An increasing environment-conscious population has been leaning towards sustainable methods of transport such as the E-bike. These fast, safe, yet climate-friendly vehicles have quickly become a crowd favorite.
However, like all things in existence, there are downsides to even the most brilliant inventions, which stands true for E-bikes. Most notably, electric fires stemming from the lithium batteries commonly used in these bikes.
Nonetheless, the risk of electric fires can be easily mitigated with the right safety precautions, so you need not let go of the joy of riding your e-bike.
What Causes an E-Bike Fire?
Most E-bikes run on lithium batteries, a highly flammable substance. Nearly 200 fires in NYC were attributed to lithium batteries in 2022 alone.
However, it is not like lithium batteries burst spontaneously. Instead, the fires begin as a result of thermal runaway and overheating. Lithium batteries can withstand the maximum temperature of 131 degrees Fahrenheit, and higher temperatures can lead to fires. The overheating can increase the pressure leading the electrodes to explode.
Additionally, many lithium batteries are made with cheap components, making them unreliable and hazardous.
Signs To Look Out For
The best way to prevent fires is to look out for signs way ahead of time to avoid fires. Here are some common signs:
- Unusual noise
- Burning smell
- Change in the battery shape
- Any leaks or sound of leakage
Purchase Certified E-Bikes and Lithium-Ion Batteries
This is an incredibly important reminder if you’re shopping for a new bike, look for one that is UL certified. Bikes manufactured under the UL 2849 certification are tested, including the drive, train, charger system, and battery, against fire hazards.
The better management systems in these e-bikes can also stabilize temperature and prevent voltage spikes in the battery. Moreover, avoid overcharging your batteries and never keep them covered during the charging process.
Carefully Monitor Your E-Bike When It’s Charging
As already mentioned previously, watch out for warning signs when charging your bike. Any hissing sounds or signs of smoke should be considered alarming. The first step is to disconnect the charger immediately provided it is safe.
Then call emergency services if you feel like the battery may explode. Moreover, never charge the battery overnight if you are not monitoring it.
Don’t Keep Your, E-Bike Inside Your House
Given the alarming number of fires, major cities such as New York passed regulations to ban storing and charging e-bikes inside buildings and apartments. This rule also applies to scooters, motorbikes, and gas-powered mopeds with similar fire hazards.
Moreover, lithium-ion fires can take several hours to put out and reignite if not appropriately handled. Charging your e-bikes outside your apartment means that in case of a fire, the chances of it engulfing the entire building in flames is less.
In addition, consider installing smoke detectors as a preventive measure to detect any fires early on.
Use a Manufacturer-Approved Charger for Your E-Bike
The wrong charger can have catastrophic consequences for your smartphone and the same applies to your e-bike. This can cause overheating of the motor and then pose a fire hazard. Consequently, this emphasizes the importance of using the correct adaptor and cable to charge your bike.
Remember to follow the user’s manual for charging and taking care of your batteries to lengthen their shelf lives. Furthermore, avoid relying on extension cords and directly connect the batteries to the outlet when charging. If you charge in a public space, only do so in government-authorized areas.
Get Rid of the Batteries if They’re Damaged
Always get rid of batteries that are damaged or degraded instead of storing them away.
Ensure safe disposal at the recycling section of your local Home Depot, Walmart, or other departmental stores. Find out of your community has dedicated recycling hazardous bins or collection points for batteries to be disposed, as lithium-ion batteries and devices should never go in regular household garbages or recycling bins.
Don’t Leave Your E-Bike in Direct Sunlight
Fire Department officials also advise bikers to strictly avoid keeping their lithium batteries and e-bikes under direct sunlight. This can overheat the batteries like in the case of mismatched adaptors. However, you can safely ride e-bikes during the hot weather.
Along the same line of precautions, keep the lithium batteries separate from any flammable materials. This is why it is better to keep your bike in a garage or micro-mobility locker, ensuring that the batteries are kept at room temperature.
Avoid Second-Hand Batteries or Recalled E-Bikes
It may seem like a cheap deal now but it can have some costly consequences. The New York Fire Department has been working to propose a bill to prohibit the sale of second-hand batteries and recalled e-bikes. Both of these carry a significant risk of fires.
If you are looking for e-bikes, search the brand and model in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Consumption to identify whether your bike has been recalled.
Despite a slightly pricier tag, it is important to get a good quality e-bike instead of saving money on a recall that poses a risk of fire.
What To Do In The Event Of a Fire
Irrespective of all the safety precautions you may take for prevention, accidents are sometimes unavoidable. So what should you do if a fire involving your bike does occur? Here is a brief overview:
- Stay calm and evacuate the area immediately.
- Call emergency services and the police as soon as you are in a safe place.
- Contact your insurance provider and report the accident once the fire has been controlled.
Other Safety Tips
Here are more safety tips that can keep you and your family safe from accidents.
- Never keep the e-bike in the children’s room
- Keep the bike away from the entrance and exit ways of the building
- If the battery gets wet from rain, don’t charge it. Contact the manufacturers
- Follow Your Local E-Bike Laws
- Always Wear a Helmet
- Check Your E-Bike Before Every Ride
- Take Proper Care of Your Battery
- Ride Responsibly