Storing E-Bikes, E-Scooters Indoors Can Be Dangerous


When the director of the Rhode Island School of Design’s environmental health and safety department mentioned, at a local emergency planning committee meeting, that the college was trying to evolve a policy on storing e-bikes and e-scooters in the dorms, a Providence Fire Department battalion chief yelled, “DON’T!”

Storing e-bikes and e-scooters in living spaces has raised concerns in the fire safety community, because of the threat of lithium batteries. E-bikes and e-scooters were the cause of 121 fires in New York City in 2020; 104 in 2021; and 191 in 2022. As of Feb. 27 of this year, they were responsible for 30 fires, 40 injuries, and two deaths, according to the New York City Fire Department.

A chemical reaction inside the self-fueling battery can spark a “thermal runaway,” which occurs when the lithium-ion cell enters a volatile, self-heating state. The fires are also difficult to extinguish — fire department officials warn against using fire extinguishers or water — often spreading to nearby batteries, and can even reignite hours later.

“All it takes is for one small battery cell to be defective, overcharged or damaged, and a tremendous amount of energy is released in the form of heat and toxic flammable gases all at once,” according to Daniel Murray, the FDNY chief of hazmat operations.

Many e-bikes are being manufactured without any safety regulation or third-party testing. The market has been quickly saturated with a flood of these devices as workers adopt them to meet the growing demand for fast deliveries. These fires, triggered by poorly maintained or damaged lithium-ion batteries, or improper recharging, have caused 10 deaths and more than 200 injuries in the five boroughs in just the past two years alone.

Laura Kavanagh, New York’s fire commissioner, urged the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to promote more safety regulations, including seizing imported batteries that fall short of industry standards; penalizing manufacturers who fail to inform authorities about product hazards; and recalling unsafe devices. She also recommended a ban on sales of “universal” battery chargers.

The NYC Public Housing Authority has moved to prohibit bringing e-bikes into occupied public housing units. New York City’s Council voted in March to restrict sales of e-bikes and e-scooters that don’t meet certain safety standards.

From a public health point of view, e-bikes and e-scooters pose many significant hazards and are far from a praise-worthy addition to the climate-friendly toolbox. Injuries from e- bikes and e-scooters, including collisions with pedestrians, have skyrocketed in the United States, from 4,582 (with 313 hospitalizations) in 2014 to 14,650 (with 1,374 hospitalizations) in 2018.

Emergency departments report far more significant head injuries resulting from e-bike accidents than those that occur with traditional bicycles. In Paris there were 24 e-scooter deaths and 143 serious injuries in 2021, and 34 deaths and 570 serious injuries in 2020. The city set a fine of $147 for riding on the sidewalks. E-scooters are now banned in Paris after a recent city-wide public referendum. London’s transportation regulator banned e-scooters in 2021.

Public health advocates point to the start of rental systems adopted in some cities in 2017 as the major factor in the increase of accidents and injuries. Promoting more traditional biking is a positive public health message; the same cannot be said for promoting e-bikes/scooters.

James Celenza is a member of the Rhode Island Committee on Occupational Safety & Health.

The views expressed in this opinion piece do not reflect those of ecoRI News and its board of directors.


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  1. Are there standards for these.batteries? Are the batteries causing these fires produced by one manufacturer?
    It appears that more research is necessary meanwhile please don’t store a vehicle with these batteries indoors or in a garage.

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