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New 'e-sockets' to help avoid e-bike charging fires

    A new way of guarding against fire risks from charging e-bikes is being tried out in a number of residential complexes in the city.

    At Guanglan Liyuan in the Pudong New Area, residents can scan a QR code where they charge their e-bikes and get a message on their phone when the battery is full, at which time charging is automatically terminated.

    Fire can result from e-bikes being overcharged as owners are usually not around during the process.

    At this complex of over 600 households, 78 sockets enabling this way of charging have been installed, adding to more than 800 installed in around 20 residential complexes across the city in the past six months, according to Kunling, a local tech startup which came up with the solution.

    If power strips are used, another fire risk, the sockets can detect them and stop charging, and if charging takes longer than normal, a message will be sent to the owner to check if there’s a problem, the company said.

    One charge lasts six hours, and no “fast charging” options are available, as that is also a fire risk.

    A charge costs 1.3 to 1.5 yuan (19-22 US cents), slightly more expensive than using ordinary sockets.

    An added advantage with the new system is that, because owners are notified when the battery’s full, it will make it easier for police to track down a stolen bike.

    Wei Conghu, the community police officer at the complex, said residents no longer charge bikes in the buildings or by using extension cables from apartments, yet another fire risk.

    “Since the riders park their bikes in a parking spot with surveillance cameras, this residential complex has had no bike thefts in recent months,” he said, adding that the fire authority also welcomed the new solution to e-bike charging.

    But at Ouyang Huayuan, a residential complex in Hongkou District, where 10 sockets with QR codes were installed about two months ago, nine have been hardly used.

    An e-bike rider surnamed Dong said he doesn’t use them because he had prepaid for both parking and charging, and didn't want to pay extra for charging from the new sockets.