Battery Fire FAQ

Battery Fire FAQ

Understanding battery fires and the procedures surrounding mitigating their potential effect can be crucial in rider safety. Lithium Ion batteries have potential energy that needs to be discharged in a very specific way -- the way we designed them to. If they’re tampered with or shorted, they pose a risk to their users as well as other people and property surrounding them. 

One of the leading causes of failures are punctures or physical damage to a lithium ion battery. We follow all safety procedures to ensure their safety in manufacturing, shipping and use. It’s extremely important that you handle your battery with care until it is safely installed into the correct enclosure designed to take the level of shock your battery will go through. 

For example, a pouch cell is very soft and can be punctured easily. Once that same pack is installed in a phone, it poses a far lesser risk to its user as it’s protected by the phone’s casing.

 

What can cause a battery fire? 

Cell manufacturer defects

We purchase grade A cells from reputable manufacturers, making the chances slim that anyone will ever experience cell defects with our batteries. That being said, a notable case of this kind of defect is the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall from 2016. 

Punctures: During installation or riding

Punctures during installation of a battery are the most common cause of battery failure in Onewheel’s. Dropping, puncturing or otherwise damaging the battery could break certain connections or components inside the battery. This could be a hazard or just reduce the usability of the battery itself. It may seem simple to avoid, but you should pay extra attention to your battery’s surroundings as you install it. 

When installing the battery, make sure there is NEVER any potential for unexpected contact. When installing a battery into an enclosure it’s important to double check the length of your screws -- Screws that are too long could cause problems right away or during a ride. If they’re sticking out inside the enclosure, a bump could press the screw into the battery which could cause a fire.

When riding, you need to make sure that the battery fits into the enclosure that it belongs to. The purpose of the enclosure is to protect the battery from its environment, and it’s imperative that it serves its purpose well. We sell battery upgrades that are bigger than the stock battery, sometimes even requiring modifications to the housing for the battery to fit in. These modifications never compromise the safety of the battery or your device -- make sure to follow instructions carefully.

Dead Shorts

Batteries are all Direct Current (DC) this means electrical current flows from the negative to the positive terminals, never in a cycle (closed circuit) without first being discharged or otherwise managed. That means if there is a piece of metal or wire between the negative and positive terminals of the battery, the circuit will be closed causing what is called a dead short. Shorting a battery causes the discharge rate to skyrocket far beyond what is safe for the cells to handle.

Water can also close a circuit, as water can be conductive depending on its contents. Do not submerge your battery for any reason without a waterproof enclosure. 

Dead shorts could have sparks and sound, or could be silent and undetectable. If you notice a dead short, IMMEDIATELY disconnect the problem conductor if possible. The metal will quickly become too hot to touch, so use a tool if you have one handy. If it’s impossible to disconnect, follow the instructions below. 

 

What should I do if I have a dead short but no fire?

Before we get started, you should know what thermal runaway is. Thermal runaway is a process that battery cells undergo in which increased temperature causes a release of more energy, causing a further increase in temperature. This means that the temperature and intensity of a battery fire increases rapidly until all the fuel is spent. 

If a battery has a dead short but isn’t yet on fire, we can prevent it from reaching thermal runaway by keeping it cool. Then, professionals should cut the dead short connection to prevent any more risk. So what should we do in this situation?

Call 911

It’s important to call 911 or your local emergency services as they are trained to professionally deal with these kinds of fires. Calmly explain the situation, and be sure to tell them that it’s a lithium-ion battery.

Cool it Down With Water, Keeping Your Distance

At this point, your health is more important than the battery’s. With the emergency services on the way, it’s important to keep the battery cool to keep it from reaching thermal runaway. Pouring cool water on the battery constantly will keep it from heating up too much. If you’re able to, continuously pour cool water onto the battery while the emergency personnel make their way to you. If water is not available then substrates like sand or dirt will suffice. 

Keep Flammable Items Away

Quickly move anything flammable that could cause further damage away from the battery, while keeping yourself safe. If possible, move the surrounding items away from the battery and be sure to keep your distance. 

 

What should I do if my battery is on fire? 

Call 911

It’s important to call 911 or your local emergency services as they are trained to professionally deal with these kinds of fires. Calmly explain the situation, and be sure to tell them that it’s a lithium-ion battery fire.

Keep Your Distance

Lithium ion battery fires can be erratic and unpredictable. The fire may be moving in one direction, then quickly pivot to another as cells burst. It’s important to keep as far away from the fire as possible while still keeping an eye on it and relay that information to the emergency dispatcher.

Keep Flammable Items Away

Quickly move anything flammable that could cause further damage away from the battery, while keeping yourself safe. If possible, move the surrounding items away from the battery and be sure to keep your distance. 

Cover Your Mouth and Nose

An unseen risk of battery fires is the gas they release into the air as the cells burst. Make sure to cover your mouth and nose, and keep your distance to avoid breathing in those gases. 

Use a Class B Dry Chemical Fire extinguisher

A household Class B fire extinguisher is always a good idea to have on-hand in case of fire, and battery fires are no exception. It’s a common misconception that Lithium-ion batteries contain lithium metal: They don’t! Despite their name, the lithium-ion cells contain liquid electrolytes that provide a conductive pathway. Standard ABC or BC dry chemical fire extinguishers should be used for these, as they are classified for liquid fires.

Can I throw a blanket over a battery fire to snuff it out? 

No! A battery in a thermal runaway generates its own fuel. Snuffing out the oxygen will not help. Throwing a blanket over the battery will just cause the blanket to set on fire as well.


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