Some e-bike and e-scooters owners may be using incompatible chargers to power their devices, risking fires that could ‘destroy a room in minutes’.
A survey of 1,000 e-bike and e-scooter owners across the UK found 43% of those use a secondary after-market charger to charge their e-bike or e-scooter.
This is fine if the charger is compatible with the battery but of that 43%, over 1 in 3 (38%) say that their charger is not compatible with the voltage of the battery, whilst 1 in 5 (20%) don’t know.
The findings from the charity Electrical Safety First have prompted concerns that some users may be unaware that when incompatible chargers are used, they risk supplying the battery with too much voltage.
This can damage the cells and cause a catastrophic process called thermal runaway, where the battery goes into an uncontrollable self-heating chemical reaction, characterised by ferocious fires which can destroy a room in minutes.
The charity is calling for a ban on universal chargers for e-bike and e-scooter batteries, whereby a charger comes with multiple outlets to connect to various batteries.
‘Incorrectly charging your e-bike or e-scooter battery comes at a dangerous cost. Due to the large amount of energy stored in these batteries, the risk of fire is significantly higher if the battery becomes unstable,’ said Giuseppe Capanna, product safety engineer at Electrical Safety First.
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‘It’s essential that you use a compatible charger, ideally the one that that came with the device and never block any exit ways when charging, the results could be fatal.’
The findings come as the charity releases its new report, Battery Breakdown, looking at ways to stem the spate of deadly fires across the country that have been caused by e-bike and e-scooter batteries.
A new video by the charity released as part of its newly published report, Battery Breakdown, simulates an overcharge situation, causing a frightening fire.
Toxic white smoke can be seen pouring from the battery at first, which can be incredibly harmful if inhaled. Seconds later, sparks and flames erupt from the battery, as thermal runaway commences, consuming the battery in flames as it shoots around the room, due to the huge amount of energy being released.
Research also showed that many e-bike and e-scooter owners are also charging their devices in areas that risk compromising escape routes.
Of those surveyed, 44% admitted to charging their device in a communal area of the property they live in, such as a hallway or staircase, that is not inside their immediate home.
If an e-bike or e-scooter battery fails, a catastrophic fire can occur in seconds and if this takes place in an exit way the escape route will be entirely blocked.
The impact of a catastrophic fire is heightened when you are asleep as reaction times will be worse but research shows more than half (52%) of e-bike and e-scooter owners surveyed say they also charge their device overnight when they are sleeping, leaving them with little time to respond in the event of a fire.
Worryingly, more than a quarter (28%) admitted to charging their device in their hallway inside their home, whilst more than 1 in 10 (14%) said they charge it in their bedroom.
The charity recommends charging your device away from any vital exit ways so you can escape in the event of a fire, where possible for some, an outhouse may be the safest alternative.
They are also recommending clearer markings are put on the outlets of batteries to specify what voltage a charger should be.
The report included an account from Scott Angus, who was forced to jump from the second-floor window with his partner and dog after a neighbour’s e-bike burst into flames in the communal hallway of a converted Victorian house, blocking their escape route.
‘I was woken up around 1am to the strong smell of carbon. I opened the door and all I could see was a wall of thick black smoke. If that smoke had got inside our flat any sooner, I probably wouldn’t be here,’ said Mr Angus.
The charity is also calling for e-bikes, e-scooters and their batteries to be regulated in the same way as fireworks currently are. New York City has introduced this measure after being plagued by e-bike and e-scooters fires.
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