Three men involved in separate fires linked to power-assisted bicycles fined over their illegal modification

Singaporeans Low Yi Hong, 31, Isaac Choo Chi Kin, 24, and Lee Gee Kian, 42, were each fined between $3,000 and $3,500.
Singaporeans Low Yi Hong, 31, Isaac Choo Chi Kin, 24, and Lee Gee Kian, 42, were each fined between $3,000 and $3,500.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Three users of illegally modified power-assisted bicycles (PAB) appeared in a district court on Thursday (July 30) following separate incidents where their batteries caught fire.

No one was injured in these incidents.

In the first convictions of their kind, Singaporeans Isaac Choo Chi Kin, 24, Low Yi Hong, 31, and Lee Gee Kian, 42, were each fined between $3,000 and $3,500.

Lee and Low pleaded guilty to permitting the unlawful alteration of the PABs and keeping the modified vehicles.

Choo, on the other hand, had allowed someone else to use a PAB that had been unlawfully altered. He also admitted that he had kept an unregistered PAB.

Choo, who said that he has been jobless since the Covid-19 outbreak started, received the highest fine of $3,500.

He had earlier allowed a friend to use his PAB and it was returned on Jan 3 this year.

Choo had left the vehicle to be charged for about an hour at a staircase landing of a Choa Chu Kang Avenue 3 block of flats later that day when his father told him that its battery had spontaneously combusted.

Choo and other members of the public managed to extinguish the flames before Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers arrived at the scene.

On Thursday, Land Transport Authority prosecutor Ng Jun Kai told the court: "The accused... admitted to (the) SCDF officers that he had conducted modifications to the said PAB by upgrading the motor - replacing the motor with a speedway battery pack - and had installed a controller."

Lee, who was fined $3,300 on Thursday, bought his PAB in November last year.

 
 
 
 

The following month, he paid $350 to a man, known only as "Xiao Dao" to install an external portable battery.

Mr Ng told the court that Lee's PAB had an additional wire extending from the motor, which allowed an additional battery to be connected.

"Such subsequent battery modification will void the original EN15194 certification for the said PAB thereby rendering it non-compliant."

Lee used his non-compliant PAB for his work as a delivery rider.

The vehicle was near Choa Chu Kang MRT station on Jan 3 this year when its battery spontaneously combusted.

SCDF officers arrived at the scene at around noon but by then, the PAB was already destroyed by the fire.

Since Feb 1, 2018, all PABs must be registered with the LTA. Only e-bikes with EN15194 certification are approved for use.

Mr Ng said: "The EN15194 is a rigorous standard that has also been adopted by Australia and many European countries, requiring stringent tests on the mechanical strength of batteries as well as the risks of short circuits and overcharging."

Low, who was also fined $3,000, had borrowed a PAB from a man. Low also bought a spare battery for it on Dec 25 last year.

Another man who delivered the item then carried out some works to attach a cable to the PAB's internal circuitry so that the spare battery could be used with the vehicle.

Low tried to use the spare battery the next day but noticed that there was no connection. He removed it and continued using the original internal battery, the court heard.

Low later noticed that the spare battery appeared bloated and immediately placed it outside his flat at Tah Ching Road in Taman Jurong.

"Shortly after, the battery started emitting sparks and a fire ensured. The police and SCDF were activated to the accused's home," said Mr Ng.

The LTA prosecutor also told the court on Thursday that there had been 17 reported cases of PAB-related fires in the first half of this year alone. This is an increase from previous years, when there were 13 and 22 such fires in 2019 and 2018 respectively.

Offenders convicted of permitting the illegal alteration of a PAB can be jailed for up to three months and fined up to $5,000.