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How to keep yourself safe from e-bike and scooter battery fires : NPR

by Editorial
How to keep yourself safe from e-bike and scooter battery fires : NPR


An electrical bike parked close to a Bronx grocery store that was destroyed in a hearth that officers say was attributable to a defective lithium-ion scooter battery.

Spencer Platt/Getty Photographs

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Spencer Platt/Getty Photographs

An electrical bike parked close to a Bronx grocery store that was destroyed in a hearth that officers say was attributable to a defective lithium-ion scooter battery.

Spencer Platt/Getty Photographs

As firefighters battled a five-alarm hearth at a grocery store within the Bronx earlier this month, New York Metropolis officers gathered beside what they mentioned was the reason for the hearth: the blackened shell of what was as soon as a sit-on electrical scooter.

Officers mentioned {that a} defective lithium-ion battery within the scooter had immediately burst into flame, as captured on surveillance video. The ensuing hearth was so intense, they mentioned, that it enveloped the constructing in a matter of minutes.

“There may be extraordinary harm. This complete constructing behind me is totally destroyed. The roof is caved in. There may be nothing left. And it’s all due to this one single bike,” mentioned Laura Kavanaugh, town’s hearth commissioner.

Final week’s blaze joined the greater than 200 fires in New York Metropolis final yr attributable to batteries from e-bikes, electrical scooters and related units. Lithium-ion battery explosions at the moment are the third main reason behind fires within the metropolis, the hearth division says.

As the recognition of so-called micromobility units has soared throughout the U.S., so too have risen the variety of fires related to the lithium-ion batteries that energy them.

Some lawmakers and federal regulators have taken notice. Late final yr, the U.S. Client Product Security Fee introduced it had acquired studies of greater than 200 incidents because the begin of 2021 by which micromobility units caught hearth or overheated — incidents that led to the deaths of 19 individuals.

“Damaging 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,” mentioned Commissioner Richard Trumka in December.

Learn on for extra about why these fires are taking place and hold your self secure:

Why are batteries in e-bikes and scooters weak to catching hearth?

Lithium-ion batteries energy many rechargeable units which might be a part of our fashionable lives: cell telephones, laptops, vapes, cordless energy instruments and electrical autos of every kind, from automobiles to scooters to e-bikes to hoverboards.

They’re small, light-weight and highly effective — however they’re additionally susceptible to overheating and catching hearth, mentioned Michael Pecht, a professor of engineering on the College of Maryland. “Ever since lithium-ion batteries began to be prevalent in merchandise, we have seen fires,” he mentioned.

At concern is the excessive density of the batteries, which is a double-edged sword, mentioned Pecht, who additionally serves as director of the Heart for Superior Life Cycle Engineering, a college analysis middle that consults with firms on reliability and issues of safety, together with batteries.

“They’ll present quite a lot of energy to our cell telephones and to our computer systems for a comparatively lengthy time period in a really small quantity,” he mentioned. “However as a result of we’ve got a lot power packed in that small quantity, if there’s a drawback, then they’re very flammable.”

Defects or contamination within the manufacturing course of can ultimately result in quick circuiting or different failures.

In 2006, Dell, Apple and different main laptop computer makers urged thousands and thousands of consumers to return laptop computer batteries after Sony found a flaw of their battery manufacturing course of. Chevy, Hyundai and Chrysler have all been compelled to concern recollects over battery fires in electrical autos. The Federal Aviation Administration reported greater than 60 incidents final yr by which lithium-ion batteries — largely battery packs, vapes or cell telephones — overheated, started smoking or caught hearth on airplanes.

Why do there appear to be extra e-bike- and scooter-related fires now?

In brief, there are extra fires as a result of there are such a lot of extra e-bikes and scooters lately.

Their small dimension and low value relative to gas-powered autos have made micromobility units a pretty transportation and recreation choice for thousands and thousands of Individuals. That is very true for these residing in city areas the place parking and site visitors are challenges for drivers. Electrical bikes and scooters have additionally been embraced by supply drivers.

The burst in recognition is so latest that there is not but a lot stable knowledge about what number of e-bikes, scooters and different units are bought every year.

However what info we do have exhibits that their numbers are rising quickly. The Gentle Electrical Car Affiliation, an business group, estimates that about 880,000 e-bikes had been imported to the U.S. in 2021. That is about double the quantity imported in 2020, and 3 times the entire from 2019.

Extra units means extra fires, specialists say, particularly because the business is comparatively new and unregulated, and there are quite a lot of totally different firms and merchandise available on the market.

What’s being carried out about it?

There’s not at present a lot regulation of e-bikes and scooters.

Regulation may go in a number of instructions. One could be to require units be licensed below the protection requirements really helpful by Underwriter Laboratories, a gaggle that has produced security certifications for electrical merchandise for over a century.

Earlier this month, the New York Metropolis Council handed a bundle of native payments that may require all e-bikes and different electrical mobility units bought, rented or leased within the metropolis to be licensed below the suitable UL security requirements.

The laws additionally bans the sale of uncertified or used batteries. Retailers discovered to be in violation of the legal guidelines will be fined as much as $1,000 per violation.

On the nationwide degree, 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 micromobility units.

Following the rules “considerably reduces the danger of accidents and deaths from micromobility system fires,” wrote Robert Kaye, the company’s director of compliance and discipline operations. “Shoppers face an unreasonable danger of fireside and danger severe harm or dying if their micromobility units don’t meet the extent of security supplied by the related UL requirements.”

Moreover, the company has vowed to pursue penalties towards firms who fail to tell the CPSC of security hazards.

Suggestions to maintain your self secure

The principle suggestion that comes from each the CPSC and the FDNY is to be current whilst you’re charging your system, and to not cost it whilst you’re sleeping. Unplug the system as soon as it’s absolutely charged.

The CPSC additionally recommends that you simply solely use the charger that got here included together with your system and to observe the producer’s directions for correct charging.

Hearth officers add that you need to cost your system away from flammable supplies like furnishings and pillows, and that you simply should not cost or retailer your system in a location that blocks your entry to an exit.

While you’re shopping for an e-bike or different micromobility system, attempt to discover what battery comes stocked with it, Pecht mentioned. Does the maker of the system state the place the battery is sourced from? Is the battery made by a good producer? Specialists additionally counsel that buyers search for batteries which have a UL certification.

Be warned that some on-line sellers might falsely declare to have UL certification. Others might promote “re-wrapped” batteries, that means counterfeit batteries produced to seem as if they’re made by respected producers.

In case your battery begins to fail, it might be most secure to purchase a brand new one. “Do not restore something your self, and purchase from an organization the place you already know that they are utilizing brand-name batteries,” Pecht mentioned. It could work greatest to purchase a brand new battery from the identical firm that produced your bike or scooter.

To get rid of an previous battery, deliver it to a battery recycling middle or different e-waste facility. Do not throw away lithium-ion batteries in standard trash.


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