Uber is funding an e-bike trade-in program to curb battery fires

The program will offer up to $1,000 for every bike brought in.

Uber is funding an e-bike trade-in program to curb battery fires


Uber has funded a program to remove electric bikes from New York City streets that have dangerous lithium-ion battery non-certified.

The company announced on Wednesday that it would soon be allowing thousands of New York City delivery drivers who use ebikes to exchange their bikes for safer, newer models.

This news comes after a series of fires that were caused by lithium-ion battery overheating and causing massive explosions.

The New York City Police Department said earlier this week that a lithium-ion battery from an ebike was responsible for a deadly two-alarm blaze in Queens. John Hodgens, the FDNY Chief Fire Marshal, said that this was the 59th lithium-ion fire to occur in New York City in 2018.

Not all lithium-ion batterys are the same. UL-certified electric scooters and bikes are sold by reputable retailers, and they undergo battery safety testing. Other online marketplaces that some delivery workers might have used to find more affordable options, in the absence company-provided choices or subsidies, make it difficult to determine the origin and quality of the batteries.

Uber has partnered with ebike company Zoomo in order to get more UL certified ebikes on the road. The partnership offers credit to workers who are willing to exchange their current ebikes with ones that have better batteries. Rent-to-own models will be offered, as well as priority access to repair and service.

Uber has also launched a pilot program to exchange 'non-compliant devices' for UL-certified ebikes.

Uber's Senior Director for Public Policy, Josh Gold, said in a press release that delivery workers shouldn't have to decide between safety and earning a living. 'By offering discounts and exchange options for new UL-certified e-bikes, and certified lithium-ion battery packs, the high price tag that often blocks safety shouldn't be a problem.'

Steve Kerber, vice-president and executive director of UL’s Fire Safety Research Institute told CNN that the number of fires caused by lithium-ion batteries is increasing in both the United States as well as internationally. This is especially true when it comes to ebikes and escooters. This is due to a spike in sales of these products following the pandemic.

Kerber stated that 'people started getting overcharged and went to manufacturers who had lower quality control on the battery systems'. The quality manufacturers do not have any issues.

Lithium-ion batteries are still used in many of today's popular gadgets. From smartphones and laptops to scooters and e-bikes, they continue to be a common feature. Some tech companies tout their ability to charge faster, to last longer, and to pack more power in a lighter package.

Dylan Khoo is an analyst with the tech intelligence firm ABI Research. He told CNN previously that the batteries in electric scooters and bikes can be 50 times bigger than those found in smartphones. Khoo stated that if a fire occurs, it is much more dangerous.

Khoo says that all lithium-ion battery use flammable material. Incidents are most likely caused by a 'thermal ranaway', a chain reaction that can cause a fire, or even a catastrophic explosion.

Khoo explained that a battery can overheat, be punctured or have an electrical fault such as a short-circuit. In cases where spontaneous fires occur while charging, this is most likely caused by manufacturing defects.

Lithium-ion batteries should be charged and used according to the manufacturer's instructions. They shouldn't be left charging overnight or for long periods of time. Researchers at the University of Michigan recommend that batteries be inspected regularly to ensure there are no cracks, bulges or leaks. They also suggest using the charger supplied with the device, or one from a reliable supplier.