Young man riding an electric scooter in Singapore with an amazing view on the city (Photo by Ingus Kruklitis from Shutterstock.com).

Deadline for PMD safety certification to be brought forward by 6 months, says LTA

Following a series of fire incidents involving personal mobility devices (PMDs) that occurred in Singapore, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is all set to bring forward the UL2272 safety certification for all PMD vehicles by six months.

This was announced by Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min in Parliament. He said that the LTA will need all PMD users to make sure their devices comply with the UL2272 standard by 1 July 2020, half a year before the original deadline of 1 January 2021.

For those who are not aware, UL2272 is a safety standard that will reduce the risk of fire, and from April next year, LTA will also make it compulsory for all registered electric scooters to be inspected.

Since September 2018, LTA had adopted the UL2272 standard in order to improve fire safety. It also made it a compulsory for all devices sold from last month be UL2272-certified.

UL2272 assesses devices at the “system level”. This means that it looks at the full spectrum of use conditions, instead of evaluating only individual parts, hence remarkably reducing the risk of fires. Certification involves a series of electrical, mechanical and environmental tests.

Dr Lam said that Singapore is the only country to impose “such a rigorous fire-safety requirement” for electric scooters. He also added that the 1 July 2020 deadline is “a reasonable” duration for retailers to bring in enough stock of certified devices for consumer.

Although Dr Lam said that the Government could just ban devices that are UL-2272-certified, he explained “retailer and users who had just bought such PMDs pleaded for some grace period”.

Despite the grace period, a large group of retailers complained of the negative impact it has on their business, said Dr Lam.

He added even users are angry that they have to let go of their perfectly-functioning PMDs, and fork out more money to purchase UL2272-certified vehicles.

Regardless of their concerns and complaints, Dr Lam said that LTA had to bring forward the deadline due to the recent fire incidents.

Just last month, two brothers ran out of their fourth-storey Ang Mo Kio flat after their electric scooter exploded while being charged. The fire destroyed their flat and two neighbouring units were damaged as well.

If that is not all, on 18 July (Thursday), 40-year-old Goh Keng Soon was pulled out of his burning flat in an unconscious state; the fire reportedly connected to the three burnt e-scooters in his living room. He died two days later. Mr Goh, a private hire driver, may possibly be the first person who died in a fire accident linked to a PMD.

However, after being asked by Members of Parliaments (MPs), including Alex Yam representing Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, on why the authorities did not immediately ban uncertified devices over safety concerns, Dr Lam pointed out that many Singaporeans rely on PMDs for both their daily commute and livelihoods.

As such, he said banning uncertified devices would “impose a lot of hardship and inconvenience to many Singaporeans”.

Compulsory inspection from April 2020

LTA noted that it will make it mandatory for all registered electric scooters that were declared UL2272-certified by users for inspection starting 1 April 2020.

All riders of electric scooters were required to register their vehicles by 30 June. As of now, 90,000 electric scooters have been registered, and only 10% declared UL2272-compliant. This basically translates to nine in 10 do not follow the standard, said Dr Lam.

Apart from the clearance for UL2272 certification, LTA will also need to check the width, weight and speed of the devices before they can be registered.

Electric scooters cannot be more than 20kg and a width of 70cm. The vehicle’s speed must also be capped at 25kmh before they can used on public paths, and have a speed limit of 10kmh on footpaths and 25kmh on share pathways.

As for how often the inspections should be conducted, Dr Lam said the authorities are still working on this. He said that the general lifespan of PMDs are about two to three years, so he said that the considerations would include whether regular inspections would actually be necessary or cost-effective.

Dr Daniel Goh, a Non-Constituency MP with the Workers’ Party, questioned is the Government or owners will bear the inspection costs. To this, Dr Lam said that the LTA is working on the details and will provide an answer soonest possible.

Concerns over high switching cost

Admitting concerns over the costs of switching to UL2272-certified devices, Dr Lam mentioned that the LTA will plan with food-delivery firms to offer riders more attractive rental rates. He added that the companies have made it public their commitments to assist riders to purchase or rent certified vehicles.

“I strongly urge all users and owners of the non-UL2272-certified PMDs to switch them as soon as possible. They can be a fire risk if you still keep and charge them at home. These devices should be properly and safely disposed of as soon as possible,” said Dr Lam.

The LTA is also working with the National Environment Agency to make sure the uncertified devices are disposed safely and conveniently.

However, Dr Lam reminded users who modify the electrical system of a UL2272-certified device, their certification will be deemed invalid. UL2272 automatically stops charging after the vehicle’s battery is full, in order to avoid overcharging – a cause of fires.

If that is not all, users should also not add more battery packs, which could harm the circuitry and safety the device.

“While UL2272 is a rigorous standard, users still have a part to play by adopting safe-charging practices,” Dr Lam said.