Don't become a victim


It seems like every other day, we’re hearing about a fire caused by an illegal lithium-ion battery. But it’s not just our imagination — it’s really happening.

There were more than 30 fires related to the rechargeable batteries popular in e-bikes and scooters over the first two months of 2024 in New York City — literally, the rate of one fire every other day.

The city has worked hard to pass a number of laws intended to curb the proliferation of these batteries into the city. But as we saw with the fire that injured 10 and displaced dozens of families earlier this month in Marble Hill, we still have a long way to go.

Lithium batteries — and their rechargeable brother, lithium-ion batteries — are considered a first major step toward taking us away from fossil fuels.  We are finding them in almost everything — electric cars, scooters, even our smartphones.

They last a long time, and those that recharge, do it at a rate that maintains them just like new for years.

But the batteries themselves can be very dangerous. They are made with highly flammable materials — and it’s very possible that any fire created by them could be catastrophic.

In fact, New York City Fire Department commissioner Laura Kavanagh told reporters last year that these kinds of batteries don’t produce “a small amount of fire. They literally explode.”

For the most part, however, these batteries are perfectly safe — especially if they are produced and tested through proper government safety protocols.

Many of the batteries causing fires, however, are believed to be produced outside of those safety procedures, making them far more prone to explode and create the kinds of fires that are too scary to even imagine.

More must be done by city officials to get these batteries off the street. More must be done by landlords and building managers to make sure these batteries — at least when it comes to scooters and e-bikes — are kept outside, and away from buildings themselves.

But we can make a difference, too. Especially if we depend on these kinds of batteries.

We can ensure batteries are charged in a cool, dry place — and that we don’t let them overcharge by keeping them plugged in overnight.

Be careful to ensure batteries don’t overheat, are punctured, or experience a short circuit. If you feel there is anything wrong with your battery, stop using it, and get it serviced immediately.

Fires caused by these batteries is becoming far too common. And if we’re not careful, the next victims of one of these fires could very well be one of us.

Lithium-ion batteries Fire hazards New York City Safety regulations E-bikes Scooters Public safety Battery storage Risk mitigation Fire prevention