UL2849 is a safety standard set by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) for electric bicycles / e-bikes. In 2020, the Underwriters Laboratories standards development organization introduced their first safety standard for e-bikes called UL2849. This new standard specifically covers the complete electrical systems for fire safety certification by examining the electrical drive train, battery, and charger system combinations in e-bikes. Like most electrical appliances in your home or office, there are safety standards that MUST be adhered to. It's important to note that simply testing products to UL2849 standards is not compliance nor certification!
Testing To And Certified To UL 2849 Are Not The Same
To ensure product safety, they MUST BE CERTIFIED to UL 2849 and not just tested to this standard to ensure they are safe. Being certified to this new standard is an ongoing process of ensuring that manufactures are always in compliance. To be certified means that approved third party field representatives who are trained and approved to the UL standards conduct periodic, unannounced on-site inspections of certified products at the manufacturing locations worldwide. This process is intense and expensive and failure to meet such compliance means an immediate failure and loss of that product being UL 2849 certified. It is important that the entire eBike system be certified and not just the battery. When factoring safety in your purchasing decision ask for confirmation that the complete system is certified to UL 2849. As an example, a certification logo for a Bosch complete eBike System can be found on their battery packs. When in doubt one can contact UL via their website to see if their system is certified to this standard: ul.com
"Those looking to buy one of these devices, should only purchase ones that are listed by a nationally recognized testing lab and labeled accordingly. If you already own or use a device, don’t continue to charge the battery once it’s full, never use charging equipment that didn’t come with your device, and stop using your device if the battery shows signs of damage, such as an unusual odour or change in colour. If your device needs repairs, have them performed by a qualified professional."
National Fire Protection Association
We hear it all the time from manufacturers and from other retailers saying their batteries and cells within their battery are made by major brands, so they are safe. This is where the problems start as these companies knowingly continue to sell product that can be potentially dangerous.
First, we must clarify that a cell is not a battery as such when used on an electric bike, it is one part of the total battery pack.
A typical e-bike battery pack is comprised of numerous cells (30-50pcs) to complete a battery pack. These battery manufacturers simply order these name brand lithium cells and complete the assembly of the battery packs in their factories. So, while the cells may be a name brand and of high quality the problems come from the companies building the battery packs which differ significantly in quality. Things like the materials used in the casings, the wiring, the protection between the cells, BMS (battery management system), LED power indicators, connectors, etc... all make up for the overall construction of the battery and ultimately its level of safety.
Proper Manufacturing Is Key To Safety
Building a high-quality lithium battery pack requires a state-of-the-art assembly factory with state-of-the-art assemblers and robotics and unfortunately many factories to this day and typically located in countries like China build them by hand by employees with various skillsets and training which produces products with inconsistent levels of quality. Things like ensuring that there are mechanical, electrical, and thermal separations between the cells, that there is adequate protection from water ingress and most importantly that there is a certified and safe BMS (battery management system) to protect against excessive operating temperatures, overloading, and deep discharging from every single cell within the battery pack.
The harsh reality is there are simply too many manufacturers, importers and retailers that have joined the ebike wave and are selling e-bikes / electric bicycles that have not been certified to this UL2849 standard which is designed to keep consumers safe. Whether through negligent behaviour to save costs, or blatantly knowing that their systems will not pass these tests but continue to produce is scary. These standards are well-known in the industry but it's clear that a high percentage of manufacturers care more about their bottom line than the safety of their customers. There is simply no other explanation for blatantly not having their products tested certified for safety! One would think that there must be some sort of enforcement from various Government agencies, well, unfortunately, there really isn't at this time. It's incredibly easy for these companies to import potentially unsafe products into the market and not raise any eyebrows.
The CPSC Warns Non Compliant Manufacturers, Importers & Retailers To Beware
Well the news isn’t all bad but rather encouraging as The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has also recognized the importance of the UL 2849 standard and wants e-bikes to meet this important safety standard.
In a letter dated December 19, 2022 to more than 2,000 manufacturers and importers, the CPSC stated that failure to adhere to applicable UL safety standards (ANSI/CAN/UL 2272 – Standard for Electrical Systems for Personal E-Mobility Devices dated February 26, 2019, and ANSI/CAN/UL 2849 – Standard for Safety for Electrical Systems for e-bikes dated June 17, 2022, and standards they incorporate by reference) may pose an unreasonable risk to consumers of fire and serious injury or death; and that compliance with the relevant UL standards “significantly reduces the risk of injuries and deaths from micro mobility device fires.”
This was a crucial, long-awaited, and well-welcomed step from the CPSC that many companies, and associations like the National Bicycle Dealers Association, NYFD (New York Fire Department), ourselves and many more have supported through the years to ensure the safety of consumers.
According to UL, "UL 2849 is the first industry standard for e-bikes that covers the design, construction, performance, and safety of e-bikes, including requirements for electrical systems, brakes, and structural integrity. It also includes specific requirements for battery systems, charging systems, and other electrical components, as well as test methods for measuring performance and determining compliance with the standard."
On July 15, 2022, the President of The National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) issued a statement to members, retailers, and the bicycle industry on the importance of the UL2849 standard.
“The bicycle industry needs to take immediate action. After extensive consultations with experts in the field, e-bike and e-scooter lithium-ion battery safety is a large and immediate subject that we need to act on now. The advisement statement we have prepared for retailers takes the interest of e-bike continued growth within the industry and safety for all. If we do not address the core issue, we may see this propel to something beyond our control,”
This is concerning, but yet very positive news, as it means that many e-bikes on the market may not meet the safety requirements set forth by UL, but awareness is now there and it allows for e-bike brands and retailers who sell safe products to not have to compete against non-compliant and potentially unsafe products.
There is nothing scarier than having a non-controllable lithium battery catch fire in your home when you and your family are sleeping or out riding your new e-bike that goes out of control. Yeah, not something we think about when buying an electric bicycle!
There is nothing more that gets under our skin than irresponsible manufacturers, importers or retailers that want to cut corners on safety and worse yet have the audacity to self-promote and self-certify the safety of their products to this day on their websites, social media platforms, etc... and not yet have their products certified to UL 2849 standards. OK, I think you get our point of view on where we stand on this topic.
UL 2849 Certified E-bikes Are Safe
At Scooteretti, we take the safety of our customers very seriously, in fact, it's priority #1 and we hope that this Blog helps our readers have a better awareness that not e-bikes / electric bikes are created equally. E-bikes are very safe when built properly and to specific standards.
Now go out and try a certified electric bicycle at your local retailer and experience how much fun and life changing an electric bicycle can be.
UL2849 Standards: https://www.ul.com/services/e-bikes-certification-testing-ul-2849
CPSC letter dated December 19, 2022: https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/Important%20Safety%20Information%20Concerning%20Micromobility%20Devices.pdf
National Fire Protection Association: https://www.nfpa.org/ebikes
In-depth video from UL: https://www.ul.com/services/e-bikes-certification-testing-ul-2849
Images: Robert Bosch GmbH