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Lithium-Ion Batteries in E-Bikes and Different Units Pose Hearth Dangers

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A lithium-ion battery in an condominium with no less than 5 e-bikes prompted a fireplace in Manhattan this month that injured nearly 40 folks. The fireplace, which was one among 188 brought on by lithium-ion batteries in New York Metropolis this 12 months, led to warnings about dangers related to the batteries and methods to reduce them.

Lithium-ion batteries energy units in each nook of our lives, together with telephones, laptops, toothbrushes, energy instruments and electrical autos. However many don’t know how you can deal with them safely or that they could begin fires.

Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable, final a very long time and retailer lots of vitality in a small area. That has made them the most well-liked energy supply in digital units and autos, stated Victoria Hutchison, a analysis challenge supervisor on the Hearth Safety Analysis Basis.

When a failing battery overheats, it might violently eject fuel, projectiles and flames, then unfold like a sequence response to the opposite cells, she stated.

Fires involving lithium-ion batteries have turn into extra widespread in New York Metropolis: Six folks died and 139 have been injured because of battery-caused fires up to now this 12 months, in response to the New York Hearth Division. Final 12 months, the batteries have been linked to fires that resulted in 4 deaths and 79 accidents, the division stated.

The battery that prompted a Nov. 5 fireplace was charging close to the entrance door of an condominium, blocking its solely exit and prompting firefighters to conduct a rope rescue of two occupants. And in August, a fireplace brought on by a lithium-ion battery killed a mom and daughter in Harlem.

These fires can happen with out warning and unfold shortly, the chief fireplace marshal, Daniel E. Flynn, stated at a Nov. 7 information convention.

“Now we have a completely shaped fireplace inside a matter of seconds,” he stated.

Credit score…Hearth Division of New York, by way of Agence France-Presse — Getty Photographs

One out of each 10 million lithium-ion batteries fails, a situation that nearly all the time results in a fireplace, Ms. Hutchison stated. Whereas that may be a comparatively low price, the batteries are being utilized in extra units, together with cheaper, uncertified batteries with better danger, she stated. Clients ought to all the time purchase batteries and units which were licensed by UL or one other security testing lab.

Fires have additionally been began as a result of folks have used chargers incompatible with a battery, she stated. They need to solely use the charging cables really useful by a producer, she stated. An incompatible one would possibly proceed to cost the battery to the purpose of overheating.

“As soon as it reaches its thermal threshold, it’s a reasonably violent response,” Ms. Hutchison stated.

Lithium-ion batteries present indicators that they should be changed in the event that they get scorching, develop or take longer than traditional to cost, Ms. Hutchison stated. Instantly earlier than failure, a battery will make a popping noise after which a hiss by which fuel is launched. Specialists advocate storing them in fireproof containers.

Even a battery that complies with security tips when it’s first bought can turn into harmful if it’s broken, stated William S. Lerner, a hydrogen knowledgeable and delegate for ISO, a company for international standardization.

“These batteries will be of the best high quality, but when they’re injured and dropped and severely overwhelmed up, then the potential to fail is bigger,” he stated.

No large-scale database retains observe of battery-caused fires, Mr. Lerner stated. However the fires have occurred all over the world.

The recognition of e-bikes in New York Metropolis grew in the course of the pandemic as folks seemed for alternate options to public transportation and ride-sharing providers, Mr. Lerner stated. However their use elevated earlier than the federal government may put tips in place.

The New York Metropolis Housing Authority had proposed a ban on storing e-bikes in buildings however confronted pushback from folks like meals couriers whose jobs depend upon them. The authority stated it’s nonetheless engaged on steps for a proposed new rule.

The problem stays high of thoughts for housing managers. An indication outdoors the Manhattan condominium advanced the place the fireplace this month occurred learn, “No pedal or e-bikes allowed past this level.”

The Metropolis Council is contemplating a number of battery security measures and held a listening to Monday night time. Legal guidelines that will ban gross sales of noncertified batteries and require educating folks concerning the dangers of powered mobility units are among the many measures being thought of.

Leny Feliu, a founding father of Safer Charging, stated her brother is a supply particular person. “He makes his cash that approach and I would like him to proceed to make his cash, however we have to present a secure approach of charging this stuff,” she stated.

The property administration firms Douglas Elliman and AKAM, which oversee about 700 condominium complexes in New York Metropolis, have begun to speak with residents and managers about lithium-ion battery security.

“We need to be proactive, not reactive,” stated Chris Alker, the vp of operations for AKAM. “We don’t need to anticipate a fireplace to be able to handle conditions like these.”

After the batteries have exhausted their life spans, which might differ, the following step is secure disposal — not throwing them in family trash, which is illegitimate in some states, together with New York. Some firms like Dwelling Depot and Greatest Purchase settle for used lithium-ion batteries. Some states require retailers to just accept clients’ rechargeable batteries for recycling. Shoppers may contact battery producers for disposal choices.

Call2Recycle works with 52 manufacturers and 75 bike retailers to repurpose the batteries’ metallic elements, stated Leo Raudys, the group’s chief govt. Since beginning to settle for lithium-ion batteries in March, it’s acquired 18,000 kilos of them.

“These batteries are phenomenal, and when folks comply with finest practices and make good batteries, they’re secure, they’re dependable,” he stated, including, “The issue is we’re seeing unhealthy actors on the market which can be advertising and marketing and promoting batteries which can be unsafe or not licensed.”

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