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NBDA Bicycle Industry Retailer Focused E Bike Safety & Standards Panel Meets

Published July 2, 2024

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Irvine, CA – July 2, 2024 – The National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) Bicycle Industry E Bike Safety & Standards Panel convened on June 11, 2024, to address critical concerns regarding electric bicycles (e-bikes) in the United States. The panel's discussions revolved around protecting against unsafe batteries and technological safeguards, enhancing road safety, contradicting sale and demand margins, and managing battery fires in bike shop environments.

Key Highlights of the Panel Discussion:

Protecting Against Unsafe Batteries: Technological Safeguards in Certified Devices

Are there technological safeguards in place on certified devices to prevent use of unsafe batteries (e.g., proprietary connections so batteries from alternative brands don't connect, sensors that monitor battery health, etc.)?

Dawn Miller, Senior Advisor to NYC's Chief Climate Officer, raised the question whether certified e-bike systems have technological safeguards to prevent unsafe batteries or chargers. During the open forum discussion, panelists emphasized the necessity for e-bike brands to use complete electric propulsion systems and replace components only with original equipment. They stressed the importance of original source batteries and chargers, proper labeling, and educating consumers on tested and certified components. With New York City's 65,000 to 70,000 delivery workers being the primary e-bike users and vulnerable due to financial constraints and misinformation, panelists called for eliminating the minimal threshold exemption to curb hazardous replacements. They discussed the implications of "No Serviceable Parts Inside" labels on expensive e-bikes, the risks of software modifications to battery management systems, and agreed that third-party testing, certification, and functional safety testing are essential until further technological safeguards are mandated.

Enhancing Road Safety for E-Bike Riders: Overcoming Challenges of Modern E-Bikes

How can we keep e-bike riders on the road, considering the risks of pitch over due to the weight, speed, and braking power of modern e-bikes? What best practices should retailers adopt to educate new riders on these challenges?

Luke Elrath of AFI Forensic addressed the risks of pitch-over incidents for e-bike riders due to the weight, speed, and braking power of modern e-bikes, suggesting a standardized owner's manual for e-bikes to mitigate these risks. Panelists noted that PeopleForBikes offers standardized manuals and educational videos for e-bike retailers. Industry service schools and brand training programs also advise retailers to educate consumers. One retailer shared a policy of having shoppers test e-bikes to experience the e-bike system as part of a checklist to ensure proper use. Vic Yeh, CEO of Oyster, emphasized the importance of consumer education, test rides, safety gear, and staff training. The Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) rule-making for e-bike mechanical standards was discussed, highlighting the need for mandatory standards to enhance rider safety. The importance of manuals, education, and training for new e-bike riders was underscored to ensure safe riding experiences.

The E-Bike Conundrum: High Demand, Low Margins

Why are E-Bikes often on sale or closeout at poor margins if they are supposed to be the future of the industry?

Peter Woolery of Electric Pete's EBikes, shared data explaining that the surge in e-bike demand during the pandemic followed by a decline created a forward pull in consumer demand, impacting margins. Despite fluctuations, the overall trend for e-bike growth remains favorable with expectations of steady growth. Richard Wittenberg, CEO of Troxus Mobility, highlighted that e-bike brands in the U.S. must choose between higher revenue and margins or higher volume while managing costs. Brands working through retailers face competition from direct-to-consumer brands, which drives down margins. As a result, e-bikes are often sold at lower margins to stay competitive, balancing revenue, margins, and volume.

Managing Battery Fires in Bike Shop Environments

What safety measures should bike shops implement for battery management?

The topic was introduced highlighting that 10% of NBDA member bike shops reported lithium-ion battery fires. Ed Benjamin, Chair of Light Electric Vehicle Association, showcased a dramatic video of a battery fire and outlined crucial safety measures for bike shops,

emphasizing the need for a comprehensive plan. His LEVA slide deck, including the video, was distributed to attendees by the NBDA. Rob Latham from Call2Recycle discussed the lithium-ion battery recycling program promoted by PeopleForBikes and the NBDA. Michael Pasquali of CEBA highlighted service training solutions, noting that fire-resistant blankets are ineffective for lithium-ion fires, as recent tests show they can worsen the situation.

A recording of the forum is available for viewing on the NBDA YouTube Channel.

The NBDA Bicycle Industry E-Bike Safety & Standards Panel acknowledges that fostering the growth of e-bikes in the U.S. requires a collaborative approach.

Heather Mason, NBDA President stated, "I am thankful to the experts who lend their voice to these important conversations focused around retailer health and safety. I urge more to join in this proactive forum bringing topics and conversations forth to best serve all. "

For further information about the NBDA Bicycle Industry E Bike Safety & Standards Panel and to participate or attend the next panel meeting in September visit here.

About NBDA: The National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) is a non-profit organization representing the interests of independent bicycle dealers in the United States. Committed to advancing the bicycle industry and promoting cycling as a healthy and sustainable mode of transportation, the NBDA collaborates with industry stakeholders to address critical issues and foster growth within the cycling community.

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