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Dealer association asked CPSC to make statement on e-bike standards

Published December 20, 2022

IRVINE, Calif. (BRAIN) — The National Bicycle Dealers Association sent a letter to federal regulators this week asking that they make a statement regarding UL certification of e-bikes sold in the U.S. By coincidence, the Consumer Product Safety Commission's was already releasing a statement the very same day.

The CPSC letter to manufacturers and importers on Monday was "exactly" what the NBDA was looking for, association President Heather Mason said.

Nevertheless, industry members said they were surprised by the CPSC statement and are struggling to understand exactly what the Commission was trying to say.

In particular, it remains unclear:

  1. whether the CPSC views the UL standard as voluntary, or whether it will take some sort of "enforcement action" if non-certified products are being sold.
  2. if the CPSC means that complete e-bikes should be certified to the standard, or just drive systems. 

Several manufacturers, including Bosch and Fazua, exclusively sell motor systems that are UL-compliant. However, only a small number of complete bikes are compliant with the standard, according to a list referenced by the NBDA. Most bikes that dealers sell are not on the list, although many dealers sell bikes with UL-certified drive systems. 

A CPSC letter to manufacturers and importers, which was signed by Robert S. Kaye, the director of the CPSC's Office of Compliance and Field Operations, suggested the Commission would take action on non-certified bikes. Kaye wrote that CPSC Field Operations staff would "seek corrective action as appropriate" if they encounter products that don't meet the standards, and said failure to ensure that products sold comply with the standard "may result in enforcement action."

"We would like to see UL 2849 standards be promoted with more than 'should and could.' We would like a statement along the lines of shall and must.'" — NBDA's Heather Mason

However, a statement from CPSC Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric said nothing about enforcement or mandatory standards. Instead it said it was "urging them to only manufacture, import, or sell products that meet applicable voluntary safety standards." Hoehn-Saric also said, "Consumers should look for products certified by independent laboratories to meet voluntary safety standards when buying e-bikes, scooters, and related equipment such as chargers and extra batteries."

Mason said the NBDA emailed its letter to the CPSC on Monday, hours before the Commission issued its letter. 

"CPSC called us back within the hour of receiving our letter and mentioned our timing was impeccable," Mason told BRAIN. 

Mason said the list of UL-certified bikes is the only formal list she is aware of. "We are working on a list of all UL 2489 and UL 2272 brands and batteries, but this is very labor intensive. We advise retailers as the CPSC indicated: that any third-party certification body that is accredited by an international accreditation body for ANSI/CAN/UL 2272 or ANSI/ CAN/ UL 2849 product certification is acceptable to ensure compliance.

Mason said that while the CPSC statement was exactly what NBDA was hoping for, "We would like to see UL 2849 standards be promoted with more than 'should and could.' We would like a statement along the lines of shall and must.'

"Based on my conversations with them, this is the first step. ... I feel that the CPSC knows that they are voluntary. We may see enforcement action on non-certified in the future." 

Retailer Chris Nolte, said all the bikes available in his Propel Bikes locations have Bosch drive units that are UL 2849 certified. "Although CPSC only receives a small number of reports and many issues go unreported, I think (the CPSC letter) is likely a signal to a requirement to come."

Propel has a store in New York and one in California. Nolte said New York City fire code now requires UL certification of e-bike batteries and chargers.   

"Hopefully we don’t need to go the route of certifying the complete bike, but time will tell."
Topics associated with this article: Electric bike

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