Be wary of cheaper e-bikes

The Straits Times - - BRIEFING - Zhaki Ab­dul­lah

The is­sue of whether elec­tric bi­cy­cles and per­sonal mo­bil­ity de­vices (PMDs) are po­ten­tial fire haz­ards was much talked about re­cently, when two e-scoot­ers caught fire a day apart.

In the first in­ci­dent on Nov 7, a 23-year-old de­liv­ery­man suf­fered burns on 45 per cent of his body af­ter his e-scooter went up in flames in his Yishun flat. No one was in­jured, how­ever, in the fol­low­ing day’s fire in Pasir Ris. But last month, an e-bike fire out­side a Bukit Ba­tok flat forced a fam­ily to flee via their bed­room win­dow with a five-day-old child.

These fiery in­ci­dents, which are caus­ing alarm bells to ring, are on the rise.

In the first nine months of this year, Sin­ga­pore Civil De­fence Force fig­ures show these de­vices were in­volved in 31 fires, a sharp rise from 19 in the same pe­riod last year. Though no spe­cific cause has been pin­pointed, one pos­si­bil­ity is the cheap, lower-qual­ity bat­ter­ies used in some of the de­vices.

Some ob­servers in­ter­viewed by The Straits Times said bat­tery cost is the chief rea­son for the big price dif­fer­ence among PMDs. Some cost more than $1,000, while cheaper mod­els on e-com­merce sites can cost $300 or less. As for bat­ter­ies, those from rep­utable man­u­fac­tur­ers cost be­tween $200 and $300, while the cheaper ones are a frac­tion of that.

It is not the first time that lousy bat­ter­ies are be­ing fin­gered. In re­cent years, a spate of fires in­volv­ing hov­er­boards – a form of self-bal­anc­ing PMDs – in Bri­tain and the United States were blamed on the over­heat­ing of sub­stan­dard bat­ter­ies. This led the US Con­sumer Prod­uct Safety Com­mis­sion to re­call thou­sands of hov­er­boards last year .

PMDs seem to have taken their place in re­cent years. The pass­ing of the Ac­tive Mo­bil­ity Bill in Jan­uary, which lets these de­vices be used on pub­lic paths, will no doubt fur­ther fuel their growth. Their pop­u­lar­ity, how­ever, could see un­scrupu­lous man­u­fac­tur­ers cut­ting cor­ners to max­imise prof­its.

For their own safety, peo­ple in­tend­ing to buyPMDs should do their home­work and be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.

They of­ten are.

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