A Scam on 2 Wheels – The VanMoof X3

I should have known better. I broke one of my cardinal rules, and now I’m paying for it. I went online, did some cursory research, and then bought a VanMoof X3 eBike for errand running and for my teenage sons to get around town. After a six-month wait turned to eight months, the bike finally arrived. This was peak pandemic. I didn’t feel surprised or dismayed. When the bike finally arrived, it went together easily, and the first few rides were fine, about what you’d expect from a middling eBike.

I rode the bike three times, and my son took it out once or twice. Then winter settled in, and we put it aside in the basement, ready for the spring.

In the spring, that’s March of this year, my son needed to go somewhere, so he went to get the bike. The battery was dead. No problem. We plugged in the charger. Odd sounds emerged. The bike was clearly not charging. We went through the troubleshooting guide with no change in the problem. Then we emailed VanMoof customer support, receiving a note back that our issue would be addressed in 2-3 days.

Five weeks later, VanMoof support reached out, with an apology for it taking so long. Over a period of two weeks there was a casual back and forth as they confirmed that none of the basic troubleshooting steps would get the battery to charge. It’s April by now.

VanMoof informed me then that I’d need to send the bike to an official service center to have the battery replaced. I live in Boston. The nearest (and maybe only) repair center in the US is in Washington, DC. This seemed insane to me, but VanMoof insisted they could not send a replacement battery either to me or to my local bike shop (which also sells and services eBikes).

At that point, I was told to request a shipping box via their app. I wondered why I needed to do this through an app, when obviously the tech support person could just put in the request themselves. Nonetheless I put in the request. Two weeks later, I asked where my box was, and was told that they couldn’t find my request, but not to worry, NOW the tech would register the request themselves. Now it’s May.

No box arrived. I checked back in and was told everyone was working very hard on it, though this was demonstrably not true. I renewed my request to have the battery sent to me directly or to my shop, but was again denied. I suspect now that no batteries exist. They won’t ship them because they don’t have any. Evidently, they also don’t have any shipping boxes.

Along the way, the support person chastised me for letting my batter drain and sit and then for not keeping the massive box the bike arrived in along with all the packing materials.

By mid-June, I’d had enough. I requested a refund. Here was a “bike” that had been ridden fewer than 20 miles, then failed. The company was unwilling or unable to service it. I was four months into “tech support” with zero action being taken, VanMoof unable even to send me a shipping a box.

Unfortunately, I was told, I was not eligible for refund, since I was outside the 14-day trial window.

I let VanMoof know that I was a member of the cycling media (which I ABSOLUTELY HATE saying), and that I’d likely be filing a defective product complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and was told that I should do whatever I “thought was best from my end.”

VanMoof is very actively advertising and selling its bikes online, and if you are a cyclist, there is a high likelihood that you’ve seen their ads. My experience may be uniquely bad, but I don’t believe so. I believe that every step along the way they’ve lied, delayed, obfuscated and stone-walled me. Everything is couched in helpful language (except when they try to make the bike’s failure my fault), but no help ever comes.

Despite VanMoof being a company I wouldn’t trust to fix a flat, I am, in part, responsible for this disaster. I ought to have bought a bike from my local bike shop. I ought to have bought a bike that I had test-ridden. I ought to have consulted my friends who already own eBikes. This much I can own. The rest, the scam that is the VanMoof X3, belongs entirely to them.

I’m not going to sully any of our subscribers or sponsors by mentioning them in association with this product.

Join the conversation
  1. froze93309 says

    Sorry about your bad luck. From what I could find out that bike, and the battery is made in China, Chinese batteries are the worst in the world, the life expectancy is about 1 to 2 years on their rechargeable batteries, and you reached that limit area of time. Also, Chinese made batteries do not hold their charge as long either regardless as to what they say it will last. This is true for any rechargeable battery coming out of China, be it for lights, tools, or in your case bicycles. The unfortunate think is that if you can get a battery for you bike, you have no choice but to get a Chinese made battery, thus you’ll could be paying $250 for a battery every year or two.

    My suggestion is to find a place on the internet that can rebuild the cells in your current battery, what these companies do is take the plastic case apart, and put in new cells, if possible, request rechargeable cells that are made in Japan; the only problem with my suggestion is that I’m not certain your battery can be rebuilt, so you’ll have to research that, those rebuild places “should” be able to tell you. Also rebuilding is cheaper than replacing.

    1. tonbar says

      Couldn’t agree more. I have had two well known electric bikes. Both batteries lasted just over a year. Despite regular charging. New batteries would have cost a third of the cost of the bikes which both cost £1000.00. Do I risk buying another electric bike. Will the bike shop know where the battery is made? I would never buy online. As the writer says you have no comeback. Caveat emptor!

    2. topsecretev says

      I read the article and have no pity for the author. If the author took the time to read the user manual, I’m certain there would be an section on battery maintenance charging for storage.

      While the battery is either from Taiwan or China, the company can’t fix stupid. Plug in the unit every 1-3 months to preserve the battery.

  2. chetanchet says

    Two issues with this article. 1. It’s “wait” not “weight”. This is just bad customer service from Van Moof and not a “scam” in the true sense of the word.

  3. Benji R says

    Sorry about your bad luck. I’ve had my VanMoof X3 since this July…post pandemic… and I’ve loved it ever since. I’m based in the UK and so far I have done 355.9 miles on the e-bike – including a cycling holiday between Dunkirk to Brussels with some friends. I was impressed with how long the battery lasted.

    The customer support that you experienced does sound subpar, but then again if this was peak pandemic so was everywhere else! Perhaps they should have a different process for those that aren’t local to a service center though. Sorry again to hear!

  4. dmweinst says

    Like the author, I live in Boston, own an X3 and recently had an issue requiring replacement of my battery (although not because it let it become completely depleted. As recent posters have indicated, you can’t let a LiOn battery run down completely. Google stories of owners who bricked their Tesla roadsters by doing so). When I encountered the issue, rather than emailing support, I used their online chat feature and was able to connect with a live person within a few minutes. After describing my issue, the agent said the battery would need to be replaced and arranged to send me a return shipping box but said there might be a delay in receiving the box. The box arrived in about 10 days. I packed the bike up and called UPS who came and picked it up. A week later, the bike was returned to me with a new battery and now works fine. I can’t say enough about the responsiveness of VanMoof support for this and previous issues I’ve had with the bike.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      Quick correction to some perceptions: I did not allow the battery to become completely discharged. It was charged fully, whereupon it leaked its entire charge then failed to recharge. The battery was defective, which is why, presumably, Van Moof elected to replace it under warranty, albeit over a period of 8 months.

  5. dmweinst says

    I didn’t mean you deliberately allowed it to discharge. However, VanMoof bikes use some energy even though they are not being used, e.g. to maintain a 5G connection to support FindMy and Peace of Mind protection, to check for software updates, etc.. Similarly, the people who inadvertently bricked their Teslas didn’t deliberately discharge them. They let them sit in storage for months without charging them and the batteries gradually discharged. Respectfully, I believe that VanMoof cut you a break by replacing the battery under warranty after you let it sit for several months without checking the status of the battery. Even though I haven’t been riding mine in this cold weather, I make it a point to check the battery level every couple weeks and then plugging it in to top up the battery. I don’t consider this “leakage” a defect, but rather fairly normal behavior of a bike that has systems that are active and draw power even when not being ridden. Side note … I also have an electric car and notice that the battery “leaks” charge even when I haven’t been driving it for a few days.
    Since you now have a working bike, I suggest. you give it another chance. It’s really a fun ride!

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