Increase in Battery Fires Caused by Improper Charging of Lithium Batteries in NYC
Another week, another four fires in NYC caused by improper charging of lithium batteries, typically for scooters and e-bikes. This alarming trend, as reported by NPR, reveals a significant rise in fires caused by these batteries. In fact, there have been 174 battery fires this year, more than double the numbers from 2021. Tragically, these fires have resulted in the loss of six lives and 93 injuries.
Factors Contributing to the Trend
Part of this alarming trend can be attributed to the increase in e-bike and e-scooter usage. As these modes of transportation grow in popularity, there is a higher volume of batteries being recharged more frequently, increasing the likelihood of charging mistakes or malfunctions. Additionally, the influx of unregulated knockoff parts flooding the market, including batteries and chargers, has also contributed to the rise in battery fires. These knockoff parts may lack the necessary safety features and quality control, leading to disastrous consequences when used.
NPR highlights the challenges faced by bike delivery workers who are now using multiple e-bikes in a single day. These workers often swap chargers and batteries between bikes to meet the high demands of their work. However, due to low wages, they may struggle to afford safer battery setups. This further increases the risk of improper charging and potential fire hazards.
Understanding the Dangers of Lithium Batteries
Lithium batteries, commonly used in cell phones, laptops, tablets, and e-bikes, are generally safe for use. However, it is important to recognize that these batteries store large amounts of energy and can potentially spark fires if not used correctly. The New York Fire Department (FDNY) warns that while most batteries are safe, a small number of them may be defective. These defective batteries can overheat, catch fire, or even explode, posing a serious threat to users and their surroundings.
It is worth noting that used batteries and those charged with the wrong adapter are more prone to overheating. These factors increase the likelihood of a battery failure and subsequent fire. As a result, it is crucial to exercise caution and follow proper charging guidelines to minimize the risks associated with lithium batteries.
The consequences of a battery fire can be devastating. Dan Flynn, the chief fire marshal at the FDNY, spoke with NPR and described these incidents as particularly dangerous. He explained, “These bikes when they fail, they fail like a blowtorch. We’ve seen incidents where people have described them as explosive — incidents where they actually have so much power, they’re actually blowing walls down in between rooms and apartments.” These incidents highlight the tremendous risks involved and the urgent need for preventive measures.
Basic Tips for Battery Charging and Storage
To ensure the safe charging and storage of e-bikes and other lithium batteries, the FDNY provides some essential guidelines:
- Purchase and use devices that are tested at a qualified testing laboratory. Avoid using battery knockoffs or used batteries, and ensure the cord, power adapter, and battery meet safety standards.
- Follow instructions for charging and storage diligently. Adhere to recommended charging times and avoid overcharging.
- Avoid charging devices near easily flammable objects such as bedding or sofas. Additionally, do not leave batteries in hot spots in the house, like in direct sunlight.
- Avoid blocking building exits while charging e-bikes, especially in small apartments. This ensures a clear path of escape in case of an emergency.
- Pay attention to any signs of battery malfunction or overheating. If a battery exhibits an odor, changes shape/color, leaks, or makes strange noises, discontinue its use immediately.
- Dispose of batteries safely and responsibly. Since lithium batteries cannot be disposed of in regular trash or recycling, it is important to check with your local municipality for the proper disposal methods.
Following these basic tips can significantly reduce the risk of battery fires and ensure the safety of individuals and their surroundings.
The increasing number of battery fires in NYC caused by improper charging of lithium batteries is concerning. The rise in e-bike and e-scooter usage, coupled with the influx of unregulated knockoff parts in the market, has contributed to this dangerous trend. Understanding the dangers associated with lithium batteries, following proper charging protocols, and disposing of batteries responsibly are essential steps to prevent these devastating incidents.
It is crucial for individuals, bike delivery workers, and manufacturers alike to prioritize safety and take proactive measures to reduce the risk of battery fires. By adhering to guidelines provided by the FDNY and being vigilant about the proper use and maintenance of lithium batteries, we can work towards a safer environment and minimize the potential harm caused by these incidents.