Exploding E-Scooters Cause Concern Across City


Sebastian Tirschwell, Sophomore Editor

According to NPR, four times a week on average in New York City, an electric scooter or bicycle explodes while charging, sometimes causing major fires. Recently, there have been major explosions in apartment buildings around the city caused by these electric vehicles. On November 5, an apartment on the 20th floor of a Midtown highrise caught on fire after one of the many e-bikes stored in the unit ignited, causing 43 injuries–two of which were critical. This trend must be addressed, or else the city could face more such occurrences in the future.

“We’ve seen incidents where people have described them as explosive — incidents where they actually have so much power, they’re actually blowing walls down in between rooms and apartments,” told Dan Flyn, the chief fire marshal at the New York City Fire Department to the New York Times. This year alone, the city has received over 170 calls about e-bike and e-scooter batteries catching on fire. These incidents resulted in six deaths and 93 injuries in 2022, up from four deaths and 79 injuries in 2021, showing a major leap in catastrophes even though there still is almost a month left in the year.

When a bicycle or scooter rider is connected to an aftermarket charger that was not made by the manufacturer of the vehicle, the charger may not turn off and will continue heating up. This heat may cause electrolyte, a highly flammable solution inside the cells of a lithium-ion battery, to leak out from inside the cells and catalyze a chain reaction of fires, which eventually burns through the casing of the battery and allows the fire to spread.

Currently, delivery couriers all around the city ride e-bikes, many of which are produced by the company Arrow. These bikes are sold by local bike shops scattered all around the city, priced from $1000 to $1800, cheaper than other e-bikes on the market. Many couriers have two to five of these bikes, which lack the battery capacity to last an entire day. Some couriers use one charger for all their bikes, meaning chargers are used for bikes which they were not designed for. These mismatched chargers sometimes do not turn off when the bikes are fully charged — a prime cause for the overheating and explosion of these batteries.

While this issue has existed in recent years, 2022 has been the most deadly. In response, many apartment buildings have established restrictions on bringing in electric vehicles, but the city has yet to do anything about the issue. If somebody you know uses an electric bike or scooter, let them know about the dangers of using aftermarket chargers and how a seemingly trivial mistake can lead to potentially fatal consequences.