Amsterdam fire department more concerned over e-bike battery fires in homes
The fire that broke out Tuesday morning at an apartment in Amsterdam Nieuw-West and killed a pet cat was caused by an electric step-scooter battery, the Amsterdam-Amstelland fire department said a day later. There has been a growing concern about keeping these vehicles within residences, as the batteries used can over heat, which results in smoke, flames, or an explosion.
Vehicles such as e-bikes, e-steps, and e-scooters are equipped with lithium-ion batteries. These lightweight, rechargeable power sources are found in a variety of devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and hoverboards. Lithium-ion batteries can store significantly more energy than standard batteries, providing numerous advantages, but also risks.
The main risk is a thermal runaway, according to UL Research Institutes. A thermal runaway is a situation where an increase in temperature causes a further increase, creating a self-sustaining, often destructive chain reaction. The excessive heat breaks down the battery’s chemicals and produces more heat, which can lead to the battery catching fire or even exploding.
A spokesperson for the Amsterdam-Amstelland fire department told NL Times that this can be triggered by a damaged battery of a faulty charger, which can create a short circuit leading to a thermal runaway. These types of fires are “not necessarily more dangerous” than normal fires, the spokesperson said.
However, it has been pointed out that the risks increase in urban areas, where residents often do not have a shed or garden for storing their electronic vehicles. Keeping these in indoor spaces, such as living rooms, corridors, or staircases, increases the risk that the fires spread.
In case of fire, the spokesperson insisted that it is important to always call 1-1-2 and leave the house. “But it is also important to try reducing the risks,” like charging in a room with a working smoke detector, and unplugging the battery when it is fully charged.
The spokesperson also pointed out that it is pretty easy to damage a battery, “for example if you let it fall on the floor.” When this happens, people should stop using it, as it can overheat and short circuit.
The Amsterdam-Amstelland fire department was not immediately able to provide the number of reports regarding small electric vehicle fires. “But of course, we see that the number of fires with e-bikes and e-steps is increasing as usage increases," the spokesperson stated.