The Reality About E-Bike Fires


E-bike fires are within the information lots currently, as effectively they need to be. There have been lots of of them in New York Metropolis alone attributed to the lithium-ion batteries in mobility gadgets resembling e-bikes, electrical scooters, and hoverboards. These batteries additionally energy our laptop computer computer systems, cell telephones, cordless energy instruments, and probably the most silly of all human innovations — digital cigarettes.

The US Client Product Security Fee says it has obtained reviews of greater than 200 incidents because the begin of 2021 during which micro-mobility gadgets caught hearth or overheated — incidents that led to the deaths of 19 individuals. “Harmful and lethal fires from lithium-ion batteries in e-bikes have reached a disaster degree. The tragic lack of life from battery fires is heartbreaking and preventable,” stated commissioner Richard Trumka final December.

E-bikes have exploded in recognition (no pun supposed), significantly in cities like New York the place individuals use them as their principal technique of transportation to make micro-deliveries of meals, packages, and essential paperwork. It’s at all times potential to discover a area to park a bicycle even when parking for the smallest of automobiles is nonexistent. Bike deliveries are quicker, which suggests individuals within the so-called gig financial system who make their dwelling delivering stuff can earn extra money in a given area of time than in the event that they tried to do the identical factor by automotive.

Having a battery to help with the pedaling simply makes the method that rather more environment friendly and fewer tiring. And the very best half could also be that an e-bike might be carried upstairs to an house the place it’s safe from thieves and might be plugged in in a single day so it is able to go the following morning.

There aren’t any correct numbers on e-bike imports, however the Gentle Electrical Car Affiliation estimates about 880,000 of them have been imported to the U.S. in 2021 — double the quantity imported in 2020, and thrice the whole from 2019. There are estimated to be greater than 500,000 hoverboards whizzing round in America. Extra gadgets means extra fires, consultants say, particularly because the business is comparatively new and unregulated, and there are a whole lot of totally different corporations and merchandise in the marketplace.

The E-Bike & Lithium-Ion Batteries


Mary, Zuney, e-bikes, and Tesla Mannequin 3 Lengthy Vary at a Supercharger in Chamberlain, South Dakota, on September 28, 2022. Photograph by Fritz Hasler.

The primary lithium-ion batteries have been invented in laboratories within the Nineteen Seventies, however didn’t start for use commercially till 1991. Most CleanTechnica readers know the fundamentals about such batteries. They’ve an anode and a cathode separated by a skinny layer of fabric containing lithium and different substances that maintain {an electrical} cost. Then it’s all wrapped up in what’s popularly often known as a “jelly roll,” inserted right into a metallic outer casing, and voila! A battery cell.

Put a half dozen of them collectively and you may energy a laptop computer laptop for a number of hours. Put hundreds of them collectively and you may energy an electrical automotive for lots of of miles. Make them flat as a substitute of spherical and so they can match inside a cellphone. Throughout operation, that lithium can create microscopic spikes referred to as dendrites. If these spikes of metallic contact each the anode and cathode inside a battery cell, they create a brief circuit.

When that occurs, the battery cell can shortly attain temperatures of 500º C. What takes place subsequent is thought within the battery enterprise politely as “speedy disassembly.” Most of us would merely name it an explosion. If one cell overheats, that may trigger adjoining cells to overheat, and shortly there’s a full on conflagration.

Lithium-ion battery fires will not be new, however the variety of gadgets powered by batteries has elevated dramatically, which suggests the whole variety of fires has elevated as effectively, even when statistically the chances of anyone battery cell catching hearth is infinitesimally small.

NPR reviews that in 2006, Dell, Apple, and different main laptop computer makers urged hundreds of thousands of consumers to return laptop computer batteries after Sony found a flaw in its battery manufacturing course of. Chevy, Hyundai, and Chrysler have all been pressured to situation recollects over battery fires in electrical automobiles. Not too long ago, Ford stopped manufacturing of its F-150 Lightning pickup vans after the battery in a single caught hearth throughout testing. Federal Aviation Administration reported greater than 60 incidents final 12 months during which lithium-ion batteries — largely battery packs, vapes, or cell telephones — overheated, started smoking, or caught hearth on airplanes. In 2013, Boeing had an issue with battery fires in early examples of its 787 Dreamliner airplanes.

Proper now, the battery-powered micromobility sector is calmly regulated. No person is aware of what number of lithium-ion batteries are in circulation, who manufactured them, or what chemistries they use. Conservatives despise regulation, however for regular individuals, just a few floor guidelines that cowl issues like what facet of the highway we drive on or what number of hours an airplane can fly earlier than it’s overhauled are appreciated.

This month, the New York Metropolis Council handed a number of ordinances that require all e-bike and different electrical mobility gadgets bought, rented, or leased within the metropolis to be licensed by Underwriters Laboratory, a security group that has been testing electrical gadgets for over a century, In addition they ban the sale of uncertified or used batteries. Retailers discovered to be in violation of the legal guidelines might be fined as much as $1,000 per violation.

The Client Product Security Fee issued a letter in December calling on greater than 2,000 producers, importers, and retailers to voluntarily adhere to UL security requirements for e-bikes and different micro-mobility gadgets. Following the rules “considerably reduces the chance of accidents and deaths from micro-mobility system fires,” wrote Robert Kaye, the company’s director of compliance and subject operations. “Customers face an unreasonable danger of fireplace and danger severe damage or dying if their micro-mobility gadgets don’t meet the extent of security supplied by the related UL requirements.” Moreover, the company has vowed to pursue penalties towards corporations who fail to tell the CPSC of security hazards.

E-Bike Security

There are just a few suggestions from these teams that may cut back the possibility of a battery hearth:

  • All the time be current whereas charging. Don’t plug in after which fall asleep and unplug the charger as quickly because the battery is absolutely charged.
  • Use solely the charger that got here included along with your system and to comply with the producer’s directions for correct charging.
  • Preserve batteries away from flammable supplies like furnishings and pillows whereas charging.
  • Don’t cost or retailer your system in a location that blocks your entry to an exit.
  • Search for the Underwriters Laboratory label when shopping for an e-bike or different micro-mobility system.
  • Ask the vendor who provided the battery for an e-bike or different system you might be contemplating shopping for.

NPR warns that some on-line sellers could falsely declare to have UL certification. Others could promote “re-wrapped” batteries, that means counterfeit batteries produced to seem as if they’re made by respected producers. Listed here are few ideas for purchasing a brand new battery.

  • In case your battery begins to fail, it might be most secure to purchase a brand new one.
  • Do NOT try and restore a battery your self.
  • All the time purchase from an organization that sells brand-name batteries.
  • Solely purchase a brand new battery or charger from the corporate which manufactured your e-bike or micro-mobility system

To get rid of an previous battery, convey it to a battery recycling middle or different e-waste facility. Don’t throw away lithium-ion batteries in typical trash. In the event you don’t know the place your nearest battery recycling middle is, go to the Call2Recycle web site. Your native House Depot might also have a battery recycling middle.

Enter From Lectric

A number of months in the past, I bought an e-bike from Lectric. It folds for simple storage and transport and it’s enjoyable to trip. The way in which it handles and carves turns jogs my memory of my a lot beloved Mazda Miata. As I used to be researching this story, I started questioning in regards to the battery in my Lectric XP Lite. I stay in a apartment neighborhood and if there was a difficulty, I’d incur the wrath of my neighbors, so I contacted the corporate, and received the next response from Christian Dennis.

“Not all e-bike batteries are created equal. Most security dangers with e-bike batteries, like all lithium ion batteries, are attributable to low high quality aftermarket batteries and misuse. Our batteries are protected towards deep discharge, overloading, overheating, and brief circuiting by Digital Cell Safety. Within the occasion of a fault, a protecting circuit switches the battery pack off routinely.

“Correct upkeep, charging, and storage is essential for battery security and well being. Please you’ll want to learn via your person handbook for the entire security necessities with regard to your bike. Security steerage consists of however shouldn’t be restricted to the next: To make sure that your battery is safely charged, don’t depart your battery unattended whereas charging and solely use the supplied Lectric eBikes battery charger provided along with your eBike or one authorized in your eBikes by the producer and bought from a trusted supply.

“Don’t join the battery pack to the charger till it has reached an allowable charging temperature. Don’t cost the battery with chargers apart from the charger supplied by Lectric eBikes. Solely cost the battery indoors and in dry areas which aren’t excessively scorching or chilly, in temperatures between 50 °F – 77 °F (10 °C – 25 °C). Guarantee there aren’t any flammable objects, grime or particles or water on the charger or close by when utilizing the charger. Keep away from leaving the charger plugged in when the battery is absolutely charged.

“Don’t cost the battery for those who discover the battery is broken, excessively scorching, leaking, smells, or is discolored. All the time verify the charger, cable, and plug earlier than use. Cease utilizing the charger for those who uncover any harm. Don’t open the charger. Broken chargers, cables, and plugs improve the chance of electrical shock.”

All widespread sense stuff that needs to be intuitively apparent to probably the most informal observer. All lithium-ion batteries are a possible supply of hassle. Use them properly. Christian didn’t reply to my query about UL certification straight, however that is an space that’s creating quickly. We as customers ought to demand assurances from producers that the batteries within the merchandise we use are as protected as potential.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going for a trip within the Florida solar on my Lectric XP Lite.


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