Are eBikes dangerous? What are the risks?

A man riding an eBike on the pavement without a helmet

Regular bikes, like most things, come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. The same holds for electric bikes. When comparing an eBike to a regular bicycle, you'll find that they share more similarities than differences.

The reason for this is that an electric bicycle closely resembles a traditional bike, with the main distinction lying in the electric system that supports pedalling and the battery used for storing charge. While some individuals may perceive eBikes as being more dangerous than regular bikes, the truth is a bit more nuanced.

Before we delve into the topic in detail, let's provide a concise answer. Are electric bikes dangerous? Are they more hazardous than regular bicycles? The answer is that electric bikes are not inherently dangerous, nor are they more perilous than traditional bikes. However, the risks associated with eBikes may differ from those of regular bikes. The good news is that with proper care, it is possible to minimise almost all of these risks.

So, what are these risks?

eBike battery fire risk

Perhaps you've come across videos showing electric bikes ablaze while in use or during charging. Let’s face it, these incidents can be alarming and discouraging. Most eBikes are equipped with highly flammable lithium batteries. For nearly all well-made batteries, the flammable nature of this will never be a concern. The majority of these fires occur due to mishandling of homemade lithium batteries.

These fires pose the most significant risk associated with eBikes. However, approximately 80% of such fires can be prevented with proper care and precautions. For instance, it is crucial to avoid constructing your own battery pack unless you have thoroughly researched the process and fully understand the intricacies. Also, during rides, always carry your batteries in a protective metal box and utilize a Battery Management System (BMS) for enhanced safety.

Moreover, it is essential to purchase lithium batteries from reputable dealers to ensure they possess the appropriate cell design and structure capable of withstanding high temperatures and overcharging.

Fortunately, the majority of modern eBike batteries are well-designed and safe to use. Battery technology continues to advance, resulting in lighter, more efficient, and increasingly safer designs. While eBikes, like any electric vehicle, carry a slight risk of a short circuit, the likelihood of such an occurrence is exceedingly minimal.

Too much acceleration from a standstill

One of the main causes of minor accidents involving eBikes is applying too much throttle or starting from a high electric gear when at a standstill. While these accidents often happen at low speeds and rarely result in significant harm, it’s still really important to avoid them.

Fortunately, this common issue can be easily avoided with proper care. For instance, if you're using a throttle eBike, it's important not to apply full throttle until your bike is in motion. Additionally, consider installing a switch, or investing in an eBike, that allows you to choose different power levels during your rides. Before embarking on a long ride, ensure that your throttle and controller settings are appropriately adjusted.

If your eBike is a pedelec (pedal-assist) model, make sure not to start in high gear, such as POWER mode. Always begin in a lower electric gear, such as ECO or even OFF, and gradually increase acceleration as you gain speed. By following this approach, you can maintain better control and prevent any sudden jolts during the starting phase.

Non-compliance with traffic rules

Believe it or not, the majority of eBike accidents are not due to any inherent flaws in the design or concept of eBikes, but rather the behaviour of the riders themselves. It's important to recognize that an electric bicycle is essentially a hybrid between a regular bicycle and a traditional motorbike.

In many countries, the regulations governing eBike road use are not as strict as those for motorbikes. However, it's worth noting that the speed and capabilities of an eBike are, in many aspects, similar to those of a low-powered motorcycle. The danger arises when riders forget this fact. While eBike riders may not have legal obligations to adhere to specific speed limits or road signs, following these rules ensures the safety of riders and other road users.

A significant portion of accidents and risks associated with eBikes can be easily avoided by simply using them as intended – as bicycles rather than motorbikes. By adhering to traffic rules and treating eBikes with the same responsibility as traditional bicycles, riders can ensure their safety and the safety of others on the road.

In conclusion, eBikes are not inherently dangerous and pose no greater risk than traditional bicycles. However, there are some risks to consider: battery fires, excessive acceleration from a standstill, and non-compliance with traffic rules. These risks can be minimized through proper handling of batteries, gradual acceleration, and adhering to traffic regulations. By being aware of these risks and taking necessary precautions, eBike riders can enjoy a safe and enjoyable riding experience.

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