- Flywheel: Growing momentum for new battery safety standards | Vehicles from Rybit, Pedego, Trek, KBO, & Heybike
Flywheel: Growing momentum for new battery safety standards | Vehicles from Rybit, Pedego, Trek, KBO, & Heybike
Exploring the growing momentum for new micromobility battery safety standards & featuring the top 5 vehicles of the week
Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of owned and used micromobility. Each newsletter will highlight an observation of trends emerging in the industry and feature five of the most interesting used vehicles being sold in the secondary market.
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The observation of the week explores the growing momentum for new micromobility battery safety standards. This week’s featured vehicles are a scrambler, a fat-tire cruiser, two cargo bikes, and an all-terrain bike.
Observation of the Week
Growing momentum for new micromobility battery safety standards
The rising number of battery fires over the last few years has led to an understandable level of concern around Lithium batteries in micromobility. Many have tried to take action, but it’s clear that existing constructs and regulations around batteries are insufficient to curb this problem. For example, one trend we’ve seen emerge over the last year is landlords (i.e. the NYC Housing Authority) trying to ban the storage of ebikes indoors. This is obviously a heavy handed and ultimately regressive reaction given that many ebikes, when charged as intended, are perfectly safe to store indoors.
One city that’s led the way in forward-facing ebike battery regulations is the city where battery fires seem to be most prevalent, NYC. Last year, NYC banned both the sale of new micromobility vehicles that aren’t UL-certified as well as the possession or sale of “lithium-ion batteries assembled or reconditioned using cells removed from used batteries.”
These laws have set an example for ways in which governments can help mitigate battery fires, and the rest of the country is following suit.
While the details around this bill are still unclear, it seems that it will include rules around:
Batteries meeting recognized safety certifications (presumably UL) if being charged indoors
Limits on how many micromobility vehicles are stored in a single home
Requirement around how micromobility vehicles are stored and charged
Bans on the use of damaged or reconditioned batteries
The bill was reportedly drafted based on input from Bay Wheels operator Lyft and Lime, and is meant to mirror NYC’s regulations. It still needs to be signed by Mayor Breed to be enacted into law.
We’ve also seen movement over the past few months around micromobility battery regulations at a federal level.
There’s now a pending bill in Congress that would “give the Consumer Product Safety Commission an explicit directive to create federal, mandatory standards for how to safely build and import those [micromobility] batteries.”
This bill received approval last fall in the House, passed its subcommittee in November, and passed the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee in December. All of these milestones happened with unanimous approval/support. Now the bill needs to pass a vote by the entire House, but House leaders seem optimistic given the wide support to date.
While this is encouraging, we’re still quite a ways away from this bill becoming law. If the House passes this bill, it would still need to pass through the Senate and be signed by the President. Additionally, even after all that processing, it would still take at least an additional year before the bill is applied in practice.
Although the road is still long, this momentum is extremely exciting. Getting the CPSC to issue mandatory federal standards is a significant step in the right direction and a marked improvement over today’s status quo of fragmented city-by-city regulations built on UL standards alone.
While UL standards are an incredibly important starting point for battery safety standards, they are not entirely comprehensive on their own. OEM compliance with UL standards is still only voluntary, and ensuring compliance nationwide would require every major city in the country to adopt regulations similar to NYC.
Additionally, UL standards are also not yet specific enough. As Zitara CEO Shyam Srinivasan pointed out in a previous edition of Flywheel, UL 2849 is “general and not [fully] comprehensive. Because there’s such a wide variety of cells and pack architectures out there, the standards organizations leave it up to the manufacturers to do a lot of the lifting in terms of figuring out how to ensure reliability in their particular application.”
Lastly, running a UL certification program is an extremely expensive process for OEMs. If the costs of making vehicles compliant don’t decrease, they will ultimately be passed onto consumers and micromobility vehicles will become far less affordable.
Federal standards set by the CPSC have the potential to both provide more comprehensive guidelines for designing safe batteries and lower the price and barriers to access safe micromobility vehicles.
For more observations and resources on owned and used micromobility, check out rideflywheel.com/resources.
Featured Vehicles of the Week
The Rybit RYT C1 is a scrambler style class-2 ebike with a unique, cyberpunk design. Rybit is an ebike subscription startup based in San Francisco that works with both delivery fleets and individual riders. They offer several vehicle subscription, battery subscription, lease-to-own, maintenance, and insurance plans for two different ebikes, a delivery oriented step-through called the Gen 3 and a utility cruiser called the RYT C1. Both of these models have connected functionality that plug into Rybit’s proprietary fleet management software and vehicle maintenance software. The RYT C1 is the higher-performance model of the two, and features a powertrain with a 50Nm rear hub motor and a 960Wh battery pack. This is paired with a 7-speed Shimano transmission and hydraulic disc brakes to make the RYT C1 highly agile and maneuverable in tight city streets. The vehicle’s throttle, comfortable frame geometry, 20” fat tires, and built-in rack and lighting make it an excellent urban commuter vehicle. In fact, for those living in SF, you’ve probably seen how this model has quickly become the steed-of-choice for food-delivery gig workers. This listing has a mileage of 27mi and is sold by Upway, an online retail platform for used ebikes. All vehicles on the Upway platform are professionally repaired and certified, and they all come with a 14 day return period and 1 year warranty. Listing can be found here.
The Pedego Element is an affordable class-2 fat-tire ebike ideal for leisure riding. Pedego is primarily known for its higher-end $3K-$6K vehicles, so the Element represents Pedego’s attempt to enter the mass-market segment. Its powertrain features a 45Nm custom Pedego geared rear hub motor and a 500Wh UL 2850 certified battery pack. The Element shines in off-road conditions and casual cruising. Its 20” by 4” fat tires compensate for the lack of a suspension system, and the motor has great acceleration to quickly reach 20mph on various terrains. However, the vehicle’s heavy weight and less responsive cadence sensor means that the Element is best ridden with a throttle, which in turn significantly reduces the range. While the Element is reasonably priced for a dealer-network brand ebike, it lacks several essential urban features (i.e. lights, rack, fenders, location tracking) that are often included as standard in comparably priced D2C ebikes like the Lectric XP series. Nevertheless, Pedego's network of ~219 bike shops provides for an excellent maintenance experience post-purchase and helps make up for the lack of built-in urban accessories and functionality. This listing has an approximate mileage of 565mi and was tuned up by a Pedego dealer in December 2023. It comes with a Pedego lock (eligible for Pedego’s theft-prevention plan), a rear rack, and a suspension seat post. Listing can be found here.
The Trek Fetch+ 2 is a high-end class-1 longtail cargo bike launched last February as part of Trek’s initial foray into the cargo bike market. The Fetch+ series includes the longtail Fetch+ 2 and the European bakfiet-style Fetch+ 4. True to Trek's reputation, the Fetch+ 2 comes loaded with top-tier components that offer exceptional rideability. Its powertrain features an 80Nm Bosch Performance Line CX mid-drive motor tailored for cargo applications and a 500Wh Bosch PowerTube battery (with the option to add a second battery). The powertrain is UL 2849 certified and is part of Bosch’s latest BES3 “smart system,” which incorporates advanced software features like a digital lock, ABS, eShift, and smartphone integration. Rounding out the Fetch+ 2 are a 10-speed Shimano transmission and hydraulic disc brakes which enhance its acceleration and braking capabilities. The Fetch+ 2’s sturdy chassis supports a maximum payload capacity of 440lbs, and its 20” wheels give the vehicle a low center-of-gravity and nimble handling. Lastly, an adjustable dropper seatpost allows for riders of different heights to quickly mount the vehicle, which is a particularly useful feature for families where the vehicle is shared by multiple adults. The Trek Fetch+ 2’s primary rival is the Tern GSD S10, which has similar performance and components but retails for ~$1,000 less. This listing bridges that price gap. It is brand new, sold by Bay Area bike shop Big Bowl, and “priced nearly at wholesale.” Listing can be found here.
The KBO Ranger is an affordable class-2/class-3 compact cargo bike. Its powertrain features an 80Nm rear hub motor and an 840Wh battery pack (rated for 900 cycles) made of Samsung and LG cells. This battery pack is far larger than the average pack found on vehicles of this price point. KBO claims that the ebike is UL certified, but it’s unclear exactly which standard the vehicle meets (i.e. UL 2271, UL 2849). The Ranger has the same wheelbase length as a regular ebike, which paired with the 20” by 3” tires and 7-speed Shimano transmission give it excellent maneuverability. This vehicle also comes standard with a rear rack, running boards, fenders, and lighting. Although the Ranger’s chassis has a stated 400lbs payload capacity, there’s a few reasons to suggest that it may not be entirely safe to load the vehicle to its full weight limit. Many riders have reported signs of frame flex when loaded, and the vehicle only has mechanical disc brakes as opposed to stronger and more responsive hydraulic brakes. I would argue that hydraulic brakes are a must-have on cargo bikes. The Ranger is one of the only cargo bikes I’m aware of that still uses just mechanical disc brakes. This listing is a year old, has always been stored indoors, and comes with an upgraded suspension seat post. Listing can be found here.
The Heybike Explore is a class-2/class-3 all-terrain ebike. Remniscent of Heybike’s flagship Mars ebike, the Explore is a bigger and higher-performance model designed for zippy off-roading. Its powertrain features an 80Nm rear hub motor and a 960Wh removable battery pack, and is TÜV Certified in accordance with UL 2849. Paired with a 7-speed Shimano transmission and high-grip 26” by 4” fat-tires, the Explore has better traction and nimbler handling than most other fat-tires on the market. The built-in front suspension fork, suspension seat post, and fat tires also make the Explore highly cushioned when riding on rough or uneven surfaces. Given these high-comfort features, the Explore is a great vehicle for first-time riders getting used to recreational off-roading or street riding. Lastly, similar to the KBO Ranger reviewed above, the Explore claims a 400lbs payload capacity but also only has mechanical disc brakes. In my opinion, it would be safest to err on the lighter side of cargo loads when riding the Explore. This listing is <1yr old and only has a mileage of 54mi. Listing can be found here.
That’s it for this edition. Thanks again for joining, see you next week!
- Puneeth Meruva