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Lithium….. really hot batteries

Just a little too hot, wouldn’t you say? A couple of evenings ago at mid-night, having handed over the watch to the Ships’ Cat, I retired to my trusty hammock to nuzzle down, just as I was drifting off I heard a distant but unfamiliar squeaking.

In my somnambulant state, I almost concluded that the squeaking must surely originate from some form of wildlife and as such was the Cats’ area of responsibility. Then, recognition struck me like a thunder-bolt…. the Office smoke alarm, where my big black e-bike sleeps. Pausing only to don my smoking jacket, after all, if there’s smoke involved, one should be present in relevant attire, I descended 15 steps in just under two seconds, to be met with a twelve inch column of flame sprouting vigorously from the top of my ‘spare’ V-Power LiFePo 36v 20ah battery.

This battery has stood, on its own, not connected to anything, not on the bike, not charging, just standing on its lonesome for about ten days, I don’t think I have so much as looked at it (perhaps that was the problem!).

I was in the process of making a aluminium case for it, which is nearly complete, dammit. Hence it’s ‘unwrapped’ look, and having just charged it, as 57 times before, stood it in a corner awaiting the next session of fitting the case.

Anyhow, back to the volcano…. the flame looks like it is getting bigger and sparkier, lots of white foul-smelling smoke filled with little black bits errupting into the room, can hardly see… grab the battery off the floor, dash with it at arms length, sparks, melting plastic, more smoke and not a little apprehension, out of the back door down to the yard, dash back to house, grab the CO2 extinguisher, back to the battery, give it a real good dose of CO2….. flames go out……flames restart…. more CO2, flames go out…. flames restart, ten minutes of this and the bloody smoke…. enough…. two gallons of water. Done. It continued to spark for another 20 minutes, doused with regular blessings of water, finally after half an hour… the beast was dead.

It was a nice battery…. it only cost £200, had plenty of guts, pushed the bike hard, charged in about 3 hours, bargain…had served me well these past 11 months.

Upon reflection, there was only one possible clue to this event, a couple of times earlier that day I found the Cat hissing at the battery, which I had not noticed it doing ever before.

I have learned a number of lessons from this:

a) Regularly check the batteries in all the smoke alarms.

b) Keep all unused batteries out of the house.

c) Fire extinguishers are a must, and ensure you have a spare.

d) Always wear slippers in the yard when dark. Slugs between the toes do not enhance any emergency.

e) Ensure pants are worn when using CO2 extinguishers. Brings a whole new meaning to ‘Mr Frosty’.

f) Always trust your Cats’ instincts. Especially if his name is ‘Smokey’.

I have always been aware of the fire hazard of any type of battery, but I not seen how fierce these big battery fires can get, there are plenty of examples on YouTube, worth a watch.

So please learn from a saddened, but wiser,


Discuss Lithium electric bike battery safety in our forum.

With thanks to Pedelecs member Beeps for the reproduction of this forum post.