Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have become a mainstream power source in small electronics, household appliances, tools, electric vehicles, e-bikes, e-scooters and golf carts, among others. As organizations and their clients have begun to switch over to Li-ion battery-powered equipment, there have been reports of fires associated with Li-ion batteries.
Two recent and widely publicized examples include:
- A fire caused by the charging of a Li-ion powered wheelchair. The fire occurred in November 2022 in an Ann Arbor, Michigan apartment building. Two seniors living in the building were hospitalized due to injuries sustained in the fire, but this could have been a more widespread event with greater loss of life and property.1
- In January 2023, a fire occurred when a Li-ion powered scooter was being charged in a New York City multi-use building where there was a daycare operation. The fire injured 18 children, with one hospitalized in critical condition.2
Increased awareness of the fire risks associated with Li-ion batteries and charging protocols is needed. The following tips will help reduce the potential for Li-ion battery fires in your facility:
- Become familiar with all Li-ion powered devices by reading the manufacturer’s instructions for handling, storage and charging. Do not deviate from the recommended practices.
- Only use the approved chargers that come with the device. Do not use mismatched cords or a lower quality replacement battery.
- Store devices with Li-ion batteries away from combustible materials to prevent spread of a fire.
- Never charge the devices in entry ways or in paths to the exit.
- Do not charge the equipment overnight. Charge devices in an enclosed room when you are awake and alert. Once fully charged, they should be disconnected from the charger.
- If a Li-ion-powered device is dropped or crushed, the battery could become damaged or unstable and spontaneously combust. Damaged devices should not be used, charged or stored onsite until repaired.
- Exposure to high temperatures (about 130° F) could also cause a battery to catch fire. Conversely, batteries can also be damaged in environments that are too cold.
For additional information, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has published resources related to Lithium-ion Batteries including: Lithium-ion Battery Safety and Safety with E-Bikes and E-Scooters.
1 Senior citizens hospitalized after fire started by electric wheelchair in Ann Arbor (clickondetroit.com)