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What’s driving the battery fires with e-bikes and scooters?


An electric bike anchored abreast a Bronx bazaar which was once destroyed in a blaze which admiral say was once acquired by a adulterated lithium-ion scooter battery.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

An electric bike anchored abreast a Bronx bazaar which was once destroyed in a blaze which admiral say was once acquired by a adulterated lithium-ion scooter battery.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

As firefighters battled a five-alarm blaze at a bazaar in the Bronx beforehand this month, New York City admiral aggregate beside what they answered was once the account of the fire: the begrimed carapace of what was once already a sit-on electric scooter.

Officials answered which a adulterated lithium-ion array in the scooter had aback access into flame, as captured on surveillance video. The consistent blaze was once so intense, they said, which it belted the architecture in a await of minutes.

“There is amazing damage. This absolute architecture abaft me is absolutely destroyed. The roof is caved in. There is annihilation left. And it is all because of this one distinct bike,” answered Laura Kavanaugh, the city’s blaze commissioner.

Last week’s alarm abutting the further than 200 fires in New York City aftermost year acquired by batteries from e-bikes, electric scooters and agnate devices. Lithium-ion array explosions are now the third arch account of fires in the city, the blaze department says.

Per FDNY Fire Marshals, the account of today’s 5-alarm blaze at 2096 Grand Concourse in the Bronx was once a lithium-ion array which powered a scooter. pic.twitter.com/HTifRojiJo

— FDNY (@FDNY) March 5, 2023

As the acceptance of alleged micromobility accessories has soared above the U.S., so too have risen the cardinal of fires associated with the lithium-ion batteries which ability them.

Some assembly and federal regulators have taken note. Late aftermost year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission alien it had gained letters of further than 200 incidents back the begin of 2021 in which micromobility accessories bent blaze or overheated — incidents which led to the deaths of 19 people.

“Destructive and baleful fires from lithium-ion batteries in e-bikes have accomplished a crisis level. The adverse accident of activity from array fires is affecting and preventable,” answered Commissioner Richard Trumka in December.

Read on for further about why these fires are accident and how to accumulate yourself safe:

Why are batteries in e-bikes and scooters accessible to catching fire?

Lithium-ion batteries ability many rechargeable accessories which are allotment of our avant-garde lives: corpuscle phones, laptops, vapes, cordless ability and electric cartage of all kinds, from cars to scooters to e-bikes to hoverboards.

They’re small, failing and able — about they’re also decumbent to overheating and catching fire, answered Michael Pecht, a assistant of engineering at the University of Maryland. “Ever back lithium-ion batteries began to be accustomed in products, we’ve apparent fires,” he said.

At affair is the high body of the batteries, which is a acrid sword, answered Pecht, who also serves as administrator of the Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering, a university analysis centermost which consults with organizations on believability and protection issues, including batteries.

“They can delivery a lot of ability to our corpuscle phones and to our computers for a almost continued aeon of time in a actual baby volume,” he said. “But because we have so abundant activity arranged in which baby volume, if there is a problem, again they’re actual flammable.”

Defects or contagion in the accomplishment action can eventually advance to abbreviate circuiting or added failures.

In 2006, Dell, Apple and added main laptop computer makers apprenticed millions of barter to acknowledgment laptop computer batteries afterwards Sony apparent a blemish in their array accomplishment process. Chevy, Hyundai and Chrysler have all been affected to affair recalls over array fires in electric vehicles. The Federal Aviation Administration appear further than 60 incidents aftermost year in which lithium-ion batteries — mostly array packs, vapes or corpuscle phones — overheated, began smoker or bent blaze on airplanes.

Why do there assume to be further e-bike- and scooter-related fires now?

In short, there are further fires because there are so many further e-bikes and scooters these days.

Their baby admeasurement and low charge about to gas-powered cartage have fabricated micromobility accessories an appealing busline and amusement advantage for millions of Americans. That’s abnormally accurate for those dwelling in burghal areas area parking and cartage are challenges for drivers. Electric bikes and scooters have also been accepted by aircraft drivers.

The access in acceptance is so contempo which there isn’t yet abundant solid abstracts about how many e-bikes, scooters and added accessories are awash each year.

But what advice we do have shows which their numbers are growing rapidly. The Light Electric Vehicle Association, an industry group, estimates which about 880,000 e-bikes were alien to the U.S. in 2021. That’s about bifold the cardinal alien in 2020, and three times the absolute from 2019.

More accessories way further fires, experts say, abnormally back the industry is almost new and unregulated, and there are a lot of altered organizations and goods on the market.

What’s actuality done about it?

There’s not currently abundant adjustment of e-bikes and scooters.

Regulation could go in many directions. One would be to crave accessories be certified beneath the protection standards recommended by Underwriter Laboratories, a aggregation which has produced protection certifications for electric goods for over a century.

Earlier this month, the New York City Council anesthetized a amalgamation of local bills which would crave all e-bikes and added electric advancement accessories sold, busy or busy in the burghal to be certified beneath the appropriate UL protection standards.

The legislations also bans the auction of uncertified or acclimated batteries. Retailers begin to be in abuse of the laws can be fined up to $1,000 per violation.

At the civic level, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a letter in December calling on further than 2,000 manufacturers, importers and retailers to voluntarily attach to UL protection standards for e-bikes and added micromobility devices.

Following the guidelines “significantly reduces the accident of injuries and deaths from micromobility accessory fires,” wrote Robert Kaye, the agency’s administrator of acquiescence and acreage operations. “Consumers face an absurd accident of blaze and accident austere harm or afterlife if their micromobility accessories do not accommodated the degree of protection provided by the accordant UL standards.”

Additionally, the agency has vowed to accompany penalties adjoin organizations who abort to acquaint the CPSC of protection hazards.

Recommendations to accumulate yourself safe

The capital advocacy which comes from both the CPSC and the FDNY is to be present while you’re charging your device, and to not allegation it while you’re sleeping. Unplug the accessory already it is absolutely charged.

The CPSC also recommends which you alone use the charger which came included with your accessory and to chase the manufacturer’s instructions for correct charging.

Fire admiral add which you should allegation your accessory abroad from combustible abstracts like appliance and pillows, and which you shouldn’t allegation or shop your accessory in a area which blocks your acceptance to an exit.

When you’re affairs an e-bike or added micromobility device, try to locate what array comes abounding with it, Pecht said. Does the maker of the accessory accompaniment area the array is sourced from? Is the array fabricated by a acclaimed manufacturer? Experts also recommend which consumers attending for batteries which have a UL certification.

Be warned which anytime online sellers may falsely affirmation to have UL certification. Others may advertise “re-wrapped” batteries, acceptation affected batteries produced to appear as although they’re fabricated by acclaimed manufacturers.

If your array starts to fail, it may be safest to buy a new one. “Don’t adjustment anything yourself, and buy from a aggregation area you apperceive which they’re application brand-name batteries,” Pecht said. It may banal best to buy a new array from the aforementioned aggregation which produced your bike or scooter.

To actuate of an old battery, accompany it to a array recycling centermost or added e-waste facility. Don’t bandy abroad lithium-ion batteries in accepted trash.

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