Defective electric bicycles pose a significant hazard and have caused hundreds of fires resulting in injuries and deaths, according to an alarming story published by Consumer Reports.
The danger posed by e-bikes stems from their use of lithium-ion batteries, which can spontaneously combust and are known to cause especially destructive fires when they do. The burgeoning industry has grown rapidly in recent years, outpacing the efforts of regulators who are struggling to impose safety standards on unwilling manufacturers.
In the past two years, lithium-ion battery explosions have been blamed for more than 300 fires in New York City alone, according to Consumer Reports, with reports of similar fires popping up throughout the United States and abroad. Lithium-ion fires in New York City have led to 142 injuries in just 2022, and a combined 10 deaths in 2021 and 2022. In November, a single fire in a Manhattan high-rise apartment building caused 40 injuries, seven of them serious or critical.
“We know firsthand the devastating effects lithium-ion batteries can have on individuals and their families,” said attorney Adam Kress of Johnson//Becker, PLLC in Saint Paul, Minnesota. “For example, we have represented the family of two young girls who were killed in a housefire after a hoverboard exploded in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.” Kress went on to state that his firm, Johnson//Becker, recently tried two battery cases involving defective E-Cigarettes, one of which resulted in $2.5 million verdict for the Plaintiff.
Malfunctioning lithium-ion batteries and vehicles, endanger owners and their fellow residents when they are badly made or charged for too long. The resulting fires are “very fast, very violent, and hard to extinguish,” a fire marshal told Consumer Reports, adding that exploding lithium-ion batteries “can shoot…as far as 60 feet, so multiple fires can be related to the battery failing.”
Similar lithium-ion battery fire risks have been documented with electric cars, hoverboards, scooters, e-cigarettes, and even fidget spinner toys marketed to children.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has attempted to curb the proliferation of potentially dangerous e-bikes, most recently with a recall of 22,000 Ancheer bicycles that caused at least six explosions and four burn injuries. But the agency is underfunded and overstretched with regulating other products, Consumer Reports says, while electric bicycles have become increasingly popular.
The CPSC is aware of the risk of lithium-ion battery explosions and has issued multiple warnings and reports on the damage they’ve caused. In one such study published in 2018, the agency documented 25,000 incidents of “high-energy batteries” overheating or starting fires in a five-year period. Despite the known risks, the CPSC has not imposed any specific safety standards for e-bikes.
A voluntary standard for e-bike safety created by UL Solutions has failed to catch on widely; to date, only 13 manufacturers have agreed to follow those terms.
Many electric bicycles are produced overseas, and those valued at under $800 can hit the U.S. market while bypassing even the most basic of inspections. From 2019 through 2021, more than 1.5 million e-bikes were imported to the United States.
The rash of deadly fires in New York City has inspired widespread warnings in apartment buildings, and may soon result in mandatory safety regulations for lithium-ion batteries sold in the city. The same awareness and imposition of safety ordinances in other areas and nationwide continues to lag behind the popularity of electric bicycles.
Ibrahim Jalani, director of consumer technology at Global Solutions, blamed the industry for dragging its feet despite widespread knowledge of the risks posed by their products.
“We tried to raise the awareness [of fire hazards] for the last five years, six years,” Jalani told Consumer Reports. Referring to the e-bike companies, he added: “They feel like there’s no government regulation.”
Questions About an E-Bike Battery Fire Lawsuit? Contact a Johnson//Becker Lawyer for a Free Case Review.
If you or someone in your family was injured or experienced property damage by an electric bicycle battery fire, you should speak with the lawyers at Johnson//Becker. We are actively filing new product liability lawsuits across the country, and you may be entitled to financial compensation.
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