Firefighters and investigators look over the aftermath of a fire that authorities say started at an e-                bike shop and spread upstairs to apartments on June 20 in New York.

Lithium-ion batteries, which power a wide range of rechargeable devices such as smartphones and electric cars, have recently raised safety concerns due to a series of fires in New York. Experts acknowledge that while the risk of fires is small, it is still a real concern, especially with higher-energy batteries found in electric bikes and scooters of varying quality. Fires caused by lithium-ion batteries can spread quickly and are difficult to extinguish. To stay safe, it is advisable to avoid purchasing cheap products and to take battery damage seriously. Even if you don't own an electric bike or scooter, you are still at risk if those around you have unsafe ones. It is important to remember the benefits of lithium-ion batteries and greener transportation, but precautions should be taken to minimize the risks associated with them.
Purchase from reputable retailers and seek out UL certification
According to Chris Cramer, the senior vice president and chief research officer for the safety organization UL Research Institutes, it is likely that the fires reported in electric transportation devices were caused by products from manufacturers that took shortcuts in battery design and testing.

Therefore, if you are planning to buy a product with a larger lithium-ion battery, such as an electric scooter or bike, it is important to purchase from a trusted website or store. Be cautious of brands that offer significantly lower prices compared to their competitors, as the quality may be compromised. Remember, you get what you pay for.

Choose products that have been certified to meet safety and testing standards. Look for the symbol of the letters "UL" enclosed in a circle. Typically, you can find this symbol on the product box, label, or manual. Daniel Flynn, the chief fire marshal with the New York Fire Department, advises consumers to also consider the European safety standard marked with a "CE." If you do not see any certification label on a product website, it is recommended to inquire about it before making a purchase.

Cramer assures that well-manufactured devices are generally safe. Matt Moore from the bicycle manufacturing trade group PeopleForBikes adds that most bike retailers only sell and service battery-powered products from brands that meet these quality safety standards. Flynn's team is currently investigating whether certain electric transportation manufacturers pose higher risks than others.

                Higher-energy lithium-ion batteries are found in products including electric scooters.

It is important to note that this advice specifically applies to products powered by lithium-ion batteries that are intended for individual purchase. Lime and other reputable companies are generally considered safe options for renting electric bikes and scooters, according to individuals I spoke with.

It is worth mentioning that many of the reported fires may have been caused by heavy-duty electric transportation devices commonly used for delivery jobs or other work purposes. The challenges related to safe and affordable electric transportation for low-wage commercial workers are beyond the scope of this article, but for a more in-depth exploration, please refer to the Vice article mentioned.

David Mitlin, an engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin, emphasizes the need for regulators to take stronger actions in protecting consumers from poorly manufactured imported electric transportation products.

When it comes to battery safety, it's important to be mindful of the battery's health and how you charge it. If you accidentally run over your phone with your car, notice that your laptop is swelling, or crash your e-bike, damaged batteries can pose a higher fire risk. However, fires from working smartphones are rare, according to Flynn.

If you encounter any of these situations, it's wise to have the product checked by a repair expert and consider stopping its use or charging. Additionally, if you notice an electrical smell or unusual heat coming from a product with a rechargeable battery, take it seriously.

Flynn emphasizes the importance of using a charger specifically designed for your product, especially for devices like electric bikes and scooters with higher-powered batteries. Just because a charger fits doesn't mean it's safe, he warns.

Even reputable manufacturers of electric transportation products should not be overlooked when considering potential fire risks, Flynn advises. It's crucial to have a plan in case of a fire and ensure that large rechargeable devices like e-bikes do not block the exit to your home.

Mitlin adds that if the battery in your phone or other rechargeable device no longer holds a charge, it may indicate internal damage to the battery.

Lithium-ion batteries, commonly used in various products, can pose a fire risk due to their ability to hold more energy compared to conventional batteries. The larger the lithium-ion battery, the more energy it can store. While a smartphone battery is less risky than a laptop battery, both are less risky than batteries found in electric scooters, electric cars, and home batteries used for solar energy storage.

In the event of a lithium-ion battery fire, the energy is released as heat rapidly, leading to a fast-spreading fire. Cramer advises against using a home fire extinguisher for lithium-ion battery fires. If you witness a fire, smoke, or bubbling from a lithium-ion battery, it's crucial to move away from it immediately and call 911.

Considering the deadly fires caused by electric transportation, there is a question of whether we should reduce the use of lithium-ion batteries in various products. However, Cramer believes that the benefits of shifting to climate-friendly transportation like electric vehicles and e-bikes outweigh the risks. He suggests investing in safer technologies such as sodium-ion batteries.

Mitlin expresses more concern about the fire risk posed by gas-powered lawn mowers and gasoline cans in garages than products with lithium-ion batteries.

It's important not to dispose of any products with batteries in the trash, especially those with lithium-ion batteries, as they can cause fires. Qualified recycling centers should handle lithium-ion batteries. If your product is rechargeable, such as a phone, wireless headphones, or power tool, it likely contains a lithium-ion battery. Look for the name "Li-ion" and a blue seal if the battery is visible.

Recycling lithium-ion batteries is not only better for the planet but also makes economic sense. Materials from old lithium-ion batteries can be repurposed for new ones, according to Leo Raudys, CEO of the battery recycling organization Call2Recycle. Check with your local government for information on safe electronics and battery recycling in your city or search for drop-off locations operated by Call2Recycle. Many Best Buy, Home Depot, and Staples stores offer such drop-off locations.

Call2Recycle also collaborates with manufacturers of some e-bikes to recycle higher-powered lithium-ion batteries.

Recycling and repair experts emphasize the need for increased investment in lithium-ion recycling, reuse, and repair as the demand for products with powerful batteries continues to rise.

In China, where electric bicycles, scooters, and cars are more prevalent, there is a thriving market for safe, reused lithium-ion batteries. Some individuals sell