Understanding UL Solutions 2849 Certification and Why It Matters
Purchasing your first e-bike can be just as exciting as buying your first car and opens up a whole new world that a traditional bike just can’t offer. In some cases, it can replace a car! As e-bike popularity and the technology advances at a rapid pace each year, it's important to stay informed and know exactly what your hard-earned dollars are buying.
Speaking of dollars, yikes, right!? I’ve witnessed a wide variety of reactions ranging from amused shock, confused anger, to a financial existential crisis when it comes to e-bike price tags. Before I got into the e-bike industry, I wondered why certain e-bikes were so expensive. Now I know that meaty price tag is doing my customers a huge favor. Potentially life-saving, in fact!
Ask yourself, How much is my family, personal property, and peace of mind worth? What about preventing something like a small comet crash landing in my garage or living room? I think most of us couldn’t put a price tag on that. One thing e-bike manufacturers can do to avoid this terrifying scenario is to invest in UL (Underwriters Laboratories) Solutions e-bike standard of 2849.
What is the UL Solutions 2849? Let’s dive in starting with a bit of history.
Origins of UL Solutions
The birth of UL Solutions began with a young graduate of the MIT electrical engineering program named William Henry Merrill Jr.. In 1893, he was hired by the Boston Board of Fire Underwriters to access the various construction projects associated with the Chicago World’s Fair. Through his various contacts made during this time, he pitched an idea to develop an electrical testing laboratory exclusively for insurance companies. With the help and funding from interested parties, he founded the Underwriters Electrical Bureau in 1894. Even though we know it as UL Solutions today, it has gone through many name changes through the decades. However, the goal has always remained the same, to provide consumers with safe and reliable products.
Fast forward to the 21st century, UL Solutions is one of the gold standards the world over for a vast spectrum of industries such as: automotive, electronics, chemical, energy, medical, construction, and many more.
What is UL Solutions 2849?
Simply put, it is the numerical designation for UL Solutions standard for the electrical systems associated with e-bikes which includes: the motor, battery and charger. E-bikes come in three classes: Class 1, pedal assist up to 20mph, Class 2, anything with a throttle and speeds will vary, and Class 3, pedal assist up to 28mph. The UL 2849 covers the testing and certification of all three with the goal of providing ongoing fire safety protocols for manufacturers.
Consumer Safety - What Happened in New York?
If you've lived or vacationed in New York City, you've likely partaken in a wide variety of world-class culinary dishes delivered right to your door. One way delivery drivers do this is by using e-bikes as a relatively cheap and green source of transportation. However, it is estimated that most of these e-bikes and other e-mobility devices, like scooters, have not been tested and certified.
Back to the question of why some e-bikes are so expensive? The issue New York City is facing right now is a perfect example. It’s estimated it costs manufacturers between $30,000 to $100,000 to test and certify their e-bikes systems from institutions like UL Solutions or other nationally accredited test labs in order to prevent spontaneous, ferocious lithium-ion battery fires.
Not only can they spread rapidly, be stubborn to put out, and make your e-bike look like it’s giving birth to a supernova, they can emit harmful gases, as well. Victims only have seconds to react, only ABC or BC rated fire extinguishers are recommended by authorities with last ditch resorts being sand, diluted baking soda or clay cat litter. Lithium-ion battery fires don’t smolder like regular fires giving fire alarms or the people asleep inside time to react. They just explode, setting off a vicious cook-off.
In 2023 alone, there have been 238 lithium-ion fire investigations, 17 deaths and 74 injuries prompting local officials to tackle the problem head-on. On March 20th of this year, New York City passed the LOCAL LAW 39 that prohibits the sale, lease, and rental of any e-bike that has not been certified to the UL Solution 2849 standard or something equivalent to. The law will be enforced by the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection that will issue fines up to $1000 to any online or brick and mortar retailer caught violating the law. These aforementioned retailers had until September 16th, 2023 to obtain the UL Solutions 2849 designation.
Production Innovations and Safety - The Bosch Factor
Another example of how the UL Solutions 2849 standard has had a rippling effect throughout the e-bike industry would be the German e-bike systems manufacturer Bosch. As an exclusive Bosch dealership, we like to toot our horns about this company as much as possible without being overly obnoxious. Okay, maybe a little obnoxious, especially at dinner parties.
They are currently the e-bike industry leader simply because of their commitment to product innovation, quality and safety when it comes to their motors, chargers, and especially their batteries. Each battery, which can contain 40 to 60 single-cell lithium-ion batteries, is designed with the utmost safety to the consumer in mind.
Not only being the lightest on the market at 5.5lbs, they are the safest thanks to their patented Battery Management System or BMS. The BMS continuously monitors the battery (in real time) looking for potential fault sources such as excessive heat or cell overloads, and will shut down the battery if an issue is detected. Each cell is encased in a heavy-duty steel cup surrounded by a network of flame-retardant plastic to prevent a fire from spreading to the rest of the battery. They do this by employing a mechanical, electrical, and thermal isolation system within the battery.
All of Bosch’s batteries have not only been put through UL Solutions rigorous stress test program, but an in-house stress test program well beyond the legal requirements. Speaking of stress-tests, I think one overlooked factor in the New York situation is these low-quality batteries (as well as their chargers) are being pushed to their limits on a daily basis. It’s estimated the average delivery driver can clock 100 miles or more per day. The more deliveries you can pack into a day, the more money you make without realizing your battery could potentially explode from exhaustion. It’s with keeping those exhaustion factors in mind that Bosch has made a commitment to safety, ensuring their batteries can withstand a host of potential environmental, physical, and internal issues.
Quality vs Quantity
This common comparison is echoed throughout the marketplace. It prompts old sayings like: “You get what you pay for ” and “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” Yes, it is expensive for manufacturers to test and certify their e-bikes to UL standard of 2849 and this is directly reflected in the price. I often hear customers comparing e-bikes on our floor to ones they found on the internet ranging from $500 to $1500 dollars. While this seems like an affordable price point, these manufactures likely skipped the testing and certification process in order to keep costs low and kick out as many e-bikes into the marketplace as possible.
So when it comes to shopping for your new e-bike, instead of looking at the price tag as a financial decision, look at it as which manufacturers care about their customers and which ones do not. There have been some truly heartbreaking stories of victims being lured into a false sense of security by an insincere e-bike manufacturer more interested in profits. Every e-bike or any other manufacturer using lithium-ion batteries to power their products knows exactly what those batteries can potentially unleash if corners are cut. It’s with this realization that consumers can ask a very simple question when researching e-bike manufacturers: Do you have my back or not?