Light electric vehicles (bikes, scooters, skateboards) are now causing a sizable number of fires in NYC. It's mostly a battery quality problem, apparently. FDNY reported 28 battery fires in 2019, 44 in 2020, and 104 in 2021. Bike and scooter shop fires tend to result in multiple batteries cooking off.
One thing would stop much of this: making Amazon criminally responsible for selling power electrical devices which do not have verifiable UL certification.
The scooters and other cheap vehicles you cite are a separate problem from just being Lithium-Ion batteries. They're cheap procucts with bad electronics and poor protection of the battery. Gasoline powered products of such low quality would be similar fire hazards, if not worse.
Lithium-Ion batteries work fantastic for EVs. My 8 year old, 50k+ mile Leaf still has its origial battery and it still has 100% capacity. Something anti-Lithium-Ion FUD pushers told me was literally impossible.
We banned those, we can demand adequate quality control on electric vehicles as well.
It's rather common where I live, not weird at all. Those are only loud when unmodified and every kit comes with a standard gas tank, perhaps banning them altoghether isn't an answer?
This is fully justifiable not on noise alone, which can be mitigated, but the unacceptable level of hazardous particles released by incomplete oil combustion, which cannot be. Better to write them off like leaded gasoline, the tradeoffs aren't worth it.
The electric leaf blowers I’ve seen (I bought 2, returned one, put the second on “sweeping dust and leaves off concrete” duty, and tried two of my fan-of-electric-anything friend’s battery blowers) are indeed quieter, mostly by virtue of moving less air.
Once they work equivalently, I’ll be happy to give up the maintenance and hassle of small gas engines.
A backpack battery model would be preferable anyway; I’m already wearing a 79.9 cm^2 engine, fuel tank, and blower on my back now. No one’s going to carry this as a handheld; all the large ones are already wearable for convenience.
For it to be a commercial success, I think you’d have to be able to run 5 hours in a day (but not all at once and battery swapping/charging on the truck from 12V would be okay).
Let's directly compare the impact of battery incidents from EVs to the impact of widespread usage of internal combustion engines through the lens of public health policy. The damage that is being done by widespread ICE vehicle usage is very well documented and a problem we need to solve.
You can't simply equate the individual vehicle safety without considering the wider public health impact inherent with ICEs.
A similar argument this reminds me of is drug contraceptives, where male contraceptives are only directly assessed in risk compared to not taking any drug, but female contraceptives are compared to the inherent dangers of a pregnancy as well, so it would be disingenuous to directly compare the risks of male to female contraceptives much the same as EVs to ICEs
Just as one example: many gasoline products have zero shipping danger because they’re shipped without gasoline in them.
Furthermore, there is no dilemma between Li-Ion safety regulations and use of fossil fuels. We can use Li-Ions and require them to meet some safety regs.
And they're heavily regulated so that they cannot reasonably be sold in most countries. Calling for similar regulation for EVs and other electrically powered devices just makes sense in my book.
The other option is we never mine anything ever again and let countries with less environmental protections do the dirty work which is net worse for the environment.
It's cheaper and technically "clean" since you aren't actually doing any damage or pollution directly.
From what I can see, this technologie is the future to a green world. We could ultimately have a distributed power system where every home has its own battery with solar panels on top. How fucking awesome would that be. Not even an eletrical grid failure would be a problem anymore.
Manufacturers wrote in the product manual 'do not charge device for more than 4 hours'. US consumers left it charging overnight. The devices reliably caught fire when charging for more than about 15 hours. They just didn't have circuitry to stop charging when full.
The same used to be the case in the 1960's in the USA - many of us remember the instructions on battery chargers how to calculate the number of charging hours required and to set an alarm or timer to stop the charge at the right time. If you screwed that up, they were nicd batteries so they'd just split open and hiss.
That is now resolved for new devices - you can't easily buy a device from China which has a lithium battery and doesn't have a battery overcharge protection circuit.
Do you have any source articles about that? I can't quite tell your intended level of sarcasm around "misunderstanding".
Because that design, where a device that's left plugged in too long then just ignites, is ridiculously stupid from any side of the equation, especially since over the past 20 years people have been trained with things like cell phones to just plug it in and leave it. I wonder how this "self igniting" design got through any regulatory constraints at all.
I also found hoverboards that have an 8s battery pack, just hooked straight to a constant voltage power supply, with no balancing circuit or charge current limiting, so some cells will end up overcharged and emit gas. There's also no protection against charging after overdischarge, which will also usually end up with a fire.
Good news: Most EVs have very good BMSs.
Bad news: Lots of small consumer devices with Li-Ion batteries have lousy BMSs or none at all. Which is why their batteries don't last long and sometimes catch fire. If cheap manufacturers would stop trying to skimp on the BMS the problem would be over.
It was recently reported that Ford is working on LFP packs for their Mustang and F-150 Lightning EVs.
Perhaps they would fit for PHEV usage, but for pure EVs they would be rather shite imo.
Charge rate on modern, well-managed LFP cells is not abysmal. The LFP Model 3 SR gets excellent charging speeds.
It'll be a great solution for grid energy storage.
I'd be shocked if most short range EVs don't end up with LFPs.
Doesn't seem like too good of an option unless they're really like a quarter of the price, which I'm not exactly seeing. They seem rather on par, with maybe a 10% reduction in price.
> gets excellent charging speeds
Since the battery is larger, yes. But per unit, no.
This is incorrect. Range increases due to added capacity faster than it decreases due to added weight here. It's approximately the same range, even with all the extra weight.
> Since the battery is larger, yes. But per unit, no.
Not sure I see the problem here? As a (non-Tesla) EV owner, I have never once cared about what my per-unit charging speed is over the charging speed of the battery pack as a whole.
The phrase "range anxiety" has been with us for almost 25 years, so it's about time.
This is not happening with batteries ;)
The overwhelming majority of people don't need more than 50 miles range the overwhelming majority of the time. The problem would be solved if you could just put your house battery or a rented one in the boot for that rare long trip.
Additionally make all vehicles on the road slower, smaller, and lighter so you can safely drive something that more closely resembles a velomobile than an SUV and safely drive anywhere at 80km/h rather than having 100km/h as the minimum.
1C or 0.5C is completely fine, nothing needs to do 0-100km/h in under 20s, and as long as it can do around 15m/s up a 10% hill it has enough power.
A non-hybrid with an electric range of 50 miles when new would likely be a market flop. I love my LEAF, but I’d not buy a car with that little range again.
I don’t want to be stopping all the time and even less want to be unpacking and repacking my trunk regularly to move a 75 pound battery in and out.
Nissan figured that out and put a 40kWh battery into their base model. Mine is 24kWh. A 50 mile range would be something like a 16kWh battery. Unless that’s a hybrid, I think it would flop in the market.
An advantage of cylindrical cells is that they allow for more effective cooling, but that’s not so necessary with LFP.
LFP's where getting ridiculously cheap recently, you can get 19" rack mount batteries with built in BMS for less than $300 / kWh to your door. I think most UPS are going to move over to LFP, they will be 20 year batteries in controlled environments.
I put some 12v replacements in my RV getting 4X the capacity of my lead acid at half the weight for about 3x the cost but the batteries will last 10+ years.
The main downside is a lower energy density than NMC which seems to be getting better I believe its about 20% less kWh/kg at this point. No nickel or cobalt is another advantage, iron is plentiful.
Nickel is a problem but you might be surprised to know that cobalt is fairly plentiful. The issue is it doesn't have a whole lot of industry usage outside of batteries. That's why it's a human rights problem. Instead of mining it locally we use small time mining operations with cheap (often child) labor.
In other words, the amounts needed to meet global demand are below the demand needed to setup industrial cobalt mining operations.
This is why iron phosphate are both great key materials. Both are highly plentiful AND highly useful outside of battery production (thus, already have industrial mining/recycling systems setup)
There was recently discussion about opening old cobalt mines in idaho (my home state). 
We’re quite happy with ships have huge reserves of flammable liquids (“fuel”) so why are batteries such a concern? Gas (methane, LPG, etc) doesn’t get this level of attention so why do batteries?
Every week there is a fire on a cargo ship. Most are not caused by the cargo. But when the cargo catches fire you want to be able to put it out before the whole ships turns into scrap.
It might sound like an odd question, but we have experience with this in Norway, and the results are counterintuitive. Cars in a large airport parking garage caught fire, and it had many EVs in it. Not a single battery pack caught fire. Only the interior of the EVs did. If they were all EVs the fire would likely be less severe, or not have started at all (an ICE car started it)
Battery packs are very well insulated against fires.
Assuming the fire doesn't go completely out of control, I don't see a reason to worry much about battery packs catching fire.
Putting out an EV battery fire basically entails dumping enormous amounts of water on it to keep the temperature under control until it's cool enough that it doesn't auto-ignite as soon as you stop. That can take hours.
I tend to agree that the risk of EV fires is overblown. ICE cars catch on fire all the time and we don't usually hear about it because it's not all that rare or unusual. It just doesn't make the news. EV fires are a novelty so we hear about them. (Not that any amount of vehicle fires is okay.)
I do think though that if you're moving thousands of cars together on a ship, then that's maybe creating a different kind of risk profile.
I look forward to wider adoption of LFP batteries. They aren't immune to fire; I think the electrolyte is still flammable. They just aren't nearly as energetic when they burn, and they're harder to ignite in the first place.
I kind of wonder if it would help to pack batteries with something that requires a huge amount of energy to vaporize, so that the heat from a battery fire just goes into a state transition of some inert substance. (You could boil water off for instance, but maybe there's something more weight-efficient.)
That's a problem fire departments are still trying to adapt to, many resorting to putting out the fire conventionally, then submerging the car in a water-filled container.
But I'm unclear on how that makes the risk profile worse for ships? The initial fire should be easier to contain with EVs than with gasoline cars because EV batteries are much better protected than fuel tanks, and water for cooling affected vehicles for a couple hours is plentiful. It's a ship after all.
Maybe there's a discussion to be had about modifications to fire fighting equipment and staffing because of the different demands, but I don't see how the risk is bigger.
Gasoline-powered vehicles aren't fueled when loaded onto a ship, so they don't really pose much of a fire hazard. However for EVs this is a problem, because it's very difficult to completely drain a lithium battery.
> water for cooling affected vehicles for a couple hours is plentiful. It's a ship after all.
Getting the water to all those vehicles is the hard part. If enough of the EVs catch fire the only realistic way to get that much water to the fire is to get the deck below water level, which tends to be very bad for a ship.
Bilge pumps should be able to keep up with firefighting pumps. But, yes, the firefighting pumps won't be able to handle more than several cars on fire.
Flooding a ship's hold with water is generally regarded as a bad thing.
In any case. Fire risk on ships is a matter for insurers. There are a lot of EVs that are going to be shipped around in the next decades. And the shipping business is big business. I'm sure they'll figure it out. Lots of ships catching fire would get costly. So, the prudent thing would be to do the math and take appropriate counter measures. But I seriously doubt any insurers are losing much sleep over this incident.
There are also ships that carry the fuel for ICE cars around; or at least the raw ingredients for it (oil). Or liquid gas. Highly flamable stuff. Very toxic. Nasty when it gets out. Oil tankers do untold amounts of damage to the environment when they sink and spill their load. Happens fairly regularly. Insurers are all over that kind of thing as well.
If you actually genuinely care about cars spontaneously combusting, there are hundreds of people that die in ICE car fires every year. ICE car fires are so common that it's one of the most common reasons for fire trucks to be called. Hundreds of thousands of times per year in the US apparently. ICE cars are not safe at all; they never have been. They catch fire in all sorts of situations. In your garage, while they are parked, when you crash them, or when you drive on the motorway. It happens to old cars; it happens to new cars. So, where's the big outrage over good old ICE car fires? There is none. Double standards. Or rather there's a lobby interested in talking about one thing but very much not about the other thing.
Which is of course what is going on here. This article is on a web site aimed at ICE car enthusiast that no doubt depends on advertising, sponsoring, etc. by various car manufacturers. Spreading FUD about EVs whenever they can. Just so the fearful masses keep on buying ICE cars.
Once the fire actually involves "serious" electricity...well, then you've got (1) "can't blow out" birthday candles from Hell, (2) "spray water on it and you may die by electrocution" issues, and (3) the fire has Unlocked a whole new way to Level Up fast, which does not depend upon the traditional "fire triangle" (fuel, oxygen, and heat).
*Or maybe you can't. Ask any fire fighter whether things get magically easy if there's no electricity involved.
But you are right that it's maybe harder to set the battery on fire in the first place.
So you ship the EVs without batteries, and then... you ship the batteries?
So most shipments of cars are hazard free and cheap (to insure).
And then you have high risk battery shipments.
With lots of expensive measures to minimize risks and fail safe.
(This is already today a thing, as you can ship items without batteries for less money.)
As the article points out, it is probably necessary to change best practises of handling electric vs. combustion engined cars. Making really sure, that no car moves and crashes into others, change in firefighting strategies. Make sure, that the cars only contain a minimum amount of charge and of course continue to improve battery safety itself.
Special ships and specially trained and certified crews to savely handle de facto explosive equipment vs. totally hazzard proof expensive boxes of metal.
It might make sense to do this in big quantities. Probably will considered, after insurance companies raise rates after the first ship sank completely due to one carfire, that spread. Even with low charge they can burn out of itself. But sure, there are many other ways to deal with it.
I see what you are saying, but the way we mitigate the fire and explosion hazards on oil and gas transport ships is not really applicable to roll-on/roll-off ships.
The oil tankers and LNG ships use a technic called innert atmosphere to protect their cargo from fire hazard. The idea is that they fill the ulage spaces with a gas low in oxygen to make sure an explosive mixture can’t form.
It would be very hard to innert the whole cargo space of a RO/RO ship the same way, might damage the cargo, would be hazardous to the operators and wouldn’t actually help with a potential thermal runaway of a battery anyway. I will discuss these points in detail:
How do they generate this innerting gas usually? There are two main options. You either use nitrogen, or you pipe in the exhaust gas of the engines. Nitrogen would probably be cost prohibitive. The RO/RO ships are cavernous. The exhaust gas based sytem would cost less, but would damage the cargo. Nobody would want a car which reeks like an ashtray.
The innerted atmosphere is obviously incompatible with human occupancy, yet the cars are usually driven on and off these carriers by a small army of operators. So you need to have processes to vent the innert atmosphere before the vehicles can be embarked/dissembarked, and you need other processes to ensure the venting worked properly otherwise your shore crew will suffocate. This adds complexity, and risks to the operation. This is not a problem on tankers because there nobody needs to enter the tanks during normal operations.
And then finaly why it might not help after all? The nature of electric vehicle battery thermal runaway is such that it doesn’t require oxygen from the atmosphere. It is an exotermic reaction, but not a “fire” in the fire-triangle sense.
So all in all, the one big trick of the tankers can’t be used with vehicle carrying operations. Thus the analogy is less than useful. Not saying that we can’t carry EVs safely, just that our ability to carry fuels safely does not in any way correlate with our ability to carry EVs safely.
Ironically, what is often claimed as a fundamental problem with batteries, their lower energy density than fuel, should make them less dangerous in the case of a disaster in the case of a fire. But the nature of the fire is differently and needs to be handled accordingly. (Of course, shipped cars probably only contain a minimum amount of fuel, but likewise, electric cars would only be minimally charged)
That means sprinkler systems and well-crewed ships that can quickly respond to a fire in one of the decks.
Unfortunately, the shipping industry is effectively unregulated because workers don't dare complain about anything.
Ships have the bare minimum in equipment, likely in poor condition, operated by people who are paid peanuts, poorly trained, etc.
"Simple mechanical damage" to the battery in an EV is a lot harder than you think. The packs are designed to remain intact in crashes...
Ships do need to adapt their firefighting process for Lithium-Ion batteries. But I'm not convinced about impacts causing fire.
This one shows the result of a ship passing nearby a Category 3 hurricane and teh aftermath https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7EqGzO_qsc
No risk of that happening here >:D
Shipping cars in containers sized structures could be a more realistic approach perhaps.
Doesn't look to be an industry wide thing though.
This is why per-cell fusing is a thing in newer designs and why weld quality is super important during manufacture.
There's also the possibility that a battery just catches on fire all by itself because of a manufacturing defect. It can happen.
Speculation about risk is literally what insurance companies do; how they determine the terms of insurance.
I learned a lot from this. One, shipping is pretty fly-by-night. Operators are winging it and trusting to luck in a lot of cases; failing to secure cargo for expediency for example. That's more corroboration than new knowledge. Two, fires are common on cargo ships: 14 times a year some cargo ship starts burning for some reason, car carriers being among the more frequent. Small fires that are quickly contained aren't included in that figure because they don't get reported. Three, car carrying ships aren't prepared to deal with cascading lithium battery fires. They can handle ICE fires but haven't yet adapted to the electric vehicles they're actually starting to carry in quantity. Four, the people that have to analyze the risks involved because they're liable for the costs are more candid about electric car fires; they say straight up that "lithium-ion batteries—they can ignite a lot more vigorously as compared to any other cars" and "a high impact on these cars and a lithium-ion battery can ignite them." A refreshing change from the obligatory handwaving and cognitive dissonance one gets at all other times.
In electronics there is the concept of a bathtub curve. The frequency of component failure is high when the components are new. The frequency decreases afterwards and later increases again with old age.
Applied to cargo ships full of electric cars with millions of brand new battery cells, obviously the risk that some battery will ignite and sink the ship has to be considered. And it will be considered -- if only by insurance companies -- whether electric car proponents like it or not.
What exactly did you identify as FUD in this article?
If I remember right, lithium ion batteries explode if over discharged. I have no idea why self discharge doesn't cause old forgotten laptops to routinely catch fire.
Indeed, soon they will be everywhere. Think not only of cargo ships but of traffic, rows of parked cars, whole carparks, etc.
In this case, the change is that was probably considered an inert cargo (cars) will now have be considered a potentially hazardous cargo perhaps requiring extra safety measures.
Accidents/incidents can always happen but at smaller scale means smaller issues...
Also, since the crew survived, why are they so concerned to get the voice recorder? Is it just because of the recorded alarm information, and if so why keep referring to it as a voice recorder and not a black box.
Just like with aircraft accidents, the conversations can provide as much (or sometimes more) value as the data. It gives you insight into decision making, details that may not be recorded in the data ("I was just in area XYZ and I saw sparks coming out of one of the vehicles"), etc.
Russian criminals were stealing rich boys million dollar yachts a few years ago.
They would board the ships when the skeleton crew was off the ship.
They would take the transponder, and put in model hobby ships.
The owner, and authorities thought their yacht was exactly where they left it.
The Russian thieves would take the yachts back to Russia.
(I thought is was clever. They stole millions of dollars in terms of yachts, and were eventually caught buy Interpol.
Also hello I think I rode your self balancing scooter at robo games in 2005. Or maybe you just showed it to me. Your web pages with details of your scooter projects were great inspiration to me as I went through college in anticipation of my future career in robotics (which is now going great).
I’ve actually got a clip of that 2005 Robo Games on my YouTube channel if you want a bit of nostalgia. I’m the blonde kid talking about the art bots!
How much environmental damage could that possibly cause vs. acidification from dissolved CO2?
(It would be good to reduce the number of barges that sink and also address global warming, of course!)
Sustaining an electrical charge difference across the poles of the cell by undergoing a chemical reaction.
For the common NMC batteries used in cars, I think the other metals start as oxides, which get reduced to oxidise the lithium.
In any case, I doubt that an inert atmosphere would help much.
A better approach might be to have high-capacity water pipes pre-plumbed to allow flood cooling of the affected cars. Possibly from underneath.
Pick the phone up and call Tesla logistics department. They’ll fill you right in.
Everyone knows EVs are powered by the disembodied souls of the damned. Of course they can't cross over salt water!
Perhaps there are forces working to ensure they don't succeed in that.
It would probably help a lot to ship them with less charge.
For the tar that a container ship burns, it's not going to be very volatile. Coal also burns quite well, but unless it's powdered, good luck trying to ignite some with just a match.
Special ships? That probably depends on the economics. If the Electric Car Industry makes it worth a shippers while - Someone will invest in a special purpose vehicle.
So now we are at the first stages of this - in time - if the industry succeeds - the money will come.
Also: a couple of burned and sunk ships is a much cheaper price to pay than climate change. If the cost of the odd lithium fire is a lot, wait till you factor in the costs of the emissions of an ICE over the vehicle lifetime.
This reeks of FUD during the death throes of the petrochemical industry, tbh.