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While most people are satisfied with modern electric bikes in their factory form, some prefer to modify their bikes. And a popular modification request is to add a USB charging port to their ebike. Maybe this is because they’re constantly on the go and want to travel light, or they just like the idea of having one more place to charge devices. Whichever the reason, find out if you can turn your eBike into a portable charger.
Perform a Google search for “add a USB port to an ebike” and you’ll quickly find that while lots of people are asking if it can be done, the answer can be hard to find. With our research, we noted that while plenty of “electric bike” and Reddit forums are dedicated to the search for this information, few people have a straightforward answer.
And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a legitimate DIY or electric bike website that will tell you how to add a USB port to your electric bike. Even with our research, we found a few Youtube videos for creating a charger for a moped, and plenty of forums where everyone had questions but few answers.
Even with the rare English language Youtube video that we did find, it was more of a hack than a true modification where a USB port was hardwired into the moped’s battery pack. Instead, the Youtuber created a portable USB connector which then had to plug into the electrical port on the moped’s battery pack. We think you’ll agree that this is a workaround, not a true mod.
Warning: And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a legitimate DIY or electric bike website that will tell you how to add a USB port to your electric bike
Ultimately, you’ll need to check with the owner’s manual for your electric bike to confirm which modifications — if any — are allowed. However, given that adding a USB port will most likely require opening and modifying the lithium-ion battery, it’s safe to assume that this DIY modification isn’t authorized and can void your warranty.
Warning: it’s safe to assume that this DIY modification isn’t authorized and can void your warranty
Although society has collectively gotten complacent and used to lithium-ion batteries powering our electronics, it’s important to remember that they’re highly volatile pieces of equipment. Keep in mind that even when you don’t tamper with your battery, common user errors such as leaving a battery plugged in long after it’s fully charged, or leaving a fully charged lithium-ion battery idle for extended periods can damage it.
Likewise, even with approved usage behavior lithium-ion batteries are notorious for overheating — both while in operation and when charging. And depending on the quality control used to create your electric bike battery, just regular wear and tear could subject the lithium-ion cells to leaks. Over time, all of these scenarios can increase the risk of malfunctions. In extreme cases, this has led to the battery overheating — sometimes to the point of causing smoking, explosions, and even fire.
Warning: even with approved usage behavior lithium-ion batteries are notorious for overheating
Warning: just regular wear and tear could subject the lithium-ion cells to leaks
Warning: In extreme cases, this has led to the battery overheating — sometimes to the point of causing smoking, explosions, and even fire
We’re going to err on the side of caution here and say unless you’re an electrician or technical pro that’s worked extensively with opening and working on lithium-ion batteries, this is a modification that’s best left to the professionals. Adding a USB port to a battery isn’t a modification that beginners should attempt — at all.
The chances of a novice inadvertently damaging the battery and creating a catalyst for malfunctions is too high. At best, you’ll damage the battery to the point that it no longer works and you need to replace it. At worst, it could literally explode in your face, start a fire, and potentially burn down your home or workshop.
If you have your heart set on the idea of having an ebike battery that can double as a power bank, consider replacing your existing battery with a model that includes a USB port. This is the easiest workaround and most likely won’t void your warranty. Replacing the battery yourself is usually considered an approved activity.
Tip: If you have your heart set on the idea of having an ebike battery that can double as a power bank, consider replacing your existing battery with a model that includes a USB port
However, you’ll want to make sure that you pick a lithium-ion battery that’s rated compatible with the specific make and model for your ebike. Keep in mind that many of these batteries with USB ports are aftermarket products. So, you’ll want to make sure that not only is it compatible with your ebike, but that it meets United Laboratory (UL) standards to reduce the risk of the battery becoming unstable if it overheats.
Tip: make sure that you pick a lithium-ion battery that’s rated compatible with the specific make and model for your ebike
When Li-ion cells with layered transition metal oxide cathodes are overcharged to 4.7 V or higher, the cell temperature increases rapidly, and the cathode becomes unstable and violently reacts with the electrolyte. The reaction produces enough heat to increase the cell’s internal pressure above the vent pressure of the burst disc, causing the cell to eject its hot internal content that catches fire and/or explodes (Electrochem.org)
Staff estimates 132,800 injuries (sample size=3,645, coefficient of variation=0.11) related to all micro-mobility products were treated in U.S. EDs over the 3-year period 2017 through 2019. The annual estimated ED visits were 34,000, 44,000, and 54,800 in 2017, 2018, and 2019, respectively. (CPSC)
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