E-bikes and scooters are widely seen as a mode of personal transportation with many benefits, a way to reduce urban traffic that is more affordable and “greener” for the environment. But with the growing popularity, we’re seeing an increase in the number of accidental fires across the country.
Under certain conditions, the rechargeable and lithium-ion batteries that power e-bikes and scooters can be fire hazards. The fires that occur are commonly due to improper charging, physical damage or manufacturing defects. Most batteries give between 20 and 60 miles per charge and they can be fully charged within two to four hours. The hazard is that some owners just leave the batteries on the charger long after they’re fully charged. And even more dangerous are batteries that are charged and stored inside apartments or homes near doors or exits, effectively blocking the way out if there is a fire.
Rechargeable and lithium-ion batteries store a large amount of energy and pose a threat if not used properly. They can overheat, catch fire or even explode.
Here’s how to stay safe:
• Only purchase e-bikes and scooters that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory. You might be familiar with the UL symbol, which you can find on thousands of products.
• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and storage.
• Always use the manufacturer’s cord and power adapter made specifically for the bike or scooter.
• Store batteries away from anything flammable. And don’t charge them near doors or exits. In case of a fire, you need to be able to escape.
• Once batteries are fully charged, remove them from the charger. Make sure to do this if you’re planning on being away from home – don’t leave the batteries and charger plugged in while you’re gone.
• Finally, if a battery overheats or you notice an odor, change in shape or color, leaking, or odd noises, stop using it immediately.
West Metro Fire Rescue has an e-bike that our crews use on backcountry rescues to quickly get a firefighter to a patient who may be several miles up a trail. The bike’s been a great tool. But, before we put it to work, we trained firefighters on proper storage and use.
If you have an e-bike or scooter, the least you should do is to take a look at the operating manual and follow the recommendations. Spending just a little time can keep your home and your family safe.
For more information on home safety, visit westmetrofire.org.
Ronda Scholting is the Public Information Officer for West Metro Fire Rescue.