E-bike sales have surged over the past year and show no signs of slowing down. If federal legislation on electric bike tax credits becomes law, many more people will be able to adopt this excellent form of eco-friendly transportation.
However, shipping an electric bike comes with unique challenges. Bikes are big and bulky, and an e-bike can even be larger than a regular bike with a heavier frame. Also, the lithium battery that powers the bike creates additional hurdles for shipping.
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we have extensive experience providing e-commerce fulfillment for battery powered devices. We reached out to Sales Director Cole Sweetser for inside information on shipping electric bikes.
Basics of e-bike shipping
Shipping an electric bike is very similar to shipping a regular bike. The difference is the lithium-ion battery. The size of the e-bike battery, as well as the way it is installed on the bike, makes a big difference in your shipping costs.
While some e-bike companies sell directly to consumers, most bike sales take place in a bike shop. However, whether you are shipping an electric bike to a bike shop or a consumer, the shipping considerations remain the same.
Storage and shipping of lithium batteries
Lithium-ion batteries are the powerful, rechargeable batteries that power everything from laptops to electric cars. On an e-bike, a lithium battery can provide a range of 50 miles or more.
The performance of the lithium-ion battery also makes it dangerous. Lithium batteries contain flammable elements that can explode or catch fire if the e-bike battery is damaged during storage or transportation.
Class 9 dangerous goods
Sweetser pointed out that lithium-ion batteries are classified as Class 9 dangerous goods. Red Stag Fulfillment does not charge additional fees for storing bicycle batteries or products containing them. However, we need to ensure our facilities are compliant before accepting any bike batteries.
Storage regulations include providing appropriate fire extinguishing equipment and adhering to limits on how much lithium can be stored in one location. Part of your due diligence when stepping on board a new e-bike 3PL is making sure their facilities are code compliant for the batteries.
A lithium-ion battery in an electric bike or scooter can result in the carrier classifying the entire package as dangerous goods. Any lithium-ion battery with a capacity greater than 100 Wh (watt hours) is classified by USDOT as UN 3480. “I haven’t seen an e-bike that doesn’t have 100Wh capacity,” Sweetser said.
If you are shipping a bike battery with a capacity of less than 100Wh, there is no hazardous materials fee, but you must have a warning sticker on the box.
However, there is a way to avoid the dangerous goods fee when shipping a lithium battery pack with an e-bike.
E-bike shipment classification
UN 3171 is the classification for battery powered vehicle transport. If lithium batteries are integrated into the electric bike, the entire package can be shipped under the UN 3171 classification.
“It’s rare that a customer hasn’t figured out the classification of their products before contacting us,” said Sweetser. However, some international customers may not be familiar with USDOT regulations.
Red Stag Fulfillment reviews product specifications for potential customers and looks for shipping solutions. We’ve been able to help manufacturers properly reclassify their e-bike shipments. “We want to look at the bike and work our way back from there,” said Sweetser. “If they only ship based on the battery regulations, they could lose a lot.”
It depends on whether the battery is integrated into the bike. If a lithium battery is included in the frame or installed on the bike, the shipment is unlikely to be dangerous goods. However, if you ship a battery separately, you have to reckon with the dangerous goods classification. “Many e-bike customers will stock and/or ship replacement batteries,” Sweetser noted.
Cost of shipping an e-bike
The classification of a package can make a big difference in shipping costs. “Most of the shipping cost is borne by the carrier,” Sweetser said.
USPS does not ship items the size of an e-bike. You can ship with UPS and FedEx.
FedEx e-bike shipping
FedEx separates dangerous goods from dangerous materials. Lithium batteries fall into the hazardous materials category. An additional fee of $39 will be charged for land shipments containing hazardous materials.
FedEx ships Dangerous Goods by ground only. FedEx requires special certification on the label for UN 3171 shipments.
UPS e-bike shipping
UPS classifies hazardous materials as dangerous goods. An additional fee of $39 will be charged for land shipments containing hazardous materials.
UPS ships bike batteries by ground or air. Lithium-ion batteries fall into Class 9, which UPS ships as air-impermeable for an additional charge of $54.50.
Even if your e-bike is classified as UN 3171, UPS imposes some shipping restrictions. The package must not weigh more than 30 kg; The battery must not weigh more than 5kg and if the e-bike battery is a lithium battery you will need a certification label on the outside of the box.
Replacement battery shipping
If the package includes a spare battery that is not installed on the bike, it is likely to meet the requirements for UN 3480. The hazardous material surcharge will apply to this. But a bike with a built-in battery might not.
The classification of your bike can make a big difference in your shipping costs. “If it can be left unregulated, there will be no additional battery charges,” Sweetser said.
To ship e-bikes you need a 3PL who understands the requirements for packaging and shipping UN 3171 and UN 3480 products. A fulfillment center experienced in shipping bulky and dangerous items, like Red Stag Fulfillment, can save you a lot of headaches.
Dimensional weight and shipping of e-bikes
Dimensional weight or DIM weight is an additional charge for some oversized packages. UPS, FedEx, and USPS all use a DIM factor to calculate a number called DIM weight based on package dimensions. If the DIM weight is more than the actual weight, the shipping cost will be based on the DIM weight.
Packing smartly can help you avoid DIM weight fees. If you’re shipping large products like e-bikes, it’s a good idea to work with a 3PL who has experience shipping plus sizes, like e-bikes. B. Red Stag Fulfillment. This is the kind of fulfillment provider that can save you money on e-bike shipping.
How Red Stag Fulfillment helps our customers ship e-bikes
Many companies are entering the electric bike market today. In a few years some of them will be gone. One thing that can make or break a business is supply chain issues—specifically, fulfillment.
Red Stag Fulfillment works with its customers to handle delicate products with care. “Our main priority is to make sure we’re training properly and we’re a resource,” Sweetser said. We work with customers to ensure their shipping protocols are optimized to save money and get orders to customers as efficiently as possible.