Taking Charge of E-Bikes: Safety tips for users and how ECs can help

By Holly Sauer | Jun 14, 2024
ebikes and scooter with charger
Electric scooters, bikes and other light, low-occupancy vehicles have become ubiquitous, especially in cities.




Electric scooters, bikes and other light, low-occupancy vehicles have become ubiquitous, especially in cities. These devices are popular because they are handy to get around on and are useful tools in the growing push to reduce carbon emissions released by internal combustion engines. 

A growing interest by the numbers

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimated the micromobility market to grow from $40 billion in 2022 to $215 billion by 2030. The growth is not surprising, as this kind of transportation is a viable option for many Americans. 

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), as of June 23, 2023, there were 56 docked bikeshare systems in the United States with 8,796 stations. BTS reported the number peaked at 109 in 2019, nearly double 2015’s 66 systems. Citi Bike, serving the New York City metropolitan area, is the largest system in the country with about 2,000 stations.

Dockless systems have helped expand the market. First introduced in 2017, these systems allow users to pick up and leave bikes and scooters at any location. According to the BTS, there are 63 dockless bikeshare and 252 e-scooter systems as of June 30, 2023. Dockless bikeshares serve 51 cities and e-scooter systems are in 156 cities.

But such programs aren’t just for the biggest cities. Pittsburgh or “PGH” has its own e-bike plan, POGOH (the name evokes PGH with two bike wheels between the letters). With Pittsburgh’s many steep hills, the city determined half of the fleet had to be electric. Users can return the e-bikes to any station that recharges them for the next trip. There are currently 60 stations and 600 bikes around the city, with expansion plans in the works.

Also contributing to the growth are rebate programs around the country for those who want to purchase their own bikes. In Washington, D.C., preferred applicants can receive up to $2,000 to purchase an electric cargo bike. New York is creating a Ride Clean e-bike program that would provide a 50% rebate for e-bike purchases, up to $1,100. California is trying out a program that would give users a voucher for up to $1,000 for a regular e-bike and up to $1,750 for a cargo or adaptive e-bike.

There have also been moves in Congress to implement a national refundable tax credit for these purchases. The Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment Act was proposed in the Senate on July 21, 2021. This would permit a nationwide refundable tax credit for 30% of an e-bike’s cost. This bill is in the early stages, so credits and rebate programs are still left to states or cities to implement. 

According to the Global Cycling Network, 33 states have no statewide incentive. However, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and Texas have regional incentives. For a state-by-state guide on rebates and other programs, visit

The lithium-ion battery issue

Because lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have high energy densities and long lifespans, they can power everyday items from power tools and cellphones to electric vehicles. However, fires and explosions can occur if they are not used correctly or are damaged. These batteries can also emit toxic gases when on fire.

While micromobility devices are built to protect their batteries, the batteries can become damaged, depending on how the devices are treated or if they are left outside. This can lead to big problems.

There are two components of the Li-ion battery: the anode and cathode. There is a separator between the two, and many times, “if the battery gets damaged, it will break that separator. That is what will allow the anode and cathode to start interacting and then produce a problem,” said Corey Hannahs, senior electrical content specialist at NFPA. 

E-bikes and scooters rely on Li-ion batteries to function because the batteries store a lot of energy and are easy to charge. However, Li-ion batteries release intense energy when they overheat. Overheating is a large problem for public bikes and scooters that remain outside. 

“Lithium-ion batteries have risks associated with them that aren’t really the norm,” Hannahs said. “I think helping people to understand what the risks are so they can act accordingly is a big step in the process right now.”

Safety tips

The NFPA offers crucial tips for using micromobility devices safely, and ECs can share these with curious customers.

  • Only use the battery and charging equipment that comes with your device. 
  • Only purchase and use devices, batteries and charging equipment that are listed by a nationally recognized testing lab and are labeled as such.
  • Do not keep charging the battery after it is fully charged.
  • Only charge one battery at a time to keep the circuit from overloading.
  • Keep batteries at room temperature. Don’t charge them below 32ºF or above 105ºF.
  • Do not store batteries in direct sunlight.
  • Keep batteries away from children and liquids.
  • Stop using the battery if you notice it has an unusual odor or change in color or shape (such as bulging) or if it is too hot, leaking, smoking or not holding a charge.
  • Store devices away from exits and anything flammable.
  • Only have a qualified professional repair the device.
  • Recycle old batteries; do not put them in the trash. 
  • Charge devices in a flat, dry area where they cannot fall and away from tripping hazards.

It is very important to use the charger that comes with the device. Testing facilities, such as UL and Intertek, use the components shipped with the product for testing. If something goes wrong with the charger that came with the device, do not order another one online. It may not meet the right specifications. Getting products from reputable suppliers is critical, and from a safety standpoint, getting the cheapest option may not always be advisable.

The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) urges e-bike users to take the following safety precautions when charging in the city.

  • Plug the device directly into a wall outlet rather than using an extension cord or power strip. These batteries require more electrical current than most extension cords or power strips can handle. 
  • Charge the device in a safe place and not in an apartment building, if possible. According to FDNY, many apartments do not have sprinklers and household items can catch fire easily.
  • Ensure you have a safe way out of the apartment. Never store or charge devices near doors.
  • Monitor the device when it is charging, and never charge it near combustible materials such as couches, beds or drapes.

Many cities offer ways for users to charge e-bikes and scooters in their area. With Lime, a popular scooter service, anyone can sign up to take these scooters home, charge them and then return them to the street for people to ride. Users can make between $5–$12 per scooter they charge. 

Charging multiple micromobility devices drastically increases the load on the electrical system. Overloaded circuits and surge strips not designed for this use become a large safety concern, and users may not know how dangerous this practice is. They could be putting their neighbors and others in surrounding buildings in danger.

Public chargers

While there is no national network of e-bike and scooter chargers, that may be the way of the future and an opportunity for ECs.

In May 2022, then Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced the opening of 44 chargers (there are now 47) fitted with a 110V outlet to charge micromobility devices along the West Coast Electric Highway, which is a network of DC fast-charging stations located every 25-50 miles between British Columbia and Southern California.

NFPA’s Hannahs sees public chargers as a viable option. He used the example of food delivery drivers in New York and other cities who rely on e-bikes to make a living. Having public chargers would ensure they could use their bikes without taking them into their apartments and risking others’ lives.

These chargers require electrical services and ECs to do the work. However, there are still questions to be worked out, such as whether just the outlets would be provided and users would need to bring their own chargers. Regardless of the specifics, having public charging available with less risk is an appealing option.

What can contractors do?

According to Hannahs, electrical contractors can start the conversation about how future building tenants might use electricity in the building.

“What we do from a National Electrical Code standpoint doesn’t have an immediate impact on the scooters per se, but we don’t always know how a building is going to be utilized. We don’t know where people are going to plug things in, so that is why we get a lot of callbacks if something is tripping or something of that nature,” he said. “Maybe you go to a building and there are too many heat-generating appliances plugged into a circuit in the kitchen and that is why it is tripping.” 

If the electrical contractor knows someone is planning on charging multiple devices, they can put in a dedicated receptacle where each one has a specific circuit. This will probably happen more often in an e-bike shop or other distributor than a single apartment.

Having the knowledge to have an open dialogue when the opportunity presents itself is critical to keeping people informed.

Hannahs also mentioned it may be a good idea for contractors to walk around the site with owners and clients to determine where they want specific items in the building. Contractors can offer information on why using a plug in an entryway to charge an e-bike is dangerous. Especially in high-rises, safe egress is a problem if the hallway or foyer is blocked by micromobility devices. 

Products can certainly be defective or have manufacturing issues, and buying products that are tested and listed will help people charge and ride safely. Ultimately, however, it is users’ interactions with micromobility devices that are so important to examine. / Andrii

About The Author

A woman, Holly Sauer, smiles in front of a gray background.

Holly Sauer

Senior Associate Editor

Holly Sauer has worked for Electrical Contractor magazine since 2019 and is the senior associate editor. She went to Washington & Jefferson College and studied English and art history. At Electrical Contractor magazine, she creates the newsletters and the new and featured products sections. She also edits articles for the three publications and occasionally writes on tools and industry news. She is fueled by the desire to read every book ever written. And coffee. Reach her on LinkedIn or at [email protected].





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