The e-bike revolution, which gained momentum during the pandemic, has been praised for its potential to address issues like traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, fitness, and depression. However, alongside the positive aspects, there is a concerning side that has deterred some consumers.

Reports of e-bike battery fires have been on the rise, creating a stark contrast to the prevailing narrative of electric micromobility as a solution for safer and greener cities. The question arises: are e-bikes and e-scooters a fire hazard or a means to transform transportation?

The occurrence of battery fires in e-bikes, e-scooters, and e-mopeds is unlikely to diminish in the near future. Nonetheless, raising awareness about the causes of these fires and how to prevent them can help mitigate the risks.

E-Bike Fire Causes

Lithium-ion cells, commonly used in these vehicles, are prone to a phenomenon called thermal runaway. This process involves a rapid increase in battery cell temperature and pressure, leading to the release of flammable gas, which can ignite from the battery’s high temperature and result in an intense fire that is difficult to extinguish.

There are several reasons behind the release of flammable gas and the high heat in lithium-ion batteries. Experts suggest that cheap e-bikes and low-quality batteries, often imported from China, have a higher likelihood of exploding due to substandard manufacturing processes. Cutting corners or using inferior materials during production increases the chances of defects that can cause cells to expand and bulge, eventually leading to thermal runaway.

Investing in high-quality batteries is crucial because these devices are sophisticated and low-priced options may compromise safety.

In New York City, where e-bikes are widely used for food delivery services, fires related to lithium-ion batteries have increased alarmingly. From 2020 to 2022, the number of incidents doubled each year, according to data from the Fire Department of New York. As of July 3, 2023, there have been 114 investigations into lithium-ion fires, resulting in 74 injuries and 13 deaths.

It’s speculated that many of these fires were caused by low-income delivery workers, known as deliveristas, who purchased cheap or secondhand vehicles for their jobs. These vehicles are already at a disadvantage due to their low quality, and when they are subjected to frequent use and potential damage, the risk of battery explosions increases.

Overcharging the batteries, especially when left overnight, can lead to overheating, which can trigger the release of flammable gas. Even high-quality batteries can pose a fire hazard if they are tampered with or modified, as it can compromise their built-in safety features.

E-Bike Fire Prevention Measures

Purchasing equipment with the UL mark, indicating that it has undergone safety testing and certification, is crucial. This applies not only to electric micromobility vehicles but also to any product equipped with lithium-ion batteries.

Proper disposal of batteries is also vital. Batteries should not be discarded in the trash or recycled at home. Instead, they should be taken to local battery recycling facilities. Programs like Call2Recycle offer user-friendly options for battery recycling, with many e-bike brands participating in the initiative.

Other essential safety practices include:

          – adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and storage

          – using the provided cords and adapters

          – avoiding extension cords

          – charging devices away from flammable materials and in well-ventilated areas

          – monitoring the battery for any signs of overheating, strange smells, unusual noises, or changes in shape or color

Government Policies

There have been limited efforts at the federal level to address the issue of e-bike fires. However, several bills have been introduced in Congress to regulate the import of uncertified and low-quality batteries and incentivize the purchase of high-quality e-bikes.

The Import Security and Fairness Act aims to restrict the import of unregulated e-bikes and batteries by eliminating the provision that exempts products under $800 from customs and border patrol inspections. Another bill proposes that the Consumer Product Safety Commission establishes safety standards for e-bikes and e-scooters to prevent fires.

Additionally, the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act, if passed, could provide a federal rebate of up to $1,500 toward the purchase of an e-bike, making high-quality options more accessible.

In terms of local initiatives, New York City has received a $25 million emergency grant to install micromobility charging and storage stations across the city, aiming to provide a safer environment for deliveristas to recharge their batteries. The city has also implemented a ban on the sale of non-UL certified batteries, although enforcing this ban may prove challenging.


While e-bikes and e-scooters offer significant benefits, there is a need to address the issue of battery fires to ensure the safety of users. Raising awareness about the causes of these fires and implementing safety measures, such as using certified equipment, following manufacturer instructions, and proper disposal, can help mitigate the risks. Government actions, including legislation to regulate battery imports, are being proposed to enhance safety in the industry.