New Yorkers have undoubtedly witnessed the rise in popularity of e-bikes and scooters throughout our streets. The rechargeable batteries found in electric bikes and scooters are called lithium-ion batteries.
While lithium-ion batteries are small, lightweight, and may seem harmless, they are powerful and can easily overheat. When these batteries overheat, it can lead to an explosive, extremely aggressive and dangerous fire that spreads quickly, is difficult to control and a challenge to extinguish. The batteries typically continue to generate heat even when there is no visible sign of fire and are commonly known to unexpectedly reignite or even explode (without warning) minutes, hours and even days later.
Fires caused by lithium-ion batteries have increased dramatically, causing death, severe injuries and devastating property damage all around our great city. According to the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) lithium-ion batteries have caused upwards of 113 fires so far this year, resulting in 13 deaths. Lithium-ion battery explosions are now the third leading cause of fires in the city.
The following safety information is important for everyone to know:
- Fire Extinguishers DO NOT work on fires caused by lithium-ion batteries. If you observe a lithium-ion battery fire, leave the area, CLOSE THE DOOR, and CALL 911 Immediately.
- The FDNY recommends only purchasing and using approved, brand-name batteries, charging cables, and adapters for each e-bike or scooter. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for charging and storage.
- Be present and awake while your e-bike is charging, and unplug it once it’s fully charged. Never charge the battery when you are asleep or away from home. Set a timer to unplug your e-bike to prevent overheating.
- Chargers should be plugged directly into the wall. Never use an extension cord or power strip to charge your e-bike.
- Keep your e-bike away from flammable materials and exit doors, per department guidance. Do not place your bike or scooter near a couch or bed, and be sure there is a path to escape in case of fire.
- If a battery overheats, discontinue use immediately. Overheating can cause fire and explosion.
- If you need to dispose of an e-bike’s lithium-ion battery, never throw it in the trash. Bring it to a professional or dispose of it legally according to guidelines issued by the Department of Sanitation.
- Immediately STOP using your e-bike’s battery if you notice any of the following:
- The battery gets very hot when charging.
- The shape or color of the battery has changed.
- You hear odd noises coming from the battery.
- There is a strange smell when you use your e-bike.
- Fire or smoke emits from the device.
- The battery leaks.