As electric bikes become increasingly popular, there is an important question that must be addressed: what risks come with using e-bike batteries?
With all the recent news stories and reports of lithium-ion e-bike batteries catching fire or even exploding, it’s time to understand the real dangers and safety precautions we should take.
In this blog post, we will explore the potential risks associated with e-bikes and provide some tips for mitigating those risks. If you own or are thinking about purchasing an electric bike, read on to learn what you need to know about battery safety.
The pandemic saw a sudden and drastic increase in e-bike sales, but this newfound popularity has brought with it a host of problems - the most concerning being exploding batteries that have caused deadly fires. This is especially evident in New York City, where an e-bike battery sparked a fire at a Bronx grocery store on Sunday (March 5th, 2024) that injured seven people.
It’s the latest in a string of fires started by the lithium-ion batteries in electric bikes and scooters. They’ve caused at least 30 fires, 40 injuries, and two deaths in NYC this year as of Feb. 27, according to the New York Fire Department.
- Last year, they ignited 216 fires—double the amount of the year before—resulting in 147 injuries and six deaths.
The issue is due to the chemical nature of the lithium-ion cells inside the battery. If not adequately cooled or managed, they can overheat and quickly reach high temperatures which can cause them to explode and release hazardous material such as caustic smoke or burning plastics.
Fires caused by lithium-ion batteries can spread quickly and be difficult to extinguish
Lithium-ion battery fires can spread quickly and be extremely challenging to extinguish. In a matter of seconds, a fire caused by lithium-ion batteries can consume an entire room. Our research has found that the typical timeframe for such a fire to engulf a room is about 15 seconds.
Furthermore, the toxic fumes created from such fires can be hazardous to breathe in, making the fires extremely difficult for firefighters to extinguish. Therefore, consumers must be aware of the risks associated with e-bike batteries to remain safe.
Risk of injury or death if left unattended while charging
E-bike batteries carry a large risk of causing serious injury or even death if left unable to be monitored while charging. With an e-bike battery full of energy, overheating could result in a catastrophic reaction, often with devastating consequences.
Such batteries must be observed while they are being charged and should never be left unattended. Besides these dangers, additional instability can arise from mishandling and mechanical failure, requiring that risks be continuously assessed and acted upon with the utmost caution.
Difficulty in knowing when a battery has become faulty or is going to catch fire unexpectedly
While e-bikes have revolutionized urban transportation, the danger associated with their batteries is largely unknown. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for riders to know when a battery has become faulty or if it's at risk of catching fire unexpectedly.
That's why understanding precautions and safety protocols are so important. Even if you don't feel that your battery poses a major threat, regular checkups and maintenance should be done regularly to ensure optimal performance and reduce the chance of an unforeseen issue arising down the line.
Taking these extra steps might just save you from a potentially dangerous explosion while also ensuring you get the most out of your e-bike, performance-wise.
Vulnerability of groups such as children, people with disabilities, and the elderly
By no means are lithium-ion battery-powered electric bikes a danger only to cyclists, but this vulnerability reaches far beyond.
Those most affected include people in vulnerable groups like children and the elderly where knowledge of the risk may be limited; similarly, those with disabilities that prevent them from being able to quickly dismount from an e-bike if an explosion were to occur can also be adversely affected.
One should never underestimate the potential destruction that could be caused during an e-bike battery explosion due to a lack of knowledge about the issue, so it’s important for everyone regardless of age or physical ability to remain informed and vigilant.
Inaccurate labels on e-bikes may lead consumers to believe they are safe
As the popularity of e-bikes continues to climb, consumers need to be aware that some models are falsely identified as safe. The inaccurate labels may give the impression that the batteries powering these electric bicycles will not explode or catch fire, but unfortunately, this is not always the case.
While safety warnings and regulations from manufacturers should explain the risks associated with using e-bike batteries, counterfeit products can often be difficult to differentiate from genuine ones.
This means that what unsuspecting buyers may think is a perfectly safe device could unexpectedly cause harm if their trust in the labeling is misplaced.
What can we do to solve the problem?
Bills to be approved that set new safety standards for electric micromobility vehicles instead of an outright ban
In response to the problem, some cities and states have proposed banning electric micromobility vehicles (most commonly e-bikes and e-scooters) altogether. But instead of an outright ban, bills have been proposed that set new safety standards for these vehicles.
These bills aim to address safety concerns while still allowing people to use electric bikes and scooters as a mode of transportation. The new standards include certification processes and other safety regulations that manufacturers must adhere to to ensure the safe use of lithium-ion batteries in these vehicles.
One of the main reasons why this legislation was necessary is due to the increase in reported incidents caused by the mishandling of lithium-ion batteries. These incidents include explosions, fires, and other accidents that can cause serious injuries or even death (as mentioned earlier).
By setting new safety standards, manufacturers will be required to produce electric bikes and scooters with safer lithium-ion batteries that are less likely to malfunction.
The positive impact this legislation should have on reducing the number of injuries, deaths, and damages caused by faulty li-on batteries cannot be overstated. By ensuring that manufacturers produce safer vehicles with more reliable batteries, people can feel confident using electric bikes and scooters without fear of injury or damage.
However, it's not just up to manufacturers to ensure the safe use of electric bikes and scooters with li-on batteries.
Consumers also need to take steps in order to ensure proper storage and use of these vehicles. This includes storing them in cool, dry places away from direct sunlight or heat sources, using only chargers provided by the manufacturer, not overcharging them, avoiding extreme temperatures while charging or riding them, as well as regularly checking for any signs of damage or wear-and-tear on the battery.
In conclusion, bills approved that set new safety standards for electric bikes and scooters are a positive step forward for both safety and sustainability. They allow people to continue using these convenient modes of transportation while ensuring their safety on the road.
Manufacturers will be held accountable for producing safer vehicles with more reliable lithium-ion batteries while consumers can take steps towards ensuring proper storage and use of these vehicles.
Together we can make sure our e-bikes are both fun AND safe!