Saving the world with lithium? Four times a week an e-bike battery catches fire in New York

More deadly than man-made climate change

Six people have died in New York this year so far due to house fires started by e-bikes.

Matthew Schuerman, NPR

NEW YORK — Four times a week on average, an e-bike or e-scooter battery catches fire in New York City.

These bikes when they fail, they fail like a blowtorch,” said Dan Flynn, the chief fire marshal at the New York Fire Department. “We’ve seen incidents where people have described them as explosive — incidents where they actually have so much power, they’re actually blowing walls down in between rooms and apartments.”

As of Friday, the FDNY investigated 174 battery fires, putting 2022 on track to double the number of fires that occurred last year (104) and quadruple the number from 2020 (44). So far this year, six people have died in e-bike-related fires and 93 people were injured, up from four deaths and 79 injuries last year.

In early August, a 27-year-old Venezuelan immigrant, identified as Rafael Elias Lopez-Centeno, died after his lithium ion battery caught fire and ripped through the Bronx apartment where he was staying. Carmen Tiburcio, a neighbor, said Lopez’s aunt told her he had tried to escape through the front door, but the bike was in the way. Instead, he took refuge in the bathroom, where he tried to fill up the bathtub with water to protect himself from the flames. But the smoke got to him, she said.

Isn’t it about time we talked about the risks of lithium batteries?

Four fires in one day in NY in June.

What to do with e-bikes?:

Bans in public housing are being considered in NY:

In June, [New York City Housing Authority] confirmed with NFPA Journal that it was considering a new rule that would prohibit anyone living in public housing from bringing even a single e-bike or e-scooter into their homes, including the common areas of buildings. It would be one of the strictest micromobility device bans in the world and would affect more than half a million New Yorkers. (Officially, about 340,000 New Yorkers live in public housing. In reality, experts believe the figure is closer to 600,000.)

Previously, such bans have only been implemented for transportation infrastructure or government buildings, not in residences. In London, for instance, government officials banned e-scooters from the city’s buses and subway system in December 2021, citing fire safety concerns. Two months later, both e-bikes and e-scooters were banned from the Palace of Westminster, where Parliament meets.

But there are bigger questions too — they don’t quite belong on the sidewalk or the road:

The proposed ban isn’t entirely without precedent—NYCHA leases already prohibit residents from storing gas-powered mopeds inside buildings. In a way, the question has become whether e-bikes are akin to traditional bicycles or more like mopeds, a debate that has raged for years—and will likely continue for years to come. Much of the conversation centers on whether e-bikes belong in bike lanes or among vehicular traffic. E-bikes remain technically illegal to ride on public roads in some cities, but that doesn’t stop a lot of riders from doing exactly that. With the proposed ban on the table, whether e-bikes should be kept outside or inside buildings could be the next big question up for debate.

Also in the UK

h/t OldOzzie.

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November 5, 2022 at 02:04PM

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