Article by Dr. Mo-Hua Yang
Chairman of energyBus e.V.
Responding to the rapid expansion of the European e-bike market during the last few years, the traditional bicycle industry and supply chain are in the process of making major changes to address this phenomenon. The design of traditional bicycles chiefly focused on mechanical structure in the past, and key technologies were connected with materials and design. Motorized bicycles, however, have drive systems consisting of motors, batteries, and other electrical elements. As a result, the traditional bicycle industry must face the challenge of integrating electromechanical components, and the development and adoption of new key technology is therefore an essential issue for would-be e-bike producers.
With the possible exception of motor and key control technology, batteries can be considered the heart of an e-bike. Because a battery’s energy density will determine its endurance, power density will influence an e-bike’s power output, and boosting the energy and power density of lithium-ion batteries is currently an important aspect of the use of lithium batteries in electric vehicles (EVs).
While lithium-ion batteries have the advantages of a high operating voltage and high energy density, they also have safety issues during manufacturing, shipment, and use. The lithium-ion batteries used in electronic products have occasionally exploded or burst into flames in the past, and the lithium-ion batteries used in e-bikes have also had frequent safety issues in recent years. As a result, following the dramatic growth of the European e-bike market, there have been numerous reports of damage to e-bikes, homes, shops, and factories, as well as injuries and even deaths, caused by lithium-ion battery safety problems.
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Because e-bikes are still relatively new products, many standards, laws, and regulations governing e-bikes were only drafted during the past decade, and there were no safety standards applying to the lithium-ion batteries used in e-bikes. Clear standards concerning the safety of lithium-ion batteries only emerged with the European Union’s announcement of its EN 50604 standards.
Current safety standards concerning the lithium-ion batteries used in e-bikes are shown in the table below. If lithium-ion batteries are transported by sea or air transport, the battery products must be reported as Class 9 hazardous items and must comply with the UN’s UN 38.3 lithium-ion battery testing standards.
After the European Union updated its EN 15194 e-bike product standards in 2017, the biggest changes will involve EU Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC, where all standards under the Machinery Directive are mandatory. To put it simply, while the EN 15194 standard drafted prior to 2017 constituted a reference standard for e-bikes imported into the European Union, all e-bikes entering the EU from 2018 onward must mandatorily comply with the EN 15194 standard. The 2017 version of EN 15194 was announced in January 2018, and formal implementation is scheduled to begin on April 30, 2018. As a consequence, all e-bikes produced and entering the European Union after April 30 must comply with the 2017 version of the EN 15194 standards.
In the case of e-bike products that had already passed EN 15194:2009+A1:2011 certification, only those e-bikes that arrived at stores or distributors’ shipping areas prior to April 30, 2018, as well as manufactured products in inventory at that time, may be sold on the market. Those new e-bike products produced after April 30 must comply with the testing rules of the 2017 version of the EN 15194 standards.
The biggest challenge the new version of the EN 15194 standards poses for e-bike manufacturers is that e-bike control systems and all safety-related parts and components must comply with the performance levels specified in EN ISO 13849-1, where batteries are among the parts and components subject to these requirements. As a result, all vendors must help e-bike manufacturers ensure that their products comply with the required performance levels.
According to the Notes concerning battery testing in Section 4.2.3 of EN 15194, users should refer to EN 50604 or IEC 62133 safety testing standards if they wish to meet the required performance levels.
In addition, the EN 50604-1 standards for e-bike batteries were announced by the European Union in January 2017, and will be implemented in July 2017. If the national standards of any EU member countries conflict with the EN 50604 standards, the national standards will automatically become invalid as of July 4, 2019. However, because the current EN 50604-1 standards were not established under the Machinery Directive, the requirements of EN 50604-1 are not currently mandatory. Although Machinery Directive standards are still currently being determined, as in the case of the early versions of EN 15194, channel firms and retailers have begun inquiring about how to comply with EN 50604 testing standards. We believe that clearly-defined battery safety standards will be very important to the development of the e-bike industry.
The EN 50604 standards were actually the standards promoted by BATSO (Battery Safety Organization) at an early date, and participants in early BATSO standards drafting conferences included Germany’s TUV and ExtraEnergy, and Taiwan’s UL and ITRI. The following main battery transport, storage, and use test items are applicable to lithium-ion batteries used in e-bikes under the current EN 50604 standards:
2. External short circuit
3. Vibration endurance test
4. Partial short circuit
5. Crush test
6. Shock test
7. Drop test
8. Low pressure test
9. Climate test
10. Factory inspection and product surveillance
Industry and product standards can do much to ensure the healthy development of new markets. Verification standards for product safety and performance can give consumers a certain degree of understanding and trust in product safety and performance, ensuring that manufacturers do not sacrifice product safety and quality due to price competition, and boosting the market’s trust in products.
However, it must be noted that compliance with standards does not automatically ensure that products are absolutely safe. And only when continuing improvements are made in standards to reflect technological improvements and consumer-end product feedback will standards keep up with the times and effectively help the industry maintain its sound development and sustainability.
DIN EN 15194
The “Note” in section 4.2.3 of the EN 15194 standard specification mentions that the battery must comply with the test specifications of IEC 62133 or EN 50604-1.
CSN EN 50604-1