Overheated lithium-ion batteries in New York City e-bikes have reportedly caused more than 100 fires this year.
As of Monday, there have been 116 investigations involving the bikes, 61 injuries and two deaths relating to lithium-ion batteries in e-bikes and scooters, according to the Fire Department of the City of New York.
The two men who were killed suffered injuries sustained in battery fires that happened while charging their e-bikes at home, the Daily Mail reported.
E-bikes and scooters are the vehicles of choice for many of the city’s delivery workers, who may not be able to afford new batteries that often cost $900 or more. They then buy cheaper batteries off of sites such as China’s Alibaba, even though those batteries may not be safe for use in their vehicle.
Bicycle consultant Mike Fritz told the Daily Mail that these cheap packs with worse temperature regulation are the “cause of most of the fires.”
Heat, whether from climate or overcharging, compromises the batteries and produces a flammable gas. The chemical reaction causes a fire that jumps from cell to cell inside the battery; vehicular batteries in e-bikes and scooters have up to 90 discrete cells.
Mr. Fritz warned “It is impossible to put out a lithium fire … One precaution is never charge a battery unattended, don’t plug it in and walk away. If a failure occurs, you have time to intervene.”
The delivery boom has added fuel to the battery fires. On April 21, the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) responded to four separate lithium-ion battery fires within 24 hours.
On Instagram, they urged consumers to be #FDNYSmart and “follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and storage. Always use the manufacturer’s cord and power adapter made specifically for the device. If a battery overheats, discontinue use immediately.”