e-bike fire

Another e-bike fire in Toronto reignites concern over lithium-ion batteries

A Reddit post of a charred e-bike sitting on the streets of downtown Toronto has re-sparked concerns about what causes e-bikes to ignite, and the risks associated with e-bike batteries.

“I just walked past this e-Bike fire at College & Elizabeth after it was put out. At least this bike didn’t catch fire on transit,” the post noted. “I know nothing about the safety standards of e-bikes but will this be a trend?”

Another e-Bike Fire
byu/LemonPress50 intoronto

According to Health Canada, there has been a reported increase in e-mobility device battery fires across North America over the last few years, particularly involving lithium-ion batteries. In Toronto, an e-bike powered by a lithium-ion battery caught fire on a TTC subway car at the Sheppard-Yonge subway station, filling several subway cars with smoke and injuring one person. According to Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, fires from lithium-ion battery powered devices are a growing concern.

“These batteries possess an incredible amount of stored energy as they sit there, and when they fail and they ignite, much of that battery is consumed in the process,” Pegg told reporters in a press conference, concerning the New Years eve fire.

Pegg noted that Toronto has seen a 72% jump in lithium-ion battery fires in 2023 compared to the previous year. In 2022, there were 29 such fires, but this number jumped to 50 by mid-October 2023. Toronto Fire Services has attributed these fires to thermal, electrical, or physical failures of the batteries. In many cases, improper care or modifications to the e-bikes and their batteries have been the culprits.

The issue of lithium-ion battery fires is not limited to Toronto. In Australia, a Sydney apartment block was gutted by a fire started by a faulty e-bike battery early Friday morning.

In New York City, e-bikes reportedly caused 267 fires, 18 deaths (an increase of 200% year over year in e-bike related deaths), and 150 injuries in the city, according to New York Fire Department data. The city passed several laws in the last year to regulate lithium-ion batteries sold in the city, requiring all e-bikes/powered mobility devices, and lithium-ion batteries to meet certification requirements to be sold in the city. The city also approved a two-year city-funded trade-in program to get uncertified e-bikes and lithium-ion batteries off the streets.

To minimize the risk of fires from lithium-ion batteries, Toronto Fire Services recommends using products with a CSA or UL designation, adhering to electronic charging recommendations, using the original charging device, replacing batteries with those recommended by the manufacturer, and proper disposal of damaged batteries.

Health Canada and Transport Canada also recommend that consumers replace batteries with original parts from the manufacturer or dealer where the product was bought. Never modify the batteries or try to make your own, this includes “building and using DIY lithium-ion battery packs for use in electric bikes or scooters” or adding external batteries to increase voltage or capacity.

If an incident occurs with an after-market lithium-ion battery you’re using, report it to Health Canada.

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