Why e-bike companies are fighting to stop riders from repairing their electric bikes

Right to Repair laws are common in many countries and are designed to prevent manufacturers from maintaining a monopoly with costly repair services to fix a device. But electric bike makers are pushing lawmakers to exclude e-bikes from these laws.

Right to repair laws make sense for a lot of consumer goods. When my robotic vacuum cleaner eventually burned out a side motor, I bought a spare motor on AliExpress and replaced it myself. It cost me $12 and half an hour of my time instead of paying the company $200 to do it for me.

But when it comes to electric bikes, it’s not quite as simple.

It’s not the basic things like tuning brakes or adjusting derailleurs. Manufacturers are fine with that stuff. But complicated and potentially dangerous components like lithium-ion batteries – which require special tools, skills and experience to operate on correctly – are another matter.

That’s why electric bike makers and the advocacy group People For Bikes are joining forces to push lawmakers to exclude e-bikes and their battery systems from such right to repair laws.

On the one hand, e-bike companies would rather see trained professionals that know how to avoid damaging the battery and leading to fire risks – a growing concern around the world.

But on the other hand, e-bike repair advocates worry that such repair services could lead to a monopoly where exorbitant prices prevent people from keeping their e-bikes on the road, even when the bike itself could have many more years of use left in it.

Alternatives to battery repair have been battery recycling programs, which started out with a focus on sustainability but have increasingly been seen as a safety alternative. E-bike batteries can be recycled in ways that allow trained professionals to remove the cells and safely recycle them, harnessing their materials and resources for new batteries.

New York City has become a focal point for the e-bike fire discussion, largely due to the dense population and high use of e-bikes, especially lower cost e-bikes ridden by delivery workers. Untrained battery repair work has led to many e-bike fires in the city. People For Bikes recently sent a letter to New York Governor Kathy Hochul asking that e-bikes be excluded from the state’s upcoming digital right-to-repair law, which was designed to give consumers the right to fix a wide range of electronic devices. The bill was ultimately amended to remove e-bikes from the list of right-to-repair products before being signed into law by Hochul.