Almost everyone somewhere has heard or watched a battery catching fire, and it is something newsworthy, especially if it gets recorded. One fire recently caused an internet-wide sensation and gave the impression that battery fires on electric scooters are a common thing. They are not. They are isolated cases that get blown out of proportion through re-sharing via the internet, making the situation appear more severe than it is.     

Since everybody is familiar with what batteries are, and that they are indispensable to our daily lives, powering everything — from cell phones to electric vehicles, and, yes, electric scooters, batteries are very convenient and reliable — but batteries can also be unsafe if not used properly.

There are battery-fail videos online showing how scary such a situation can be. Battery fires can pose a danger to the rider and may cause serious property damage, or worse, even the loss of life.

Among all battery types, lithium-based batteries are the most popular. The reason is that lithium-based batteries offer a high energy concentration in a small package. As such, they are ideal for use in transportable devices like electric scooters, mainly because they occupy minimum space, bear minimum weight, and deliver high power outputs, which is vital in such devices. In addition, lithium-based batteries are also environment-friendly, as compared to other battery types, and can be recharged many times over.

Similar to combustion, any time you store large amounts of energy in a confined space, there is potential for release in a forceful and uncontrolled manner. The release of energy can cause heat, smoke, or even a  fire. This is why it’s so important to carefully manage the life cycle of batteries and pay special attention to safety and fire/explosion issues.

The use of lithium in batteries can also pose a safety hazard, as the lithium used is a very reactive alkaline metal that is highly combustible. Although lithium-ion batteries do not contain free lithium metal, they do contain lithium-ion and other flammable electrolytes that can be risky.

Even if lithium battery fires are relatively unusual, they can be extremely dangerous, if and when they do happen. To prevent battery fires, understand how these batteries work, what can spark off a fire incident, and the ways of preventing and/or extinguishing a fire in case it happens.

1. What happens if you overcharge your scooter?

As previously mentioned, it’s best not to overcharge your e-scooter as it can damage the capacity of the battery.

2. Is it safe to leave a scooter charging overnight?

There are electric scooters that take 5 hours to charge on average, and leaving them to charge for a full night of 8 hours puts them at risk of overcharging. If your scooter’s charging time is about the same as your sleep time, then charging your scooter overnight is a good idea.

3. Should I leave my scooter plugged in all the time?

If you are using your electric scooter at least 3 times a week, it is ok to leave it on constantly. But if you are only using it once a week or even less, then you need to unplug the charger once it is fully charged. If it is not being used for an extended period, charge the batteries up at the maximum charging time, at least once a month.

 4. Do electric scooters cause fires?

Some electric scooters were tagged for catching fire, due to poorly sourced lithium batteries. This issue has been resolved in recent years by the manufacturers, so the risk of an e-scooter catching fire has been significantly reduced. The other risks to using an electric scooter include accidents, injury, and legal implications.

5. What type of batteries do most electric scooters have?

Most electric scooters on the market use either lithium-ion batteries or lead-acid batteries. While both types of batteries have pros and cons, lithium-ion batteries are considered the better option. And the visible difference between the two batteries is the material and technology used. The lithium battery may be more expensive, but it is more efficient, and has a higher energy concentration than lead-acid batteries – (250-670 Wh/L vs. 80-90 Wh/L ).

MEARTH, the Australian manufacturer of high-performance, top-notch quality electric scooters uses a lithium-ion battery on every one of its rideables – the S and SPro, RS and RS Pro, and the GTS and GTS MAX models.

All have undergone the strictest, most stringent quality control and performance tests to ensure the safety of their riders while riding in the city, going on long-range travels, and even off-terrain adventure trips. MEARTH’s professional and capable product specialists always give the customer and buyer a thorough product knowledge of the features and advise on the proper care and handling of their newly purchased Mearth electric scooter. This is to guide the new rider on proper charging of the battery and basic troubleshooting. Further, MEARTH product specialists are well trained to answer customers’ questions and concerns and ensure customer satisfaction.

Having a better grasp of how a battery works, we can now plunge into how it can cause a fire.

6. What causes a battery to catch fire?

Electrochemical reactions generate and store electrical energy in a lithium-ion battery. Supposing the structure of the battery is compromised, such as when the electrolyte separator is damaged, what happens is that the different chemicals can mix and allow the electrons and ions to freely move between the cathode and anode, and this results in a short circuit, which creates a spark or excessive heat. If the flame is not controlled or the heat has dissipated faster than the production, the lithium batteries will catch fire.

Li-ion batteries in scooters are extremely sensitive to temperature and are inherently flammable. This means that lithium-ion batteries tend to degrade much faster when exposed to temperature extremes – either hot or cold. Exposure to temperatures outside the operating conditions can lead the lithium battery to fail and may also become a fire safety hazard.

There are cases where battery fires occur, and it is often the result of defects in the battery structure and poor charging practices, like overcharging, manufacturer design flaws and defects, incorrect battery usage, electrical short circuits, low-component in battery, rapid discharge:

7. How do you prevent electric scooter battery fire?

  •  Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions found in the user manual before you start using, charging, or re-charging batteries to ensure that you use the battery safely and correctly, adhering to the battery’s specific charging voltage;
  • Only use the charger that came with your electric scooter. Using the wrong or fake chargers is unsafe and may not meet the proper safety standards;
  •  Charge at a temperature between 40°F- 110 °F (4°C- 43°C );
  •  Don’t overcharge as they can heat up and catch fire easily. Unplug batteries once fully charged;
  • Never leave your electric scooter unattended while it is charging.  Unplug it if you go out or sleep;
  • Keep away the battery from flammable surfaces like paper, fabric, and vinyl wood as they can easily catch fire in case the battery malfunctions;
  • If the battery becomes excessively hot, releases smoke, or emits a smell, disconnect immediately from the power source. The battery may be overheating and could potentially catch fire;
  •   Always store the scooter batteries in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and humid areas, and away from hazardous or flammable materials;
  •  Never dispose of lithium-ion batteries in a fire.

8. How do you stop a battery fire?

If you are certain your e-scooter is going to catch fire, keep yourself and anyone else away from it to avoid getting caught up in the explosion or toxic fumes. Remove flammable materials nearby, so that the fire won’t spread. In case the fire gets out of control, move as far away as possible and get yourself and others to safety first. The emergency fire services will deal with the fire more effectively.  Unless you are formally trained in basic fire-fighting techniques, don’t attempt to smother the fire with sand, dirt, or water.  Be informed and be equipped. Avoid untoward consequences. Better to be safe than sorry.