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E-Bike Battery Explosion Kills 2 in New York Apartment Blaze

Two people died after an e-bike battery exploded in a New York apartment on Aug. 3. As e-bikes become more popular, the problem is growing.

A 5-year-old girl and a 36-year-old woman died Wednesday from an apartment fire ignited by an exploding e-bike battery, the New York City Fire Department said.

Another person — the girl’s father — was left in serious condition, and a firefighter was also taken to the hospital, CBS News reported. The e-bike’s battery started the fire right outside the Harlem apartment’s front door, blocking the family of three from escaping, CBS reported.

It’s not the first time that exploding e-bike batteries have caused deadly fires. In December 2021, another Manhattan tenant died from a fire caused by an e-bike battery. Now, the New York City Housing Association is considering a ban on “the volatile lithium-ion batteries that power e-bikes, scooters, and hoverboards,” The City reported.

A Growing Problem

As the popularity of e-bikes soared over the last few years, so have the reports of fires and injuries caused by their batteries. In Maryland in 2018, two lithium-ion battery terminals made contact, sparking a two-alarm fire that consumed a single-family home. While no one was harmed, it took 60 firefighters to contain the blaze.

E-bike batteries have caused multiple fires in Vancouver over the last 6 months, The Tyee reported in June.

The same problem has been growing in London. By June 2022, the city’s fire brigade had already seen 32 fires involving e-bikes, Cycling Weekly reported. Officials reported another 17 incidents this year involving other lithium-ion batteries, the article said.

Improper manufacturing of lithium batteries may also contribute to the problem, according to a safety report from the University of Washington. Poorly made batteries may have contaminants that make explosions more likely, the report said.

If you own an e-bike, consider following the report’s suggestions for staying safe. Tips include storing batteries away from combustible materials, purchasing batteries from a reputable manufacturer or supplier, and keeping one-time-use batteries away from rechargeable ones.

Andrew McLemore
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An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Cuenca, Ecuador, which he uses as a home base for adventures throughout the Americas. When he's not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he's hanging out with his dog Campana.