Last updated December 5th, 2023 23:08
Electric scooters have become a massive phenomenon lately. Some adore them, while others despise them, and over time, the government is tightening its grip with mandatory insurance and other restrictions. When something as controversial as electric scooters arises, you can expect the media to give it enough space to provoke heated discussions. That’s just how the media works. One of the most frequent topics revolves around problematic batteries. Specifically, the concern that batteries might ignite, turning the scooter into a potential hazard. Let’s delve into why an electric scooter can catch fire. There are usually three reasons, and this article will explore them all.
Why can an electric scooter catch fire?
Let’s explain all the possible battery fire scenarios using the most commonly used 18650 battery type. This battery is employed by the vast majority of manufacturers in their battery packs. The battery itself is relatively safe, and for it to ignite, something quite significant must occur. Let’s be honest, in two out of three cases, the owner might be at fault. In that remaining one, the issue could stem from the manufacturer.
Using the scooter in unsuitable weather conditions
Many scooter owners overlook the basic fact that electric scooters simply aren’t waterproof. They’re only water-resistant, and even that has its limitations. The construction of the battery is straightforward. The 18650-type cell has its negative pole running throughout its body, from bottom to top. Only at the top is the positive pole present. If you were to remove the top cover of the cell (not recommended), you’d see the bare cell where the entire body is negative, with the battery usually protected between the positive and negative poles by a paper insulator. This is where the core problem can arise.
If an owner rides the scooter in unsuitable weather, water can infiltrate the battery compartment, soaking the paper insulator. The strips connecting individual cells logically begin to corrode additionally. Then it’s just a matter of time before the positive and negative poles of the battery connect, causing a short circuit. Once a cell shorts, it’s practically a matter of moments before it ignites and triggers the entire battery.
Using an inappropriate charger
Every scooter comes with an original charger provided by the manufacturer. This charger has a predefined charging current that is safe for the batteries. However, many users prefer to switch out the original chargers for more powerful ones for a simple reason: the higher the charging current, the faster the battery charges. While this is true, on the flip side, the battery might not handle such a current.
It often happens that a scooter owner orders a charger with a current more than twice as high as the original. They plug in the charger, leave it unattended, and the battery can’t withstand such a current. A cell gets damaged, and as in the first case, it starts to ignite. Once one cell ignites, others flare up within seconds. How challenging it is to extinguish such a battery fire, well, almost everyone has seen that.
Mistake on the manufacturer’s part
This issue mainly concerns low-quality, cheaper scooters from China. These scooters often come fitted with RGB LED light strips. To cut production costs, Chinese manufacturers frequently attach the strip under the deck using screws. Consequently, the screw might intrude into the space under the deck, where the actual battery pack is located. Unless the battery is very securely fixed, it can move within this space while riding. If any sharp object, in this case, a screw holding the RGB strip (or any other screw securing the internal electronics), comes into contact, it can easily damage one of the battery cells. The sequence of events is identical to the cases mentioned earlier.
How can you prevent battery fires in an electric scooter?
Quite simply. Just follow these guidelines when using an electric scooter:
- Avoid using the scooter in unsuitable weather. With few exceptions, scooters are not waterproof. It’s a myth.
- Use the original charger provided by the manufacturer. Avoid experimenting with stronger chargers. While they might charge the battery faster, they can also damage it. If you consider a stronger charger, consult with the manufacturer or stick to the original one. It might take a few hours longer to charge, but your scooter will charge safely.
- Occasionally perform checks and maintenance on the scooter. Either by yourself or through a service specializing in scooter repairs. Occasionally, remove the top foot deck and inspect the battery compartment. Check if the battery moves unnecessarily, if there’s any water present, or if there are any sharp objects that could damage the battery.
Why can an electric scooter catch fire?
As you can see, preventing battery problems in scooters isn’t rocket science. Just use common sense and follow the procedures recommended by the manufacturer of the machine. I’d just like to add that these tips essentially apply to all devices using similar cells. Because even though the news mostly showcases scooter fires, this problem equally affects all devices utilizing similar batteries. Whether it’s a scooter, bike, car, or laptop, anything from this list can catch fire. It’s just that in the news, you get the impression that only scooters are burning.
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