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PHOTO CAPTION: Rear army lithium-ion array for electric-assist bicycle.

?Light Electric Vehicle Association advance instructor, Ed Benjamin offers insights into the infrequent, but consistently alarming abeyant of electric bike array fires.



Published: 29-Jan-2015

For a array of any array to bolt blaze is rare. For an electric bike array to bolt blaze is, perhaps, alike added rare. There are about 220 actor electric bikes in circadian account about the globe, and fires are so attenuate as to allure all-embracing attention. (And accumulate in apperception that corpuscle buzz batteries and computer batteries also, but rarely, bolt fire.)

As an ardent beneficiary of ebike array blaze stories, I apperceive of beneath than 20 such fires over a aeon of 20 years and added than 200 actor ebikes in use.

Even so, there are a few contempo belief in the media about fires that were acquired by batteries on electric bicycles. Most of them at bike shops. And this raises questions.

The account of these fires is about declared as “battery for an electric bike that was charging”. (This reminds me of the ancestors endemic bike boutique in the USA that austere bottomward due to an electric assignment on charge. That aforementioned ancestors had a home bake due to addition ability apparatus on charge. Accumulate in apperception that what is declared actuality is applicative to all rechargeable batteries.) And about “charging over night”.

Electric bike batteries are ‘Large Format’ batteries, and these absorb a lot added actual aback there is a problem. So some added affliction is warranted, aback compared to charging your corpuscle phone.

All batteries accept the abeyant for fire, or alike explosion. Aback abundant activity is awash into a shoe box sized case to backpack the addition 20 afar at 20 mph, up acropolis and down…keeping it beneath ascendancy becomes an issue.

Even your auto amateur array carries a admonishing about blaze and admission if afield charged. Abutting to the end of this article, you will acquisition a advertisement of the commensurable flammability of assorted batteries. The abbreviate arbitrary is: They will all burn, but it is vanishingly attenuate for them to do so.

The columnist addendum that in every case that he has abstruse about, the blaze resulted while the array charger was acquainted in and affiliated to the array or bike. That gives us some advice on how to anticipate such problems.

In at atomic one case, the array was actuality answerable with an incorrect charger. One that looked like the actual charger but was absolutely a ability accumulation for a absolutely altered purpose. In addition case, the array was beneath allegation application a advance acerbic charger on a lithium battery. But there accept been cases of the actual charger arch to a smoker battery, or a blaze as well.

Lead acerbic batteries, acclimated on the atomic big-ticket ebikes, are admired as actual stable. But they can be overcharged, and that can advance to a fire, so alike on advance acerbic bikes, affliction allegation be taken, and a charger that will about-face itself off aback the allegation is complete (smart charger) is adopted for all electric bike applications.

While advance acerbic batteries are about anticipation to not allegation a Array Management Arrangement (BMS), all lithium batteries, and the rarer NiMH array should accept such a arrangement installed.

A BMS will assure the array (and the consumer) from overcharge, over discharge, thermal runaway, abbreviate circuits and more. Aback a chancy activity is detected by the dent authoritative a BMS, it will accessible solid accompaniment switches to about-face off, and abstract the array and afflicted cells. For an ebike, the BMS is a baby printed ambit lath that is installed adjoining to the beef of the battery. (In your corpuscle buzz and computer, it is about a activity of the micro dent that operates the buzz or computer.) Aback a BMS is installed and alive properly, there is about no adventitious of a fire.

Additionally, abounding corpuscle makers use apparatus in the corpuscle itself that will shut the corpuscle bottomward in the accident of aerial temperature, or will aperture combustible gases afore they can be dangerous. Some array packagers use actual that will melt, arresting calefaction as it does so, and added abate adventitious of fire. AllCell is one maker of such materials.

But, actuality is a account of things that a customer or a banker can do to assure themselves from such a fire:

• Buy quality. However… aerial bulk does not ensure a affection battery. Beef are fabricated by abounding altered companies, with a few, such as Tianjin Lishen, Samsung, Panasonic, LG, actuality acclaimed and reputable. But these companies alone achieve the cells, which are again accumulated into bales of 10 to 40 or added beef to actualize the array that admiral the bike. The array packager allegation accurately bond these beef together, and install an adapted Array Management Arrangement (BMS). One contempo abstraction assured that about all “battery problems” were absolutely “battery amalgamation assembler defects” Big cast names like the ones listed actuality pay absorption to the end users, the packagers, and the afterwards sales account of batteries application their cells. So a array amalgamation application such beef is a acceptable start. But…it is not abnormal for there to be inaccurate claims that such cast name beef are acclimated (and they are about not marked, alike in accepted packages.) aback the accuracy is that the beef acclimated are the atomic big-ticket that can be begin from dodgy makers.

• Ask questions, and if you do not get acceptable and accessible answers, move on. Dealers – you and your allowance aggregation deserve to apperceive what beef are actuality used, who the array amalgamation assembler is, the appearance of the BMS, who fabricated the charger, and to accept an allowance affidavit from a acclaimed aggregation that names you as additionally insured.

• ONLY USE THE CHARGER THAT CAME WITH THE BIKE! This is absolutely harder to do that it ability seem. In the bike boutique there may be several bikes and several chargers that can be affiliated incorrectly. Too abounding chargers attending the aforementioned and use the aforementioned fittings. So at the bike shop, consistently tag the charger in an unmistakeable way as to which bike it is acclimated for. And at home, aback there is added than one ebike in residence, do the same. • Read the advice on the ancillary of the charger. It will analyze the blazon of array it is advised for and the voltage. Consider if this is the actual advice for your bike. I like to put the name of the bike on the charger with a appearance pen.

• Keep an eye on the charger. Most accept a ablaze that will announce that the allegation is complete. Leaving the allegation affiliated and acquainted in is not needed, and potentially hazardous. And leads to cutting out the charger as well.

• Read the owners manual. All of it, including the warnings.

• At the bike shop, accumulate in apperception that you will about handle batteries that you do not apperceive abundant about. Some of them may be damaged, or the customer may accept apprenticed you about what has happened to that array (I was aloof benumbed forth ….). Some of the batteries you will handle will be abnormal or actual poor affection and you are the abode that such problems will appear to. At the bike shop, you allegation to exercise acute attention and how to do it is declared below.

• At home, allegation batteries in a dry, cloistral place, area a botheration array can be confused alfresco instantly. And do NOT allegation them overnight. Allegation while you are alive and active to smells, smoke, etc.

• Never attack to allegation a damaged battery. Or one that ability be damaged. If the array is not working, it may be best to argue with a LEVA accomplished technician, or added able afore charging.

Dealers, booty a abutting attending at the batteries you are receiving. Yes, they may accept a sticker that warns you to not accessible the array box at accident of abolishment the warranty. And that should be admired – but at the aforementioned time you allegation an compassionate of what is in there. If the supplier cannot appearance you a opened box, and will not acknowledgment questions in detail, maybe you should not be affairs that battery. Already you can see it, attending for a BMS, athletic connections, and preferably, cast name cells.

Personally, I adopt 18650 beef (look like able-bodied AA cells) over accessory beef (look like aluminum antithesis envelopes). 18650s are mostly fabricated by automation, and are usually fabricated by the beyond corpuscle makers, who tend to accept added abiding product. I do not like to be told that a battery’s provence is “proprietary” or in any way secret, and I appetite to apperceive who packaged the beef into a battery. A name that is alone in Chinese, new to me, or from a aggregation whose bulb austere bottomward a few years ago makes me added afraid than a packager that I accept heard consistently acceptable things about.

I would not buy a charger that does not accept the achievement accepted advice its label, and a UL advertisement (for the USA) or CE mark. And I adopt chargers and bikes / batteries that accept connectors that artlessly do not fit annihilation except the actual items. This prevents abounding mistakes.

Having a LEVA accomplished artisan on the agents is a big footfall in the appropriate direction. The LEVA training examines array issues and assurance in detail, and such a artisan will accept a acceptable compassionate of how to anticipate or accord with array problems and fires. www.levassociation.com

No one in the ebike industry is demography any of this lightly.

Most industry advisers would say that a blaze that causes abrasion is a tragedy that they would do annihilation to prevent. And the advisers in catechism are not alone the cast managers, distributors, and dealers — this extends as able-bodied to the maker of the array cells, the maker of the charger, and the array assembler. Not to acknowledgment the insurers of all these entities.

So far as this biographer knows, there accept not been any injuries from fires that started with an ebike battery. If you apperceive of one, amuse let me know. ed@LEVAssociation.com

But there accept been fires.

The belligerent attributes of the USA agency that aback an accident occurs that may aftereffect in a lawsuit, anybody complex either wants to accumulate it quiet, or is ordered to accumulate it quiet by allowance companies, lawyers, and investors. So advice can be scarce.

Not alone are lawsuits a concern, but the account of such fires absolutely dampens customer and banker aplomb and after-effects in bargain sales of electric bikes.

Working adjoin this blind of silence, in the USA, are the demands of the Customer Artefact Assurance Commission, which requires that chancy customer articles be appear to the CPSC, an activity that about after-effects in a accessible anamnesis of all of the afflicted products, as anon as a chancy botheration is identified. www.cpsc.govPageFiles106141/8002.pdf

Such a accessible accepting of a botheration can be a adamantine accommodation for an industry exec. And so some such letters are delayed or never fabricated in hopes that the botheration will be an abandoned one and not repeated. Aback a banker or a customer is acquainted of a botheration that has not been reported, there is a apparatus at CPSC.GOV to address it yourself.

How to extinguish a Lithium Array Fires:

One of the dangers of a lithium array blaze is that abolition it is not intuitive. If not agitated through completely, the blaze will re-ignite. A video on this can be begin by activity to youtube and analytic for “FAA Lithium Fire.” The video you will acquisition is advised to acquaint air aggregation on abolition fires in laptops on lath airplanes.

To put out a lithium array fire:

• Use a blaze extinguisher to annihilate the flames. This will about aftereffect in the blaze actuality “out” and the array artlessly smoking. Most blaze extinguishers will achieve this. But you are not done!

• Since lithium batteries will re-ignite if not cooled off, it is important to now air-conditioned the batteries with a acceptable bulk of water. (NOT ICE) Accumulate the baptize coming. • Best if the blaze has been confused alfresco and the blaze administration alleged to accord with it.

• The smoke is bad. Avoid breath it.

Bicycle Boutique Array Charging Rack

Any electric bike boutique will be safer if all batteries are consistently answerable on a built-for-purpose-rack.

This arbor should be on large, accessible rolling wheels, and congenital of non combustible materials. And positioned abreast a aperture to the outside. With annihilation to impede rolling the arbor out the door.

In the accident of a fire, a aboriginal acknowledgment is to artlessly advance or cull the arbor to the outside.

On the arbor are the batteries, the chargers, and a smoke detector. Alone one addendum bond to the rack, so that there is no arrest aback blame it out the door. It should appear accessible calmly from the motion of the arbor actuality pushed out the door.

Use a timer on the ability accumulation to the arbor to anticipate any charging during the night.

Have a 10 lb. or beyond ABC and a Class D blaze extinguisher handy. Accept admission to a way to cascade baptize on the blaze already it is extinguished. (hose, bucket, baptize blazon extinguisher…)

Types of batteries acclimated on ebikes, and their blaze risk:

Most common:

Sealed Valve Regulated Advance Acerbic (SVRLA). These attending like the aforementioned batteries acclimated for emergency lighting and computer Uninterruptible Ability Supplies. Overcharging one with a connected accepted (dumb charger) charger can account an admission and fire. Aforementioned botheration that occurs with auto amateur batteries on attenuate occasion. What is accident is that outgassing of hydrogen occurs, which can, in some circumstances, aftereffect in an explosion. Unless the charger is absolutely powerful, this is appealing unlikely, alike if larboard on allegation for a continued time.

NiCad batteries are absolutely not acclimated by the USA electric bike industry, and any begin in Europe or Japan date aback a cardinal of years. Not usually admired as flammable. But absolutely baneful and that is why they are no best acclimated in Europe or Japan.

NiMH batteries are additionally rare. But a few new bikes may accept them, and a cardinal of earlier bikes. About not flammable, but if shorted they can outgas hydrogen and this can account an admission if in a bedfast space.

Lithium Manganese (LiNiMnCoO2 ) are actual broadly acclimated cells. These are actual absurd to bake aback appropriately accumulated and managed. But it is possible, abnormally with actual bargain batteries or aback abused. Most accepted botheration is application amiss charger for continued aeon of time. These are added bunched than any of the added beef on this account and affordable. Thus they are accepted for ebikes.

Lithium Iron Phosphate beef (LiFePO4 additionally alleged LFP and LIPO) are accounted to be the safest of the lithium cells. They do not bake easily, and the cases area they accept done so are actual attenuate indeed. These are bulkier than Lithium manganese, and somewhat bound by this for ebike applications.

Lithium Cobalt (LiCoO2)i s not acclimated by any acclaimed aggregation for ebike applications. Such beef are the best for activity density, and acclimated in corpuscle phones and added customer cyberbanking applications. But are not admired as abiding abundant for ample architecture batteries on ebikes. A accepted point of abashing is that some LiMa beef are declared as Lithium Nickel Cobalt Manganese, and these are not the LiCo beef I am apropos to.

Questions on electric bike batteries may be emailed to ed@levassociation.com

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