Since the onset of the Covid-19 lockdowns, E-bikes have taken the transportation world by storm with their unparalleled convenience, efficiency, and eco-friendliness. But, as with everything in life, there’s a flip side too. The Lithium-ion batteries that power these bikes are increasingly linked to deadly fires, posing a grave risk to both property and human life. According to the New York Fire Department, the number of e-bike battery-related blazes more than doubled last year, resulting in 216 incidents, injuring 40 people, and claiming two lives this year alone.
With such alarming numbers, it’s clear that E-bikes can be dangerous if not used properly. But don’t worry, as in this article, I’ll share some of the main reasons behind these battery fires and provide some practical tips to prevent them.
Why E-Bike Battery Fires Happen:
Several reasons can cause e-bike battery fires. Understanding these reasons is crucial in preventing them.
One of the leading causes of e-bike battery fires is overcharging. When a lithium-ion battery is overcharged, its cells generate more heat, leading to thermal runaway, which can cause a fire. It is essential to use the charger that comes with the e-bike and not to use any other charger incompatible with the battery.
Mechanical damage to the e-bike battery can cause a short circuit and lead to a battery fire. Damage can occur during transportation, accidental drops, or impacts. Handling the battery with care and avoiding mechanical damage is essential.
Manufacturing defects in the battery or charger can cause a fire. It is crucial to purchase e-bikes and accessories from reputable manufacturers and follow all safety guidelines.
Exposure to extreme temperatures can cause an e-bike battery to catch fire. Extreme heat or cold can cause the battery’s cells unstable, leading to thermal runaway and fire. It is essential to store the battery in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
How To Maintain Your E-Bike Battery And Prevent Battery Fire:
There are several practical steps you can take to prevent e-bike battery fires. These include:
- 1) Don’t Keep Your Bike Inside Your House: Keeping an e-bike in your apartment or a shared space could ignite a raging inferno, leaving you in peril. Lithium-ion battery fires can be incredibly challenging to extinguish, as they can flare up without warning and require hours of grueling effort. To avoid any untoward mishaps, it is recommended that you store your e-bike outside, where you stand a better chance of fighting the fire and preventing it from engulfing your entire apartment or building in flames. Considering the situation, the New York City Housing Authority, in response, has laid down stringent regulations which forbid residents of New York from storing or charging their e-bikes inside buildings or apartments. It must be noted that this ban extends beyond e-bikes, as gas-powered mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles are equally guilty of posing a fire hazard and, thus, are banned from apartments.
- 2) Proper Charging: Using the wrong charger for your e-bike could have disastrous consequences. The ramifications of such a mistake could result in the e-bike battery overheating and eventually bursting into flames, causing immense damage. To avoid such a catastrophic event, it is highly recommended to use only a manufacturer-approved power adapter and cable to charge your e-bike. This simple yet crucial step could save you from a potentially fatal incident. Furthermore, following the charging instructions in the user’s manual is imperative to ensure that your e-bike’s lithium-ion battery remains in optimal condition. Remember, a well-maintained battery will not only increase the lifespan of your e-bike but also provide you with a smooth and enjoyable riding experience.
- 3) Purchase Certified E-Bikes: Safety should be the top priority when purchasing an e-bike, so ensuring the e-bike you’re eyeing complies with the UL 2849 certification is imperative. This certification is the ultimate proof that the bike has undergone quality testing to mitigate fire risks that may arise from the battery, drive train, and charger system. The best electric bicycles are equipped with a battery management system, ensuring that the battery operates within safe temperatures and prevents excess voltage. Buying an electric bike without UL certification and battery management is like walking on thin ice. It’s not worth the risk.
- 4) Avoid Exposure To Extreme Temperatures: Your e-bike is not just a mode of transportation but also a valuable asset. Protecting it from extreme temperatures and harsh weather conditions can go a long way in ensuring it lasts for years. Avoiding extreme temperatures is paramount to preserving your e-bike’s longevity. Therefore, it is essential that you keep it sheltered from the scorching sun or the cold. Weather conditions can also be a thorn in the side of e-bike owners. Avoid exposing your ride to the elements during heavy rainstorms or snow days. Even the most durable e-bikes can falter under the weight of torrential downpours or frigid snowfall. Therefore, it’s better to be safe than sorry and keep your ride parked on such days.
- 5) Remove The Battery If Not In Use: To prolong your battery life, remove the battery from the e-bike if you don’t use it daily.
- 6) Don’t Leave The Battery Fully Drain: Don’t let your e-bike battery discharge completely. Put the battery on charge when 30 to 60 percent of the charging remaining.
- 7) Keep Your Battery Clean: If you regularly disconnect your battery, you must take the opportunity to clean it with a damp cloth and remove any dirt or debris from the connections with a dry brush. It is also recommended that you clean and lightly grease the battery contacts from time to time.
- 8) Avoid Using Used Batteries: As e-bikes continue to gain popularity, the likelihood of encountering cheap, questionable battery options increases. Investing in a reputable, reliable power source that ensures both efficiency and safety is crucial. Opting for second-hand lithium-ion batteries could expose you to a potential hazard. Recent developments have prompted the New York City Council to take a proactive stance by proposing a bill to curtail the use of used lithium-ion batteries altogether to prevent electric bike fire accidents. So, take heed and do not take any chances regarding your e-bike’s battery source. Go for new, trusted batteries that assure maximum performance and peace of mind.
E-bike battery fires are a serious safety concern that can cause significant damage to property and people. Understanding why e-bike battery fires happen and taking appropriate safety measures can help prevent them. Regular maintenance, proper charging, purchasing certified e-bikes, and avoiding exposure to extreme temperatures are practical steps to prevent e-bike battery fires.