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Similarly, a Florida bike shop burned down on April 9, after a refurbished e-bike battery was left on the charger overnight.
E-bike batteries can be fire hazards when used and stored incorrectly. Below, we discuss how to use an e-bike battery correctly.
Between New York City’s fire department (FDNY) issuing a warning about e-bike batteries and a Florida bike shop going up in flames after a battery was left unattended on a charger overnight, it’s been a worrisome week for e-bike owners. But don’t panic: Your e-bike is likely safe, but consider this a warning to check your e-bike battery charging and storage practices.
Because lithium ion batteries—commonly found in everything from cell phones and laptops, to e-bikes, scooters, and electric cars—can store a large amount of energy, improper care and keeping of the batteries can result in fires.
“If using a lithium-ion battery, 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,” the FDNY tweeted earlier this week.
New York Daily News reports that the FDNY was called to the scene of four different fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, all on April 21. The batteries were used in an array of vehicles ranging between electric motorbikes and scooters. The vehicles pictured in the fire department’s tweets are all motorbikes, rather than e-bikes—but e-bike batteries have caused fires in the past.
The largest of the four fires reportedly happened due to several batteries stored on a work shelf. While no deaths were reported, 12 people were injured in the fires. And the FDNY issued the grim reminder that four people were killed last year in fires caused by these batteries.
How do you prevent charging incidents like this from happening to your e-bike? Avoid aftermarket and off-brand or bargain batteries for your bike, first of all. Stick to the manufacturer’s specifications and recommendations. Furthermore, e-bike batteries that are charging should never be left unattended. If you’re charging your e-bike in the garage, set a timer to remind yourself to unplug it when it’s done, and if you’re leaving the house, unplug it and finish charging it when you return.
Bike shop owners should be just as careful. Unfortunately, earlier this month, Andante Bike Shop in Cutler Bay, Florida, learned this the hard way. The shop was destroyed on April 9 when a rebuilt battery was left on a charger overnight. While a normal e-bike battery from a reputable brand shouldn’t set itself ablaze when left too long on the charger, a malfunctioning battery is a serious fire hazard. Inexpensive lithium-ion batteries also present a serious risk of malfunctioning. Regardless, it’s important to never leave any e-bike battery charging overnight or without supervision.
It may sound excessive, but considering the number of buildings destroyed just this month due to these batteries, it’s worth taking precautions. New York Daily News reported that in the U.S. alone, charging lithium-ion batteries caused 330 fires from 2015 to 2018.
Human Powered Solutions provided Bicycle Retailer a detailed set of instructions for bike shop e-bike charging protocol, and you may want to take some of their advice for your own at-home e-bike charging station.
E-Bike Battery Safety Tips
Do not leave a charging e-bike battery unattended or on the charger overnight.
Do not use or attempt to charge a damaged or malfunctioning e-bike battery.
Only charge your e-bike battery with the charger provided by the manufacturer.
Do not use aftermarket, low-cost, counterfeit, or refurbished e-bike batteries.
If possible, store your e-bike battery in a fire-resistant cabinet or container when not in use.
Store damaged e-bike batteries outside and contact your local fire department to ask about safe disposal.
And of course, have a fire extinguisher on hand at all times.
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