A new report is shedding light on the concerning safety issues surrounding the growing popularity of electric bicycles and scooters. The battery that powers these motorized vehicles has been linked to multiple fires, according to The New York Times, and officials need help to solve the problem.
In 2022 alone, e-scooters, e-bikes, and other micromobility vehicles were responsible for 216 fires, 147 injuries, and six deaths in New York City, with 30 fires, 40 injuries, and two deaths reported as of February 27, 2023, according to The New York Times. This is a recent problem, as the city legalized these modes of transportation in 2020, and their usage has surged during the pandemic.
The problem of e-scooters cluttering sidewalks is nothing compared to the potentially fatal risk of battery fires, which has left lawmakers grappling for solutions. Regulators have approved several bills to mitigate the risk of battery fires, including new safety and certification standards, public education campaigns on fire prevention, and restrictions on the sale and use of used or reassembled batteries.
A single defective, overcharged, or damaged battery cell can release a substantial amount of energy in the form of heat and flammable gases, said Daniel Murray, the Fire Department’s Chief of Hazmat Operations. Mr. Murray also stated that lithium-ion battery fires are notoriously difficult to extinguish and can reignite hours or days later, adding to the risk.
Some people and companies are taking matters into their own hands to address the issue, such as Glenwood Management, which runs over two dozen luxury rental buildings across New York City, banning e-scooters and e-bikes in its buildings. The New York City Housing Authority also floated a similar ban but later backpedaled due to the impact on delivery workers who depend on these vehicles for their livelihood.
Architect Ariel Aufgang proposed building bike and scooter rooms equipped with better electrical outlets, fire-extinguishing sprinklers, and cinder blocks to find a middle ground. Others are calling for stricter regulations, such as safety standards similar to those for new cars, and public education campaigns to teach users how to charge lithium-ion batteries properly.
The Issue of Lithium-ion Battery “Thermal Runaway” Fires
Lithium-ion batteries are a common power source for electronic devices, such as smartphones, laptops, electric vehicles, and renewable energy storage systems. Despite their widespread use, these batteries pose a significant safety risk due to their tendency to undergo a dangerous phenomenon called a “thermal runaway.”
Thermal runaways occur when a lithium-ion battery overheats and rapidly releases energy in the form of heat and gas, causing the battery to catch fire or explode. The problem is particularly acute in large-format batteries used in energy storage systems and electric vehicles, which contain more energy and can release more heat and gas than smaller batteries.
Lithium-ion battery fires have been responsible for a number of high-profile incidents in recent years, including the grounding of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet and the recall of millions of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones. In both of these incidents, lithium-ion batteries were found to be the cause of the fires.
The risk of thermal runaway is particularly worrisome in electric vehicles, where a single battery fire can lead to a catastrophic event, such as a multi-car accident or an explosion in a confined space, like a garage or tunnel. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has identified lithium-ion battery fires as a major safety issue in electric vehicles and has called on regulators and industry stakeholders to develop more robust safety standards and testing protocols.
The causes of thermal runaway in lithium-ion batteries are complex and can vary depending on the specific battery chemistry, design, and operating conditions. Generally speaking, thermal runaway can be triggered by a number of factors, including physical damage to the battery, overcharging or undercharging, exposure to high temperatures, and manufacturing defects.
To mitigate the risk of thermal runaway, battery manufacturers and device makers have implemented a variety of safety features, such as battery management systems, thermal management systems, and flame retardant materials. However, these measures are not foolproof, and the risk of battery fires remains a significant concern.
In response to the safety issues posed by lithium-ion batteries, researchers and industry stakeholders are exploring alternative battery chemistries that are less prone to thermal runaway, such as solid-state batteries, which use a solid electrolyte instead of liquid electrolytes, or lithium-sulfur batteries, which have a higher energy density and lower flammability than lithium-ion batteries.
Thermal runaway in lithium-ion batteries is a serious safety concern that poses a risk to both people and property. While safety measures and alternative battery technologies are being developed, it is important for regulators, manufacturers, and consumers to remain vigilant about the risks posed by lithium-ion batteries and take steps to mitigate them.
CONTACT PARKER WAICHMAN’S E-BIKE BATTERY ATTORNEYS TODAY
Our experienced New York City E-bike fire attorneys are well-equipped to handle cases related to lithium battery accidents. Whether you were injured by an exploding battery in an E-bike, cellphone, tablet, scooter, wheelchair, contact us today: We’ll help you determine who is responsible for the damages you’ve suffered and hold them accountable. Call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) today for your free case evaluation.
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