All new technologies bring new challenges—street cars startled horses. With cars came deadly accidents. Today, the newest generation of transportation, e-scooters and e-bikes, has risks too. Specifically, battery fires. The lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles can overheat, and sometimes ignite.
Battery charging fires are the most common, and several variables can cause overheating: poor design and manufacturing, leakage, exposure to water, over-charging or using the wrong charger. Battery fires are toxic and hard to extinguish. One recent large battery fire lasted six days.
Eventually, regulations and charging infrastructure will minimize the risk of fire. But given the increase in e-bikes and e-scooters in Australia — a 500% increase in e-bike ownership in just five years — it’s been hard for personal safety practices and government regulations to keep up. Remember a time before we required seat belts in cars? Similarly we don’t yet have legislation mandating smoke detectors in garages, where most personally-owned e-vehicles are charged, often near other flammable items like gas-powered equipment.
But, there is another way—shared mobility.
Shared mobility refers to small electric vehicles like e-bikes and e-scooters, available for hire at key locations around town.
Unlike personal ownership, shared mobility adheres to more transparent, stringent protocols throughout the lifecycle of the e-bike or e-scooter. Shared mobility operating permits require regular safety audits.
Shared mobility companies use high quality batteries specifically designed for e-vehicles, with batteries tracked around town via GPS. Flat batteries are swapped out with fresh ones and returned to a warehouse where they’re checked and charged on steel racks with ample space and clearance. Damaged batteries are recycled. On average, shared mobility batteries are swapped one-to-three times a week, depending on distances ridden, ensuring that any faults are picked up by staff trained to recognise abnormalities.
Shared mobility warehouses are outfitted with smoke detectors. At Beam, we recognize the increased fire risk of e-vehicles and have specific processes and technologies to protect our communities. Each set of charging racks includes a thermographic system that instantly detects overheating and fire. It shuts off power automatically and alerts emergency responders.
There’s no denying that micromobility as a movement is expanding rapidly and showing no sign of slowing down. E-scooters and e-bikes offer a cheap, convenient, and flexible form of transportation and a green solution to reducing road traffic and emissions, but like cars in the last century, they come with hazards.
So until regulations catch up with technology, shared micromobility offers a safe way to enter this new age of transportation.
Clint Thorogood is Head of Facilities Australia and New Zealand for Beam, a micromobility company with operations across APAC and Turkey.