. I see people riding e-bikes (and acoustic bikes and bikes with tiny gas motors) without helmets all the time with brakes that are barely functional and bald tires. Life is risk.

Major Malfunction
Major Malfunction
3 months ago

Going on my 31st year as a firefighter. I worry for the EV future from the simple standpoint of fires. Be it an ebike, muscle massager, escooter, or a Tesla; when the batteries go….IT GOES. Spectacularly. The quest for folks to buy the cheapest product possible off Amazon or wherever with no idea or care who made the batteries. And then with cars, its just a “surround and drown” once the batteries catch. if its out on the highway, its not like there are hydrants out there so we might have to just let it burn itself down and protect any exposures. Sometimes you just cannot put them out and there is just nothing to do but wait.

I mention massager because had a recent apartment call where it just detonated while on charge after 10 minutes. Literally made shrapnel that covered an entire living room. Rug was scorched and melted but luckily they were in another room and quickly hit with an extinguisher. You ALL have fire extinguishers readily accessible in your homes AND know how to use one PROPERLY? RIGHT?

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
3 months ago

The price difference between those absolute bottom of the barrel cheap ebikes and something like an Aventon (UL & TUV certs) is relatively small too.

Hamish48
Hamish48
3 months ago

I’ve been wanting to light a fire under the TTC (Toronto Transit Corporation) for years, though maybe not in this manner. Yonge/Sheppard would not be an easy station to evacuate. I’m glad it went as well as it did, but are we going to have to consider barring such vehicles? They ride well on the racks on the front of our buses, but maybe not in confined spaces? Glad it wasn’t in a tunnel tho’ – some of them are very long.

Bucho65
Bucho65
3 months ago

I have a lower end e-bike and from the issues I see people posting online about them people are expecting honda or Toyota reliability. Expecting to just hop on and go riding for 100s or 1000s of miles without checking bolts, adjusting brakes, and not having other issues pop up. You’re on an e-bike that costs less than $2k. You’re going to have to do some tinkering to keep it running smoothly.

They think it would be a great way to take their kids to school instead of driving the car, which it is, but are not aware of the skill it takes to ride a bicycle with an additional 100lbs.on it.

As with most problems in this country it comes down to education and personal responsibility.

Thevenin
Thevenin
3 months ago
Reply to  Bucho65

As with most problems in this country it comes down to education and personal responsibility.

I would like someone to educate the manufacturers so they could be more personally responsible for their dangerously shoddy worksmanship. Particularly for the batteries.

A consumer should not need an electrical engineering degree to safely ride an e-bike without it exploding for the same reason a shopper should not need a biology degree to know if the groceries in the supermarket are safe to eat.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago

Two thoughts: Its always interesting hearing the thoughts when someone comes across a drastic example of where they might have been in danger.

As an engineer that helped get a product through UL testing… I still don’t necessarily trust the bike to not catch fire. I may be biased due to my experiences, but my feelings to the UL cert process just kind of felt like a real life recreation the Tommy Boy “Shit in a box and slap a guarantee on it” speech

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

I’d assume the UL certification at least makes sure the bare minimum is done, like overvoltage and overheat charge cutoffs on a BMS built into the battery. Or having a BMS at all. Corners that the absolute bottom-of-the-barrel cheap stuff will actually cut to get their prices a couple bucks lower.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago
Reply to  Defenestrator

For what I did (and I imagine it would be similar for others) the UL cert followed the relevant test guideline, and once we finally passed we were basically locked into that “recipe” for that product.

Panel thicknesses, frame thicknesses/orientation/general design, and several other things were all set in stone for us. However we could, within reason, step down to something out of the design. You tested with a stainless steel frame? You’re ok changing to a mild carbon steel frame. Stuff like that.

The problems I saw were with the testing agency, how stringent they weren’t, how unprepared they were to test our stuff, and how much they were willing to bend or outright remove from the “recipe.” Additionally, a lot of the tracking of the quality of the materials didn’t matter to them. Potentially with something that had more moving parts than what we were doing, or more outsourced parts, they would care more but I don’t know that for sure.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
3 months ago

I’m of the logic conviction that a ‘cycle with a motor is a motorcycle. No matter the propulsion..
So can’t really understand what any of those are doing in our earlier so peaceful bicycle lanes?

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
3 months ago

Well, that’s because so many people use them irresponsibly. I bought an ebike this summer to help get my fat ass back into a more reasonable shape. I ride mine at low assist, at the same pace that my 11 year old rides her 24″ wheeled mountain bike. It lets me get a reasonable workout, while riding the 5 miles to work without being sweaty and exhausted. I use bike paths as much as I can, because I don’t want to get run over by cars. But unlike a lot of douche bags, I never uncork full speed on my bike unless I am on the actual road.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
3 months ago
Reply to  Shop-Teacher

I wish all people were like you then.

Around here the fast (most likely not approved for public roads) fat tire ones are the preferred vehicles for drug dealers, because you can easily escape a police car on one.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
3 months ago

Ugh, that sucks.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

preferred vehicles for drug dealers, because you can easily escape a police car on one.

In my neck of the woods it’s Hellcats, tuned Altimas, or crotch rockets.

Ben
Ben
3 months ago

Every time I hear someone explain why they like ebikes, all I hear is “motorcycles are great!” Which I agree with, but I’m also not convinced that putting what amounts to a motorcycle, with a rider who doesn’t need any kind of license, in a bike lane with pedestrians and non-motorized bikes is a good idea. At least with the cyclists who can ride that fast under their own power, they probably had to put in thousands of miles of riding to get to that point and likely have learned quite a bit of bike handling in that time. Any idiot can (and does) get on an ebike and blast down the trails at 20 mph.

Then again, it’s quite possible I’m just an old man yelling at clouds of lithium fire smoke.

Wuffles Cookie
Wuffles Cookie
3 months ago
Reply to  Ben

No, this is a long-standing issue with ebike adoption, it’s even more prevelent in mountain biking on off-road trails, but it’s pretty bad even on city streets. People dismiss it as some sort of gatekeeping, but it’s really not- on most ebikes you can go as fast or faster than pro cyclists who have spent their lives riding, and consequently have the bike handling skills to go with their fitness. Going 20+ mph on your first bike ride in a decade is going to probably be a problem, and we’re seeing the consequences of that.

Disclaimer: I own an ebike that I use for commuting, but I also own and race (Cat 4/5 lol) lots of acoustic bikes as well, so at least I can stay in control on my commute.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
3 months ago

I think there’s a reasonable case to be made for treating class 1 and maybe class 2 ebikes like bicycles rather than motorcycles. Class 3 or faster not so much. I do think the 20mph limit on class 1/2 is a tad high and maybe 15 would be better, but in general they’re within the “humans can pedal a bike this speed” range even if that particular human can’t pedal one that fast at that particular point in time.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago

“nor will your coworkers call you a lycra-clad buffoon”

Oooh, is that a harassment lawsuit I sense brewing?

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
3 months ago

E-bikes fill a,useful niche but execution and operation are problems. First,we have cheap Chinese battery packs catching on fire, and in several incidents in New York causing major structure fires when a room full of batteries goes up. Second we have a lot of riders who neither know nor care how to ride safely blasting at 25-30mph the wrong way up bike lanes and even worse riding flat out on sidewalks and shared paths. The hardware side is fixable with certification and less volatile battery chemistry, the wetware will require training and enforcement. I don’t like the idea of police ticketing riders and confiscating bikes but l dislike being mowed down on a sidewalk or crosswalk more.
I’m also still firmly opposed to electric mountain bikes and support the USFS and BLM policies banning motors from MTB trails.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
3 months ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

I ride (a regular mtb) on trails in a populated area of SoCal on weekends. eBikes are a non-issue.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
3 months ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

Who is the land manager for those trails and are electric bikes on those trails? I live in Oregon where the majority of trails are on federal land so no E-bikes and it’s a contentious issue due to to badly behaved E-bike riders on paved trails and the occasional state managed MTB trails.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
3 months ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

Anything from city, state to federal to grey-area trails? eBikes (anecdotally mostly Specialized Levos of various types) outnumber normal bikes probably 2:1. I have been riding 20+ years. eBikes haven’t noticeably changed any of my experience at all. Hikers wearing over-the-ear-headphones are more annoying.

MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
3 months ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

I used to live next to a county-managed trailhead in SoCal, and I rarely saw eBikes using the trail. I saw a Sur Ron electric dirt bike one time which was technically not allowed on the trail (no pedals), but the rider was going slow and being careful on his descent down the mountain and stopped to chat about his ride for a minute. It’s amazing how quiet it is compared to a gas bike, nearly silent.

Wuffles Cookie
Wuffles Cookie
3 months ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

Really? E-bikes are a fucking disaster on the trails up in WA. Land managers are seriously pissed off, and we’ve had a large number of bad accidents that involve e-bikers not following the rules of the trails and doing incredibly stupid shit (ie blasting uphill a downhill only trail, blasting down hiking-only trails). I’ve stopped doing trail building anywhere that allows them because they erode the dirt away far faster than normal mtbs do (and in pre-emptive defense to the crowd who will always insist they don’t cause any more wear: the whole point of an e-bike is to go further and faster than you could on leg power alone, that ipso facto increases erosion for any given rider, even if all other factors are equal- which they aren’t).

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
3 months ago
Reply to  Wuffles Cookie

I mean I ride dirt bikes (on legal OHV trails) and they are still rideable on my mountain bike. Adding less that one 1hp seems like a silly thing to gripe about.

I’ve encountered the uphill thing before but our trails are generally always 2 way so they can ride uphill if they want. Plus post covid the number of newbies who do dumb stuff has dropped to almost zero since it’s mostly back to the old regular crowd.

Wuffles Cookie
Wuffles Cookie
3 months ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

Adding less that one 1hp seems like a silly thing to gripe about.

Bicycles are extremely efficient machines, far more so than cars or dirt bikes. 1 hp (735 w) is far more than even pro cyclists maintain at all times, and more than most amateur cyclists can’t put out even in a sprint. On a flat road, it will get you somewhere between 40-50 mph depending on how good your aero is. 200 watts (the limit for most unregulated e-bikes) is more than most people can sustain for any length of time, and e-bikes can put it out for more than an hour straight these days. That’s effectively more than doubling the average speed of an average rider, no small effect, and leads to much higher speeds overall. Handing this amount of speed for free to Joe Schmoe, who probably doesn’t have the handling skills of even a regular biker, causes lots of issues.

Last edited 3 months ago by Wuffles Cookie
Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
3 months ago
Reply to  Wuffles Cookie

I mean you’re correct on a pure numbers perspective but at least in SoCal most guys are riding Levos/the eBike Trance/whatever Santa Cruz ebike official 20mph-capped class 1 ebikes which don’t deliver 750w all at the same time, they have torque sensors and gradually deliver that power based on pedaling. I ride with friends who have them, I got a 300w FTP (and that’s just an absolutely ideal situation to put out those numbers on my trainer, in air conditioning, fueled up, etc) and any one of them can outride me with no issues but these bikes aren’t exactly kicking up roost or anything. They deliver power super soft, cap out at 20 and got good traction. More than a human sure, but hardly something to worry about. That said I don’t know your area and your trails might not hold up like ours do. SoCal is basically concrete decomposed granite even up in the national forest areas.

I’d be lying if I said I NEVER had a bad interaction with an eBike but I live in a metro area with 10 million people and year round weather so there’s bound to be some idiots. I did probably 1,000 miles last year just offroad and can’t think of a single bad interaction I had. There are a million things that make life worse, eBikes don’t even make the top 5,000.

Last edited 3 months ago by Rabob Rabob
Gee See
Gee See
3 months ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

Actually most fires are caused by people monkeying the batteries with chargers. eg stolen bikes charged with incompatible battery. I would argue the switch to LFP has make fires less likely.

Thermal run away is most at risk during charging.

Last edited 3 months ago by Gee See
SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
3 months ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

We fly RC planes and helicopters with large capacity and high voltage LiPo packs, up to 12S (50V) and 6Ah. That’s 300Wh, or 6 times that of a typical laptop.
These packs are no joke and they demand utmost attention. Those clowns who misuse these packs and charge them all in the same room should be thrown in prison with the key thrown into East River.
It’s no different from dowsing their room with gasoline and start setting off fireworks.
The cheapest and most expensive LiPo packs are all made in China in any regard.

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
3 months ago
Reply to  SNL-LOL Jr

For my RC’s I use tons of the chinese LiPo packs, but also in the RC crowd, I would say that we generally warn new people to charge on some non-flammable surface and away from flammables if possible. If a pack gets puffy, then dispose of it safely. Never charge puffy packs.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
3 months ago
Reply to  SNL-LOL Jr

RC lipo packs are no joke. It’s amazing what they can put up with. When treated well and respected, that is. Discharging them too far is bad and charging at greater than 2C is bad. And never charge a hot pack! It’s in no shape to accept electricity until it’s cooled a bit.

Letting these packs discharge too far and charging at high amperage when still warm is a great way to cause a fire. Something says those packs didn’t have good balance charging or people didn’t care. Scary.

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
3 months ago

I remember way back when Lipos first appeared in RC, people sometimes crashed their planes/helis (as we all do) and put the wreck into their cars. Minutes or hours later it would catch fire, burning out the cars.

If these e-bike clowns keep it up sooner or later LiPos will just be outlawed except when built into devices. A friend of mine is getting into RC racing and his Manhattan building forbids LiPo packs, period. I now keep his LiPo packs in my place (at safe storage voltage, inside flame retardant bags, etc.)

That’s why we can’t have nice things.

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
3 months ago
Reply to  SNL-LOL Jr

Balance charging has helped a lot. Especially the 4-6S packs. But for bikes, unless the charging structure and battery design are known, most are probably the wild west. So I can understand the dangers of having that high kW and not understanding it. That said I have an e-Bike, and it’s a major brand, so I have less fears of the battery control board, but I still have made sure I know what boards and charger structure is like. And I charge it outside.

Last edited 3 months ago by Andrew Wyman
415s30
415s30
3 months ago

Anyone else notice kids don’t pedal anymore, they just speed down bike paths on electric motorcycles, I swear they are going 30-40mph. We just had an article in the Marin IJ interviewing doctors about the increase in injuries from this.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
3 months ago
Reply to  415s30

Kids used to ride dirt bikes, go carts and minibikes. You’re just old and miserable because kids are having fun. Considering Marin’s stance on mountain bikes, it tracks.

Last edited 3 months ago by Rabob Rabob
Eggsalad
Eggsalad
3 months ago

As with many products, legislation is way behind technological advancements. 20 years ago, there was no such thing as an electrically propelled “kick-style” scooter that could go 20mph and cost $200. So of course there aren’t many laws concerning this sort of thing.

As a nation, we’ve agreed to import most anything, without providing the means to inspect every shipping container for illegal items anyhow, so what’s the point of trying to control the importation of dangerous things?

Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
3 months ago

Toronto is absolutely lousy with “e-bikes” that have a throttle and don’t require any pedalling to go. All levels of government are entirely asleep at the switch with the category of vehicle; technically anything that can go over 32km/h without pedalling contravenes Transport Canada regulations but I can walk across the street and buy such a thing from a shop on the main drag. Doesn’t surprise me one bit that one of them went up in flames; the ratio of $known_brand to “Chinese???” is 1:1000.

Gee See
Gee See
3 months ago
Reply to  Scone Muncher

The speed is software locked like wifi end points, DVDs and console gaming.

The limit is 24kph in Japan, 25kph in Europe and Australia, 32kph in North America. Not limited in a lot of places in Asia. Some bikes enforce the speed via the phone app. There are always ways to get around that and then people complain about sending information to big brother and servers somewhere etc.

The question is how to enforce the rules without exerting too much manpower. I do think with the demise of honor system, the system is teetering to anarchy.

Last edited 3 months ago by Gee See
Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
3 months ago
Reply to  Gee See

Most of the e-bikes I see around here are very much just mopeds with a 500W electric motor instead of a 20cc gas one. Twist; go. When I played dumb at the e-bike shop and asked, “Aren’t these supposed to be limited to 32km/h?”, the owner just said, “Yeah, if you’re going to use them on the street. These are strictly for “off-road” use. (NUDGE NUDGE WINK WINK)”.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
3 months ago

I just have one simple request: GET OFF THE EFFIN’ SIDEWALKS ALREADY. That also applies to human powered adult riders.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago

“I just have one simple request: GET OFF THE EFFIN’ SIDEWALKS ALREADY. That also applies to human powered adult riders”

As a cyclist I have a counterargument:

No.

I dunno where you live but here in CA its not illegal to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk unless specifically forbidden by the city. Unless the city specifically forbids it cyclists get to use the sidewalk even if there is a bike lane RIGHT THERE. I dunno about scooters but I’d think its similar.

Which is good. Forcing people to ride bikes and scooters in busy streets is a LOT more dangerous than having them mixed with the occasional walker.

But I’ll tell you what, I’ll use bike lanes whenever it’s safe to do so AND I will be as courteous as possible when its not if you control your damn dogs and don’t cluelessly wander around the sidewalk like its your personal domain.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I ride a commuter eBIke to work. I ride mostly in bike lanes when I can. I ride through a suburban neighborhood street – that parallels a huge high volume street. I will occasionally get honked/yelled at/told to ride on the sidewalk even though there’s no reason for a car to take the route I take. Halfway through my ride I switch to a bike path that dumps out on a sidewalk. I’ve been yelled at by joggers riding on the sidewalk through that section. It’s 100% legal to ride on the sidewalk or the road in my city. You can’t win. I just ignore it.

Ben
Ben
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

The one time I ever rented an e-scooter we actually had a cop stop and tell us to get on the sidewalk because it was stupidly dangerous to ride on the street in heavy downtown traffic. I agree, but I always thought riding on the sidewalk was prohibited.

Honestly, with those tiny wheels the thing felt like a deathtrap anyway, especially since I had no safety gear whatsoever. They were kind of fun, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was one pothole away from a trip to the hospital. The stats in this article kind of back up my feeling too.

Phuzz
Phuzz
3 months ago

In the UK, it’s illegal to ride a bike on the pavement (‘sidewalk’), although you’re unlikely to get more than a verbal warning for doing it.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  Phuzz

I’d have to see it for myself to decide which is the greater risk, getting hit by a car or getting yelled at by a bobby.

Gee See
Gee See
3 months ago

There is always a probability of thermal runaway.

I am not sure TTC risk is necessarily higher than situations say on the GoTrains https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/there-are-too-many-bikes-a-sharp-rise-in-the-number-of-food-couriers-commuting/article_f5dcd476-f378-5d15-82d8-895868409bac.html

That has potential to be more serious if one eBike goes up in smoke.

I think it is important to make sure eBikes complies with UL certifications https://www.ul.com/services/e-bikes-certificationevaluating-and-testing-ul-2849
Currently it is still a wild west, especially on imports.

About in HK, geographically it is a lot smaller than most cities in North America, even excluding the population and much higher population density. Then it comes down to, it is nice to have, but is it necessary that worth the potential risk of accidents etc it would bring. Micromobility is not allowed on side walks and the road is narrow, technically/ legally they are only allowed on bike paths which are not that many (only in rural places).

Last edited 3 months ago by Gee See
Protodite
Protodite
3 months ago

I’m a full fledged addicted cyclist, and I initially came to E-Bikes as “Not for me, but it’s a good thing.” I ride a few times a month when I’m in New York City, and that got me to change my thoughts almost entirely. E-Bikes from an actual bicycle brand, say Specialized, I can understand as a bike first with an electric assist. But that’s not really what the market is now, is it? The market is just unregulated electric motorcycles, mopeds, or what have you. Cyclists do need better road manners in the city, and should adhere more strictly to some of the traffic laws that many surely don’t… but even when done it’s essentially limited to the power you can put out of your own legs. These E-Bikes that are everywhere in NYC are just motorcycles that disobey and disregard every law and regulation with no sense of pedestrian safety at a much greater speed!

Bike lanes and bike infrastructure is built typically around shared space and around the idea of speeds that are attainable by the average person self-propelled on a bicycle. These tighter spaces have absolutely been just taken over by vehicles that should be in a full road traffic scenario, and operate at those speeds but in way more confined spaces. The amount of literal f***ing gas powered engined vehicles without pedals wearing “FLY E-BIKE” plates that honk as they blitz through narrow bridge bike lanes going the wrong direction is almost more than actual bicycles that I see in use.

Combine all this horrid behavior with cheap stuff that has a tendency to combust? Call me a luddite if you wish, but I have taken a hard turn against. The fantasy of the E-Bike is nice, but the reality is nothing short of dog-s*** for everyone else. If you want to use protected infrastructure built for self-propelled vehicles, you need to have pedals be the only source of power. If they aren’t, get on the road with the other motor powered vehicles.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Protodite

Unmotorized, I can hit 50 mph in a Milan SL velomobile on flat ground. This vehicle is a bicycle, fully powered by my legs. I do use it on bike trails. It’s a rare ebike that can keep up with it on the street, as long as I’m not starting from a stop and slogging it uphill at least. If we both start at a stop light, it will take me quite some distance to overtake the ebike, but said ebike usually won’t catch up with me after I pass them unless I have to stop due to a traffic signal. 30 mph, once reached, is about the same effort to maintain as doing 14 mph on a mountain bike.

Of course, I also have a 10 kW monster of a trike with a bicycle drivetrain that can go from 0-30 mph in about 2 seconds, that is more car than bicycle. Soon to be upgraded to AWD and 25+ kW, because I want something to troll the local Hellcats with. If I turn the motor off, I can still pedal it to 35 mph in a sprint, albeit it will get there much more slowly.

Last edited 3 months ago by Toecutter
JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I am watching some videos of someone adding 2 motors to a Velo to go about 50. I don’t have that kind of faith in bicycle parts.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  JaredTheGeek

I don’t either. That’s why my custom build trike has DOT rims and tires, and motorcycle parts in my hydraulic disc brake system. Those upgrades were an absolute necessity.

The Milan is also a fairly robust design as far as bicycles go. I have 90mm Sturmey Archer drum brakes in it. It likes to cruise at 30 mph or so on flat ground, and it is rare that I have to repair wheels. I change tires about once a year, and the pedal drivetrain is enclosed. Once I motorize it, things will wear out much faster.

Last edited 3 months ago by Toecutter
Defenestrator
Defenestrator
3 months ago
Reply to  Protodite

I’m not sure I’d call it unregulated electric motorcycles. There are classifications of ebike and restrictions based on those classifications. Generally speaking, class 1 and 2 bikes (20mph top speed) get treated like human-powered bicycles and sometimes class 3 (28mph) are allowed as well. Anything above 28mph isn’t an ebike and I think basically falls into a gray area where they’re not technically allowed anywhere.

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
3 months ago
Reply to  Defenestrator

It’s not a gray area, they are not allowed on public roadways. It’s not enforced often but we are seeing more enforcement in California. I think there is a place for them with easier registration and insurance for something like a Suron. They are more scooter than motorcycle unless they are modded.

CandleCamper
CandleCamper
3 months ago

I just rode my new motocompacto for the first time today. It is indeed a lot of fun!

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
3 months ago
Reply to  CandleCamper

You got one? How many kidneys do you have left?

CandleCamper
CandleCamper
3 months ago

Just the one. Kidding – I just placed an order when they opened and it showed up with zero drama or intervention on my part.

Holly Birge
Holly Birge
3 months ago

I’ve had an e-bike for four years now and I love it. I really do worry though about cheap batteries on some bikes making problems for those of us with good quality batteries.

A consequence in my area is that the affordable passenger only ferry to downtown Vancouver doesn’t allow e-bikes. You have to take the car ferry that dumps you into a cycling nightmare highway.

MrLM002
MrLM002
3 months ago

I think the big difference between e-bikes and ICE bicycle mopeds is how contained the fuel is for e-bikes and how hard it is to see the status of the batteries. A tank full of gasoline, diesel, premix, propane, etc. rarely ever spontaneously combusts. Nor does the engine and or transmission oil.

On basically every ICE motorcycle and ICE moped I have ever worked on it is very easy to inspect them for issues and very easy to maintain them.

For a ton of electric vehicles the batteries are treated as sealed units, and on many of them the batteries are integral to the vehicle. Even if the batteries are not spontaneously combusting symptoms of impending combustion are not visible. An ICE moped puking fuel, leaking oil, etc. is all very visible and very noticeable.

Also a ton of e-bike, e-scooters, etc. do not have active cooling for the batteries, and that combined with the wrong batteries in a housing that does not provide ample cooling leads to overheating which has a good chance of starting a fire, and unlike fossil fuel fires battery fires are very very hard to extinguish.

I don’t care if people on e-bikes, e-scooters, etc. are being reckless when they are using said vehicles, there are already laws on the books that can be used to prosecute them for said behavior.

Energy is dangerous, by it’s nature it is dangerous, but it’s how we got to where we are today. Respect energy and it’s potential. A heavy thing on a high shelf has plenty of potential energy to kill if it fell and hit a living being.

I don’t understand electricity, it’s spicy magic to me. I have a general dislike of batteries and generally buy battery-less alternatives whenever possible. My smartphone uses batteries, my laptop uses batteries, some (but not most) of my shavers use batteries, etc.

I don’t hate green tech, quite the opposite actually.

For motorized vehicles I’d much rather have an internal combustion engine with a mechanical starter and a heavy duty alternator to power all the necessary electrics (if legally required) and have non electric accessories whenever possible. I understand mechanical things and they work much better for me than electric things.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

I don’t understand electricity, it’s spicy magic to me.

Angry pixies.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

That’s a rude offhand comment. Anything that can re-animate the dead should be given respect. /s

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

I don’t hear Queen Mab complaining.

Protodite
Protodite
3 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

I understand mechanical things and they work much better for me than electric things.

And they will continue to just work! Having a mechanical action on something is just really nice once in a while. Simplified, tactile, lasting. I flat out refuse to get a pasta maker that requires a motor or electronics, there is something nice about being able to just take out my hand crank pasta maker and listening to the gears as I turn with my hand. It’s something that will just continue to work and something I can actually interact with

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Protodite

I like my EVs to be as analogue as possible for many of the same reasons. I hate how everything is a sealed, proprietary, inaccessible, unrepairable system on modern EVs.

Every EV I’ve built is mostly the opposite of that. It’s really the best of both worlds. You get the reliability of either 1 or 0 moving parts of an electric drive system, but the reparability that comes with a “dumb” set of low-tech systems to power it which can be swapped out for other components if something fails.

Modern electric cars are entirely backwards from the spirit and purpose that caused EV hobbyists and visionaries of the previous century to become passionate about the technology in the first place. It offered the promise of a forever car repairable with very basic tools, and minimal maintenance. It’s as if we didn’t get electric cars available UNTIL the OEMs figured out ways to make them fail before the drive system itself does, and to fail in such a way that they would cost more to fix than the vehicle was worth, and require a dealership to fix them by locking out shadetree mechanics via software. Tesla and BYD are sort of exceptions to this, but even they are very heavily tech-laden and costly to repair and laden with proprietary crap, the difference being that most of what they have developed has been rendered open source and in the case of Tesla’s battery packs, 3rd parties are coming up with a repair process. The 1st gen Nissan Leaf, for all of its faults, actually had a lot of good ideas in this regard too, but its choice of battery coupled with lack of thermal management killed its longevity.

Last edited 3 months ago by Toecutter
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

“Modern electric cars are entirely backwards from the spirit and purpose that caused EV hobbyists and visionaries of the previous century to become passionate about the technology in the first place. It offered the promise of a forever car repairable with very basic tools, and minimal maintenance.”

I think a lot of cars are junked due to collision damage or neglect long before they break or wear out. Not much can be done about that. Personally I can fix mechanical or electric problems better than I can do bodywork or frame damage.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

This is why I’m a fan of body on frame construction, as well as frameless glass fiber monocoques. Both are generally easily repaired, albeit they do require entirely different skillsets.

Fixing my Milan SL velomobile has also taught me a few things about carbon fiber repair, even if I might suck at it. A functional but ugly repair I can do myself is better than either no repair or paying some composites expert thousands of dollars to do the repair for me.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Easily repaired but not as safe in a major crash. As much as I might suck at automotive body and frame work I’d rather my car take the hit instead of me.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

 I’d rather my car take the hit instead of me.

Agreed!

Monocoques have a tendency to extend the impulse interval for the occupants when designed correctly. I’ve been in two wrecks with hit and run drivers in the Milan SL and it’s possible it saved my life in both cases. Dare I say it’s safer than my steel bodied Triumph GT6. Even though this vehicle is like 70 lbs I was completely uninjured! And I was able to repair it with epoxy resin, carbon fiber weave, disposable gloves, scissors, bondo, and sandpaper, in spite of it being a one-piece carbon fiber and kevlar design.

Last edited 3 months ago by Toecutter
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Dare I say it’s safer than my steel bodied Triumph GT6

If its anything like my old TR3 that’s really not saying much. My TR3 was about as safe as a sketchy carnival ride.

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Just weld a full external cage on it, problem solved.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  JaredTheGeek

As long it as it doesn’t take Jaws Of Life to get me out of it.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

As long as the cage is designed to take at least the vehicle’s weight in terms of force, you won’t get crushed when a heavy vehicle hits you.

If you get sandwiched between two vehicles during a wreck, that’s a different outcome and the jaws of life may become necessary.

The plastic body I made for the microcar prevented injury when I got rear-ended thnks to a stoutly designed bulkhead behind the seat. It was not a safe vehicle by any means, but the body was much better than nothing. A side impact by a car, even at 15 mph, probably would have been a death sentence, said impact which happened in the Milan but which left me uninjured.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter
Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

But can you walk away if you get rolled under a semi?

Nope!

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
3 months ago
Reply to  Protodite

The ones on my KitchenAid are magic though. I can easily fix a KitchenAid when it breaks. Just like an electric bike is much easier to repair, fewer components to troubleshoot compared to a combustion engine. I have built several old hot rods and flat out garbage cars in the past.

Oldskool
Oldskool
3 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

This, and I think I said it before in regard to EV fires. But applies just as much to E bikes. Statistics may say one thing, but EV fires are more dangerous than ICE fires. Not only more difficult to extinguish, but it’s the unpredictability factor. It’s obvious when an ICE is leaking gas or oil and is a fire hazard. You surely wouldn’t bring it on a train that way, or not expect to get kicked off. Not so with an EV battery. You haven’t a clue it’s a fire hazard, or at least the average person doesn’t.

I think there needs to be a way to clearly indicate that a battery is in an unsafe condition and is a fire waiting to happen. Some sort of smell, or maybe an alarm, just something obvious. Like for example, propane gas is odorless, but a characteristic odor is added so a homeowner, RVer, etc clearly knows if there is a leak.

And if that’s not possible in a timely manner, then batteries need to be designed with enough safety margin so they don’t spontaneously combust.

MrLM002
MrLM002
3 months ago
Reply to  Oldskool

Agreed. That being said batteries in ICE cars start a lot more fires than the gas, engine, exhaust, etc. A Ford Explorer had an electrical short due to leaking brake fluid onto the wiring harness (which was common enough there was a recall for it) on the MV Courage, caught on fire, and did over 100 million in damage to the ship and the cargo.

When your ICE drivetrain is the same as ambient temp and said drivetrain has no battery in it it’s damn near impossible for that vehicle to spontaneously combust, even if it’s pissing out every flammable fluid is has in it. In an ICE vehicle that has a working battery in it the battery is always live and it can easily start a fire.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
3 months ago

I have a 2004 EV Global Motors Mini-E-Bike (Lee Iacocca’s last vehicular project and allegedly the origin of the term “e-bike”) but, inasmuch as it is not exactly a current design, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it uses a lead-acid battery pack. There’s not much risk of fire but there’s also not much risk of significant assisted range. Still, it works well enough as a weekend pit bike, so I’m happy with it.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

When the lead acid battery finally goes out, it could be upgraded easily.

For what it is, it is also surprisingly light weight. The Heinzmann hub motor is a bit of an odd duck, being series-wound DC, but controlling this is relatively simple. A 48V upgrade could possibly yield a 20 mph top speed.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

The original bespoke battery pack had failed long before I got ahold of it. I’m running it on a pair of small off-the-shelf 12V batteries with even less capacity than what it had in the first place, but they’re the biggest commonly available SLA batteries that will fit inside the housing. My bike is the smaller folding version, so there’s not a lot of room in there.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

In terms of capacity, you could easily fit 4x as much LiFePO4 batteries in that space purely from an energy vs volume perspective.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago

I’m a guy who logged over 9000 miles in a bike saddle (all road miles) in 2023 and I’ve got some strong opinions on this subject.

Setting aside potential China Syndrome batteries, E-bikes don’t pose any more of hazard to riders, pedestrians or other traffic than regular bicycles- and that’s the problem, because way too many people ride like idiots.

They ride on the wrong side of the road, facing into traffic; they ride the wrong way on one-way streets; they don’t stop at intersections; they don’t signal turns and stops; they ride on sidewalks and other pedestrian paths; they ride without helmets; they ride without lights and reflectors; they weave across lanes; they ride with one or no hands on the handlebars; they talk on their phones while riding; they overload their bikes; they don’t maintain their bikes; and they stupidly assert their right to the road (they do have a legal right in most places and on most roads) by challenging cars for road space, a fight they can’t win anywhere but in court and where a loss means injury or death.

That’s what makes e-bikes, or any bike, dangerous. Toss in the occasional electrical fire and you’ve got a hot fudge sundae of disaster.

Things is, we have the power to mitigate nearly all of this: ride responsibly and buy responsibly. But we’re not gonna do it.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

This is the rational take. People need not be afraid of new technology, but learn how to harness it properly.

I have an e-bikes that falls into the moped category, and when unlocked can go about 10mph over legal speed. I treat it like a motorcycle on the road. Full face helmet, and gloves every ride. Hand signals, and the knowledge that I am slower and weigh far less than other vehicles on the road goes a long way. Follow stop signs and lights and people will respect your space.

Edit: Tire and Brake maintenance is too damn important that if you don’t know what you are doing, please take it to a bike a shop yearly.

Last edited 3 months ago by Taco Shackleford
Holly Birge
Holly Birge
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Agree 100%

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

And add a 1/4 burger and fries in a giant box on their back…

415s30
415s30
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Kids don’t pedal anymore, they just speed down bike paths on electric motorcycles, I swear they are going 30-40mph. We just had an article in the Marin IJ interviewing doctors about the increase in injuries from this.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  415s30

A 30-40 mph crash on an ebike is probably a death sentence for the operator.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

I’ve built two vehicles that could be considered ebikes.

A microcar posing as a tricycle for legal purposes, and an actual ebike. Both are functional with their electric drive systems disabled using the pedals.

Both use batteries from reputable manufacturers, and being Li Ion chemistry, also have a functional BMS. I never charge them below freezing, because that can cause dendrite buildup on the anodes, in turn creating excessive resistance and thus causing fires. If the BMS fails, there is also a substantially increased risk of fire. When I charge them indoors, I keep an eye on the battery and have a plan to get it out the house ASAP. Some people charge their packs inside of an oven.

For larger EVs like cars, I prefer LiFePO4, because increased weight from reduced energy density is not nearly as much of a concern on something that doesn’t have pedal functionality, and instead of going into thermal runaway with nearly inextinguishable flames, they melt and produce poison smoke instead. Plus, if arranged a certain way, you can get away without a BMS with this chemistry(single series strings pre bottom balanced, ONLY).

Here’s pics of my latest ebike build, a modest 750W setup made from secondhand parts swapped out of the microcar after I upgraded it to 10 kW:

https://

imgur.com/Vt8wJsI
imgur.com/9OEtBsX
imgur.com/Mx5AVfZ

The bike, in spite of weighing about half what the microcar does, has 4x the energy consumption of the microcar. Testament to the impact of aerodynamic drag reduction.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

“I never charge them below freezing, because that can cause dendrite buildup on the anodes, in turn creating excessive resistance and thus causing fires.”

I’ve been meaning to ask, what’s your take on desulfonators for old school lead acid batteries?

https://www.motortrend.com/how-to/impp-1105-battery-desulfators-fact-fiction/

After reading this earlier in the year I bought a desulfonator and every few months have conditioned my cars’ batteries but I dunno if its doing any good. FWIW those batteries are 5-6 years old now and still doing fine despite having been run down a time or three.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

In theory, they should work. In practice, I’ve never tried them. Scams abound. Lead acid batteries are ultimately going to be limited in life span because of degradation of the plates. Sulfation of both terminals and plates is only one aspect of such degradation.

I’ve revived dead lead acid batteries by temporarily short circuiting them to break up unwanted buildup inside the plates, but they were never as good as new, even if I got another extra year out of them vs sending them to scrap, and this is a good way to possibly start a small fire or even cause a lead acid battery to explode if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I don’t think desulfonators are scams, at least not fuel shark level of scam. The reviewers are careful to point out these can revive a dead battery only under certain conditions but I haven’t seen much in the way of long term reviews, did the revived battery live out or maybe exceed its expected lifespan.

This blog shows a comparison of plates from batteries charged with a desulfonator vs a conventional charger. There is quite a difference.

https://www.impactbattery.com/blog/post/battery-desulfators-do-they-work

The test only went to four years though so it doesn’t answer the question of whether these devices can extend the lifetime significantly.

Lightning
Lightning
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I have a BatteryMinder and played around with it with a battery with a 6.5-year-old date code. I was keeping that car off salted winter roads, so I was able to use the BatteryMinder for extended periods of time. Before using the BatteryMinder, the battery was still working and had not gotten me stuck yet, but it didn’t test well. I’d monitor the voltage and it would lose charge if I let the car sit for a few weeks.

I left it on the BatteryMinder for up to 29 days at a time, take it off the charger and monitor the voltage daily for a week to see how well it held a charge for a week. Then put it back on the BatteryMinder for more weeks, take it off the charger, monitor the voltage over a week, repeat. . . The battery just got better and better. It tested and worked as well as a new battery at 7 years old.

Last edited 3 months ago by Lightning
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  Lightning

Interesting…. Thanks.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Lightning

That was definitely not a scam then. Lead acid batteries have notoriously short shelf life and generally low cycle life. 20 years ago I have heard of AGMs in EV conversions lasting up to roughly 8 years/50k miles before they delivered half of original range, and also heard of EV conversions with dead batteries in less than 5k miles, and such a device that you have used would have been a boon back then.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Well I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I bought a nicer desulfonator with a “repair” setting. I have a battery with a date code of ’16 that has been very VERY dead for a few years now I can try it on.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

It will be interesting to hear about the results.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I might couple it with Epsom Salts as well.

Elons Backdoor Musk
Elons Backdoor Musk
3 months ago

If it’s not 100% self propelled, it should require a plate, license and insurance.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
3 months ago

Ahh yes the good ol’ tax it into submission argument.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
3 months ago

Guess the more-taxes-more-government Jalopnik commentators are migrating over here. Was fun while it lasted.

Elons Backdoor Musk
Elons Backdoor Musk
3 months ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

Naw. Jalopnik hates cars now but loves cycling and busses.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

I disagree. Government red tape has made transportation too expensive as it is. I like transportation to be inexpensive and accessible. Ebikes fit this description nicely. More red tape will not get rid of the jackasses, either, but can actually serve to insulate them from accountability provided they have the requisite money/privilege.

Elons Backdoor Musk
Elons Backdoor Musk
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

License plates would make the jackasses accountable. Insurance would protect the public.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

If you have the license plate of someone who caused an accident resulting in a death, a $900/hr lawyer has the potential to argue vehicular manslaughter down to a noise violation, leaving the family of the victim the remaining option of spending their money to try to get closure via a civil suit.

Insurance companies are notorious for shirking their obligations, often requiring legal action on part of the insured to get compensation, even when the accident was not caused by the purchaser of said insurance.

Last edited 3 months ago by Toecutter
Elons Backdoor Musk
Elons Backdoor Musk
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

So might as well get rid of car insurance while we’re at it

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

For a vehicle with at least an order of magnitude more kinetic energy at a given speed than an ebike, I’d settle for not having to pay for some corporation’s profit margin and some exec’s next yacht for something the state is forcing me to purchase.

Last edited 3 months ago by Toecutter
Elons Backdoor Musk
Elons Backdoor Musk
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

The damage potential is irrelevant if a good lawyer can get it thrown out.

HowintheNameofZeus
HowintheNameofZeus
3 months ago

You’re going to lose a lot of support when someone realizes this would also apply to mobility scooters.

Elons Backdoor Musk
Elons Backdoor Musk
3 months ago

Mobility scooters would obviously need to be exempt.

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
3 months ago

I am all for them only allowing tested batteries and equipment here for ebikes. People making batteries that do not know what they are doing and people buying the cheapest Chinese made battery are creating a problem.

The other issue is enforcement. They throw Surons and other similar emotos in with ebikes. If people keep it up then we will get the same laws as the UK for ebikes.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
3 months ago
Reply to  JaredTheGeek

Ah, but let’s not forget that UK law, in this case concerning invalid carriages, has given the world such wonders as the street-legal (albeit unfortunately named) 1963 Wrigley Electric Chair:

https://i194.photobucket.com/albums/z211/stuartcyphus/wrigley.jpg

https://i194.photobucket.com/albums/z211/stuartcyphus/S7301596.jpg

Last edited 3 months ago by Mike Harrell
Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

I LOVE that name! I don’t consider it unfortunate. It’s metal as fuck!

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

We have mobility scooters in the US already but the date on this in impressive. Its also a better name.

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