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Playing with Fire! (fun times with Lithium ion batteries)

Jonno Leonard - Sunday, October 09, 2016

We now live in a world increasingly powered by batteries, and Lithium Ion batteries in particular. You will find them in your phone, in your tools, in your kids' toys and definitely in your electric bikes! 'Lead acid' is the old-tech, and can still be found in some cheaper import bikes, but the weight and lack of battery life and power make them a poor choice.

I had a very interesting conversation with a customer last week, who it turned out is a bit of a gun on lithium batteries. What I learnt was, that lithium batteries contain all the 'ingredients' for self-combustion, and are a 'Class 9' hazardous material! The military carry them separately, stored out of the equipment they power, and with specific firefighting equipment on board. Which explains the issues being experienced with exploding hoverboards, and smouldering smartphones...., and why airlines are getting rather jumpy about carrying these batteries.

It's one of the best reasons for choosing a quality brand of electric bike. Get a good brand = get a good battery (SmartMotion bikes now come with Samsung batteries). Cheaper batteries naturally have lower grade components and less rigorous testing and quality control, which raises the risk.

So how should you care for the Lithium Ion batteries you do have? Best practice is to make sure any charging batteries (including those in electronic devices) are charged on a non-flammable surface. Make sure all your chargers have an auto cut-off to avoid overcharging, and make sure the chargers themselves have air circulating around them. Don't charge unattended, especially overnight. And, avoid cheaply mass-produced products with Lithium batteries, or have very careful procedures to ensure charging is controlled. Don't just plug in that kids hoverboard you got cheap off TradeMe and leave it charging on the sofa when you go to bed!

The Samsung batteries in SmartMotion bikes are deemed very safe, and the chargers have auto cut-offs, but follow these basic guidelines for all your chargeable products and you know you will be safer rather than sorry in the event of any mishaps.

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