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E-bike owner raises concerns about 'planned obsolescence' after attempting to fix old bike: 'How is this not illegal?'

"The battery was maybe a year old."

"The battery was maybe a year old."

Photo Credit: iStock

It's natural for our belongings to wear out over time. However, some underhanded companies have figured out they can sell more products by intentionally designing their items to break quickly. 

This strategy is called "planned obsolescence," and it was recently involved when a Swedish e-bike owner wanted to revive the bike's old but lightly used battery.

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What happened?

According to this Redditor, "The battery was maybe a year old when [my wife] stopped using the bike."

However, when they took the e-bike out of storage, the battery had stopped accepting a charge. The Redditor started doing research β€” and found planned obsolescence.

"[I] found out that the processor in the battery makes it stop accepting charge at exactly three years of age," they claimed in the post. "Also found a guide [on] how to open up the battery and reset the processor. Now it charges again with no problems. One commenter on the video said they had reset theirs four times."

The Redditor shared a Swedish news article about the Biltema battery processor issue. According to the article, a local repair shop had started seeing a rash of identical cases when Biltema switched to a new battery model, and the shop discovered that resetting the processor resolved all of them.

"Patrik's investigations usually showed no damage whatsoever in the batteries that could justify the charging being throttled for safety reasons," says the quoted article.

"How is this not illegal?" asked one confounded commenter.

Why does it matter if Biltema is shutting off its batteries?

If a battery stops working at a predetermined time regardless of any other factors, the customer isn't getting the full use out of it β€” especially not if its natural lifespan is four or more times as long. Customers are being deceived and wasting money on replacements.

Not only that, but batteries are full of chemicals that need to be mined from under the ground, polluting the surrounding area and tearing up ecosystems. Using batteries is still much better for the Earth than more polluting alternatives like gas and coal, but not if those resource-intensive batteries are treated as disposable and replaced every couple of years.

On top of that, the chemicals in old batteries are dangerously corrosive; when they end up in landfills, they can sometimes pollute the surrounding area.

What is Biltema doing to prevent pollution from discarded batteries?

Biltema does offer a program to help customers recycle unwanted batteries, according to its website. "All stores offer possibilities for customers to hand in their old electronics products, lights/light bulbs, chemicals, oil, and batteries to make it easier for our customers to recycle," the company claims.

Still, it would have a much bigger impact by avoiding planned obsolescence.

What can I do about e-waste?

TCD does not recommend doing your own battery repairs, since that's still the best way to set an e-bike on fire. But you can visit a professional repair shop to get the most use out of your electronics and find a store or recycling center that accepts e-waste when you're ready to throw them out. Some even offer store credit.

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