Firefighters Issue Warning on E-scooters Powered by Lithium Batteries

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services are warning of the dangers of buying a second-hand e-scooter or charger.
Firefighters Issue Warning on E-scooters Powered by Lithium Batteries
A selection of e-scooters available for hire can be seen on the corner of a street in Albany, Western Australia, on Aug. 8, 2023. (Susan Mortimer/The Epoch Times)
Monica O’Shea

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) has issued a warning about the dangers of using second-hand e-scooters and chargers after a spate of lithium battery fires.

The fire service was called to 127 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries in the 2023 financial year, a number that is increasing, a recent release from Suncorp revealed.

As of late December 2023, the fire service had already been called to 61 lithium-ion battery related fires.

A family was forced to go to hospital for treatment in 2023 when an e-scooter caught fire in a South-East Queensland home. A woman in her 30s and two young children had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

In another instance in January, firefighters were called to a building fire in Brisbane’s inner south, which was reportedly set off by an e-scooter battery.

In March 2023, a Logan family home was decimated after four e-scooters caught on fire. Neighbours had to rush to the scene to help the family escape with their pets.

In New South Wales (NSW), there have also been 165 fires involving lithium ion batteries as of Dec. 8, 2023. In October, a backpacker hostel in Sydney had to be evacuated after an e-bike exploded into flames.

Issue with E-Scooters Sold Without Chargers

In light of these recent events, QFES Fire Investigation Unit manager Daren Mallouk raised the alarm bell on second-hand e-scooters or chargers.

He highlighted incompatible chargers, low-quality products, and mechanical damage as potential factors that cause rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to fail.

“While it may be convenient to charge an item overnight, buy a second-hand e-scooter or charger, or use a seemingly ‘compatible’ charger you already have at home, these everyday actions can cause a rechargeable lithium-ion battery to fail—and when they fail, they fail with verocity,” he told The Courier Mail.

Mr. Mallouk noted there is now a massive second hand market for e-scooters, which are being sold minus the chargers.

“We have seen quite a few fires which have been caused by people modifying their e-scooters—putting bigger batteries in,” he said.

Warnings on Lithium Batteries Surge

In December, insurance group Suncorp issued a warning on lithium-ion battery products, including e-scooters and e-bikes.

Suncorp executive general manager for home claims singled out the spike in housefires linked to e-scooters and e-bikes.

An image showing fire after a lithium battery was said to explode at a Sydney hostel. (Courtesy of Fire and Rescue NSW)
An image showing fire after a lithium battery was said to explode at a Sydney hostel. (Courtesy of Fire and Rescue NSW)
“Most modern devices like laptops, mobile phones, power tools, e-cigarettes, and electric vehicles have rechargeable lithium-ion batteries containing highly flammable electrolytes, but a surge in popularity of items like e-scooters and e-bikes and a link to housefires in recent years is concerning,” she said.

“These batteries, if used, charged, stored or disposed of incorrectly, could be prone to intense, difficult-to-extinguish fires when damaged or overheated and pose a significant risk in the home.”

In addition, Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell weighed in on the lithium battery risk, warning about explosions and toxic gas.

“If a battery is compromised through damage or overheating, it can go into what we call ‘Thermal Runaway.’ It will pop and crackle, then give off toxic gas before exploding in intense flames that are extremely difficult to extinguish,” Mr. Fewtell said.

Fire Rescue Victoria Acting Deputy Commissioner Gavin Rooney said, “While these products make our lives easier and have many positive environmental and social impacts, they occasionally can and do catch alight, especially if overcharged or not treated properly.”

The Epoch Times has contacted QFES for comment.

Monica O’Shea is a reporter based in Australia. She previously worked as a reporter for Motley Fool Australia, Daily Mail Australia, and Fairfax Regional Media.
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