E-bikes are catching fireplace in America. Right here’s the best way to keep secure.


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Lithium-ion batteries are the juice for almost all rechargeable units you may personal, together with your smartphone, laptop computer, electrical toothbrush and leaf blower.

They’re additionally the gasoline in electrical vehicles and different climate-friendlier methods to maneuver round.

After a string of lethal fires in New York that officers blamed on lithium-ion batteries in electrical bicycles or comparable transportation, there are renewed security considerations about our battery-powered units.

Security consultants say the hearth threat – notably for higher-energy lithium-ion batteries in electrical bikes and scooters with wildly various high quality — is small however actual. Fires from lithium-ion batteries can unfold quick and are robust to place out.

I’ve suggestions for staying secure, together with steering away from merchandise which might be too low cost and taking it critically when your batteries look broken otherwise you ram your e-scooter right into a tree.

Even should you don’t personal an electrical scooter or e-bike, you’re in danger if individuals round you may have unsafe ones. And also you undoubtedly have merchandise with lithium-ion batteries at residence.

We shouldn’t lose sight of the advantages of lithium-ion batteries and greener transportation. We simply must restrict their dangers. Right here’s how.

Purchase from respected shops and search for UL certification

It’s seemingly that the reported fires of electrical transportation units have been attributable to merchandise from producers that lower corners with battery design and testing, stated Chris Cramer, senior vice chairman and chief analysis officer for the security group UL Analysis Institutes.

Which means should you’re shopping for a product with a bigger lithium-ion battery like an electrical scooter or bike, purchase from a trusted web site or retailer. Be cautious of manufacturers which might be far cheaper than these of rivals. You get what you pay for.

Purchase merchandise which might be licensed for assembly security and testing requirements. Search for the letters “UL” in a circle. You may usually discover the image on the product field, label or handbook, stated Daniel Flynn, chief fireplace marshal with the New York Fireplace Division.

The European security normal, marked with a “CE,” can also be stable. In case you don’t see the certification label on a product web site, ask before you purchase.

“The properly manufactured units actually are fairly secure,” Cramer stated.

Most bike retailers will solely promote and repair battery-powered merchandise from manufacturers that meet these high quality security requirements, stated Matt Moore with the bicycle manufacturing commerce group PeopleForBikes.

Flynn stated his staff is investigating whether or not some electrical transportation producers are extra dangerous than others.

This recommendation is tailor-made for merchandise powered by lithium-ion batteries for particular person buy. Folks I spoke with stated it’s usually secure to hire electrical bikes and scooters from respected firms reminiscent of Lime.

It’s attainable that most of the reported fires have been attributable to hefty electrical transportation units usually used for supply jobs or different work. I gained’t element the challenges of secure and inexpensive electrical transportation for low-wage business staff, however this Vice article goes deeper.

David Mitlin, an engineering professor on the College of Texas at Austin, stated regulators must do extra to guard us from shoddy imported electrical transportation merchandise.

Learn extra battery security recommendation from The Washington Put up’s Local weather staff

Be conscious of the battery’s well being and the way you cost it

In case you run over your cellphone together with your automobile, discover that your laptop computer is swelling or crash your e-bike, know that broken batteries generally is a greater fireplace threat. (Flynn stated fires from working smartphones are uncommon.)

It’s good to have the product checked by a restore professional. You may cease utilizing or charging the gadget.

(Right here is the best way to discover dependable electronics restore assist. Or verify with a bicycle store about e-bike service and repairs.)

Additionally take it critically should you discover {an electrical} odor or uncommon warmth from a product with a chargeable battery.

Notably for merchandise like electrical bikes and scooters with higher-powered batteries, Flynn stated you shouldn’t use a charger until it was designed to be used together with your product. “Simply because it suits doesn’t imply that it’s secure,” he stated.

Flynn stated we also needs to take critically the potential fireplace threat, even from electrical transportation merchandise from respected producers.

Have a plan to get out if there’s a hearth, he stated, and don’t depart an e-bike or one other giant rechargeable gadget blocking the exit to your own home.

Mitlin additionally stated if the battery in your cellphone or different rechargeable gadget doesn’t maintain a cost, which may be an indication of an internally broken battery.

Learn extra: 5 methods to make gadget batteries last more

Why lithium-ion batteries generally is a fireplace threat

Lithium-ion batteries maintain extra power than typical batteries in your smoke alarm or flashlight, Cramer stated. And the larger the lithium-ion battery, the extra power it holds.

The comparatively small lithium-ion battery in your smartphone is much less dangerous than the bigger battery in your laptop computer. These are each much less dangerous than the even bigger batteries in an electrical scooter, electrical automobile and residence batteries that retailer photo voltaic power.

When a lithium-ion battery catches fireplace, it releases its power as warmth — and quick. A lithium-ion battery fireplace can unfold shortly in a series response, Cramer stated.

Flynn stated a house fireplace extinguisher gained’t put out a hearth from a lithium-ion battery. In case you see a hearth, smoke or effervescent from a lithium-ion battery, get away from it instantly and name 911.

Given the lethal fires from electrical transportation, I requested Cramer whether or not we must always cease utilizing lithium-ion batteries in so many merchandise. He stated no.

Cramer believes the advantages, notably from shifting to climate-friendlier transportation like electrical autos and e-bikes, far outweigh the dangers. He stated we also needs to spend money on safer applied sciences reminiscent of sodium-ion batteries.

Mitlin stated he’s extra nervous in regards to the fireplace threat from the gas-powered garden mower and gasoline can in his storage than from merchandise with lithium-ion batteries.

Please don’t throw something with a battery within the trash – however particularly merchandise with lithium-ion batteries. That is inflicting fires throughout America.

As a substitute, lithium-ion batteries have to be dealt with by certified recycling facilities. In case your product is rechargeable like a cellphone, wi-fi headphones or an influence instrument, it’s in all probability a lithium-ion battery.

If you wish to make sure, search for the identify “Li-ion” and a blue seal, if the battery is seen.

Recycling is healthier for the planet and it’s good economics, too. Supplies from previous lithium-ion batteries will be repurposed into new ones, stated Leo Raudys, CEO of the battery recycling group Call2Recycle.

Search for data out of your native authorities for secure electronics and battery recycling in your metropolis. Or seek for areas close to you for drop-off areas operated by Call2Recycle. This consists of many Finest Purchase, Residence Depot and Staples shops.

Call2Recycle additionally works with producers of some e-bikes to recycle these higher-powered lithium-ion batteries.

Recycling and fix-it specialists informed me there must be extra funding in lithium-ion recycling, reuse and restore as we purchase extra merchandise with highly effective batteries.

In China, the place electrical bicycles, scooters and vehicles are extra widespread, there’s a thriving marketplace for secure, reused lithium-ion batteries. Some individuals promote used electrical automobile batteries for reuse as turbines and power storage.

I’m planning a follow-up version of The Tech Buddy with extra on secure restore and recycling of lithium-ion batteries. Let me know what questions you may have at shira.ovide@washpost.com.



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