Feb 22, 2024 - News

Denver's new rules for e-bike rebate throw a wrench into the program

Illustration of an electric bike with a lightning bolt on the frame.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A little-noticed rule change for Denver's e-bike rebates will limit the options for consumers to purchase.

What's new: The city is now requiring all e-bikes purchased with vouchers to meet independent UL certification standards to ensure the safety of the controls and lithium-ion batteries.

  • Colorado is expected to add the same mandate for anyone claiming its e-bike rebate this spring.

Why it matters: The moves come ahead of Tuesday's rebate lottery and follow action in New York where e-bikes led to hundreds of electrical fires and dozens of crashes, both of which resulted in numerous deaths and injuries.

Zoom in: Not all e-bikes for sale at eligible retailers meet the new standards, and it's difficult for consumers to know the difference between what's safe and not. UL doesn't publish a public list of what it tests.

  • City officials and multiple Denver bike shops gave us conflicting information about what models qualify and what certification standards are needed.

What they're saying: "For consumers, it's a horrible problem. They have to go into a shop and trust [the retailer] is not going to lie to them," says MacKenzie Hardt, the owner at Hardt Family Cyclery, which can prove it sells only UL-certified e-bikes.

The intrigue: For now, the city is allowing shops to sell e-bikes from manufacturers who are seeking the certification, even if the current models have not yet met the standard. This applies to RadPower bikes, which is the most popular manufacturer claimed under the rebate program.

  • The company announced in September that new models would be certified, and Mike Salisbury in the city's climate office said older ones will not qualify for the rebate. An associate at the company's Denver store told us old and new bikes would count.

Between the lines: The city only verifies an e-bike is eligible after the sale, putting the shop and potentially customers on the hook for the voucher's amount, which ranges from $300 to $1,400.

Of note: Denver made the change after prodding from bike shop owners, consumers and fire officials.

  • Denver Fire spokesperson JD Chism told us the agency has discovered fires sparked by e-bike battery malfunctions but could not provide numbers because it just started tracking them.

The bottom line: UL-certified e-bikes will cost more money but bike shop owners dispute the idea that they are overpriced. "It's only overpriced for the safety of our families and our homes," Hardt said.

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