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Flywheel: UL 2849 | Vehicles from Specialized's Globe, CERO, Eunorau, PEGASUS, & Async
Exploring ebike safety standard UL 2849 and featuring the top 5 vehicles of the week
Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of the used side of owned 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 ebike safety standard UL 2849. This week’s featured vehicles are two compact cargo/utility bikes, a heavy duty jumbo escooter, a commuter, and a space-aesthetic scrambler.
Observation of the Week
Digging into ebike safety standard UL 2849
Given the recent streak of ebike fires, there’s been an increased focus on ebike safety. From the US CPSC’s call on OEMs to comply with UL safety standards and the proposed federal E-BIKE act tax credit only being applicable to UL certified ebikes to NYC's ban on the sale of ebikes without UL certification, there’s been a policy push to ensure that ebikes on the road are certified to some safety standard. While there are some basic standards that brands have used in the past (i.e. UN 38.3 and UL 2271), one that has come to the fore is UL 2849.
UL is a global safety organization that sets standards and “delivers testing, inspection and certification services” for all sorts of electronics (amongst other products). They published UL 2849 in 2020 as a standard for ebike electrical systems to provide “fire safety certification by examining the electrical drive train, battery, and charger system combinations in e-bikes.”
To start off, requiring UL 2849 certification is a move in the right direction that has the potential for significant public good. Less reputable brands and suppliers (that many argue are responsible for a majority of safety incidents) often can’t even pass the most basic tests, so even the simplest checklist of requirements immediately weeds them out. However, there’s a number of areas of concern with UL 2949, or certification requirements in general, that could be improved.
First of all, as per a Flywheel reader and ebike battery expert, certification specs struggle to comprehensively consider all possible problems without being too restrictive. Manufacturers and suppliers have to do quite a bit of testing beyond the spec because of how different each vehicle system is. As such, there’s a significant amount self reported functional safety, mechanical reliability design, and FMEA analysis that is used in the certification process. Brands and suppliers typically self-report safety cases and the redundancies they’ve put in place to solve them, and this documentation is used to fill in the gaps for certification. UL is not really consultative in helping with this aspect of the process, so there’s a lack of consistency in the FMEA that ultimately makes it very challenging for a 3rd party like UL to catch important nuances. There are standards in other industries that solve this issue by conducting thorough root cause analysis and creating actuarial-style tables that indicate failure rates based on different levels of performance in testing. However, there just isn't enough public data on ebike failures yet to create such tables. Many OEMs already collect this data independently, but they don't yet publish it.
Secondly, according to the aforementioned Flywheel reader, UL 2849 testing sufficiently covers mechanical aging (performance after significant vibrations, thermal conditions, etc.), but doesn’t really account for cell aging. Most UL 2849 testing happens at the beginning of the life of a pack’s cells, so the tests don’t really evaluate the performance the BMS and the safety of the pack as the cells degrade and age. This is a substantial oversight, particularly when you think about the heavy mileage and charge cycles the growing segment of utility-focused riders (vs. occasional recreational riders) are putting on their ebikes.
Additionally, going through the UL 2849 certification process is extremely expensive for brands or suppliers. It’s roughly a $1M-$2M cost add for each ebike model or powertrain, so most ebike companies below the premium bracket (i.e. Bosch) don’t go through the certification process even if their vehicles are built to UL 2849 standards. This ultimately forces brands to use the few powertrains that are certified and reduces the diversity and proliferation of new models built for different rider needs. Brands and suppliers have to pay even just to access the details of what UL 2849 specs, so developing a bare bones open standard that exposes some of these specifics would meaningfully move the needle on ebike safety.
The cost for brands and suppliers to receive certification also makes UL 2849 certified ebikes less affordable for end consumers, and banning ebikes without UL certification disproportionately affects lower income residents or delivery workers using ebikes for their livelihoods. For example, Bosch powertrains are one of the few mainstream ebikes electrical systems that are UL 2849 certified. On the other hand, Rad Power’s ebikes have been tested to UL 2849 standards but haven’t yet received formal certification. In NYC, Uber, Zoomo, and the Equitable Commute Project are attempting to combat this by working on a buy back program to get uncertified vehicles off the streets. Ebike subsidies where only UL certified ebikes are eligible also address this affordability issue, so long as they focus on providing extra support to lower income riders.
There isn’t yet an official public database of all UL 2849 certified ebikes and brands. Until such a list is released, this search result on UL Product iQ and NBDA's brand-submitted ebike database are good starting points.
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Top 5 Vehicles of the Week
The Specialized Globe Haul ST is a class-3 utility ebike launched just this past March under Specialized’s resurrected Globe brand, their affordability and urban utility focused line of ebikes. The Haul ST is both Specialized’s most affordable and most useful ebike that, according to the OEM, “fills the gap between a commuter e-bike and a car.” It has the wheel base of a commuter ebike, but comes with significantly more cargo capabilities. In addition to its astounding 419lb payload capacity, the Haul ST has a rack system with versatile mounting points and rails on both the front and rear of the bike to allow riders to to accessorize the vehicle with Globe’s vast cargo and 2nd passenger accessory line. Its powertrain features a custom 700W rear hub motor (controlled by a torque sensor) and a 772Wh battery pack. Although a standard Haul ST is pedal assist only, Specialized offers a $50 plug-in throttle accessory to maximize the utility of the ebike. The Haul ST’s closest competitor in terms of form and intended use-case is the RadRunner. However, the RadRunner with similar performance (RadRunner 3 Plus) is only marginally more affordable while having considerably lower quality parts, build, and serviceability. This listing is for an in-box Haul ST that is unopened and unregistered. Although it’s listed for only $50 less than MSRP, it’s a great option to save money on shipping and taxes while still getting a brand-new vehicle with full warranty. Listing can be found here.
The CERO One is a class-1 compact cargo bike designed after the iconic Japanese Mamachari bicycles. It’s the ebike equivalent of a compact pickup, and provides high cargo hauling utility with a small and agile frame. The One is actually only 70” long, which is even shorter than normal commuter ebikes. This, in addition to the smaller front wheel than rear wheel, gives the One nimble handling and makes it very portable. Its powertrain features a 60Nm Shimano STePs E-6100 mid-drive motor and a 504Wh battery pack. The One has a payload capacity of 300lbs, and each of the standard racks that are integrated into the frame are rated for 55lbs each. These racks are extremely modular and have a series of mounting points that make it easy to configure the One with virtually any cargo accessory. The One also comes with frame integrated lights and locks, making it the perfect cargo hauler for urban riders. This listing has a mileage of 800mi and is in excellent condition. Listing can be found here.
The Eunorau Jumbo is a heavy duty, extra large utility escooter that combines the stability and handling of an ebike with the convenience and accessibility of an escooter. The Jumbo is the size of an ebike (78.7” long and 46.5” tall with standard size bike tires), but has no seat or pedals. Instead, you stand on the platform and use a throttle to ride like you would on a more traditional escooter. As more people start to adopt micromobility and use it for utility rather than just sport, I think these kinds of new form factors that blend the best features of various vehicle types will become more prevalent. These hybrid concepts have the potential to be far more useful and practical than today’s vehicles that are hamstrung by the design restrictions, regulations, etc. of their recreational ancestors. The Jumbo’s powertrain features a 70Nm rear hub motor and a 740Wh battery pack stored in the rider deck, giving riders a max speed of ~22mph and a payload capacity of 265lbs. Its tire configuration with a larger 24” front tire and a smaller 20” rear tire not only increases the vehicle’s torque by giving the rear hub motor a mechanical advantage, but also maintains a high attack angle to smooth out bumps, potholes, and other road imperfections. Lastly, the Jumbo comes standard with integrated fenders, a rear rack, and lighting, making it the ultimate escooter workhorse. The biggest complaint that Jumbo riders often have is that the battery pack is too small. However, this listing has an upgraded 1000Wh battery pack that is housed in the down tube. The seller is a bike shop that originally bought this vehicle as a utility hauler for the shop to “make the occasional run to the hardware shop.” This listing is in like-new condition (Mileage of ~193mi). Listing can be found here.
The PEGASUS PREMIO E8 is a class-1 commuter with the comfortable design features and finishings of a cruiser. PEGASUS is the sister brand of BULLS. Although it’s not super well known in the US, PEGASUS has long been a popular choice for commuters in Europe. The PREMIO E8 is designed to be a practical, every day urban vehicle that can be used for commuting right out of the box. Unlike most ebikes from dealer-network brands, the PREMIO E8 comes standard with fenders, an integrated rear rack, integrated lights, a front fork, and all other accessories a commuter would need when riding in a city. Its powertrain features a 50Nm Bosch Active Line Plus mid-drive motor and a 500Wh Bosch PowerPack, and is paired with an 8-speed Shimano NEXUS transmission and a Gates carbon belt drive. The PREMIO E8 is extremely easy to maintain. Since PEGASUS is a sister brand of BULLS, PEGASUS ebikes can be maintained by any bike shop that is part of the massive service network that BULLS has already built out in the US. This listing is in like-new condition (Mileage of ~193mi), was recently tuned up, and has only only been used for light commuting. Listing can be found here.
The Async A1 Pro is a performance scrambler with an outer space aesthetic, and is one of the most unique designs in the category. Its monstrous powertrain features a 95Nm motor and a 1920Wh removable battery pack made of automotive size (21700) Samsung cells. The A1 Pro has a max speed of 35mph, but it can be configured to various urban and off-road riding modes with different motor powers and speeds. In addition to its 20” by 4” fat tires, a front suspension fork and a monoshock rear suspension integrated into the mid-frame help cushion rides on both city streets and off-road trails. The vehicle also has an excellent set of software features. Its full color digital dashboard and mobile app enable features like digital keys, theft alarm, GPS tracking, navigation, and others that are becoming more common on tech-forward ebikes. The A1 Pro is currently only sold via Indiegogo, so this listing for a like new vehicle is a compelling option that lets you test-ride the vehicle and avoid the uncertain shipping schedules typical of Indiegogo products. Listing can be found here.
That’s it for this edition. Thanks again for joining, see you next week!
- Puneeth Meruva
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