China Daily (Hong Kong)

E-bike battery blazes reducible risk

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Five people died in a fire in a rental apartment in Tongzhou district of Beijing on Monday morning. The fire department said the blaze was caused by lithium batteries of electric bicycles catching fire when they were charging

According to data released by the Fire and Rescue Department of the Ministry of Emergency Management, about 2,000 e-bike-related fires occur in the country every year, 80 percent of which are started by batteries being charged. The Ministry of Emergency Management has issued regulation­s banning the charging of electric bike batteries in civil buildings. But it hasn’t stopped the practice.

Many neighborho­ods do not have enough charging stations to meet the needs of their residents who use e-bikes, so people take the batteries home to charge them, usually at night. Worse, some of the batteries are second-hand and have long surpassed their designed service lives, and some are modified to extend their capacity. Fire accidents cannot be avoided by simply prohibitin­g the charging of e-bike batteries at home, more should be done to address the root causes.

On the one hand, the government must accelerate the constructi­on of charging facilities in neighborho­ods to make it more convenient for people to charge their e-bike batteries safely and also bring down the charging price with more charging facilities available.

A key reason why people prefer charging the batteries at home to charging them at the neighborho­od’s charging stations is that the charging price of the former is much less than the latter. Most of the e-bike users belong to the low-income group that rely on e-bikes to commute long distance on a daily basis. They are more sensitive to the costs of charging.

If there are enough charging facilities and the charging price becomes reasonable, few commuters would like to charge the batteries at home.

On the other hand, the authoritie­s must shut down the black market selling expired and modified batteries. There should be a national system overseeing the disposal of used e-bike and e-car batteries. Some of them might still be able to be recycled after proper treatment. But that has to be done by qualified battery enterprise­s and the recycled batteries must be clearly marked and meet certain standards.

Given the large numbers of e-bike and e-car batteries that expire every day, it is urgent to build up the battery disposal platforms across the country to make the industrial chains complete and better protect people’s lives and property, as well as the environmen­t. Green developmen­t is much more than simply replacing oil and coal with electricit­y and gas.

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