Over the past couple of years, there have been many stories about lithium batteries in devices such as hoverboards, electric bicycles, laptops and handphones catching fire. The most recent and probably most wide-spread case is the Samsung Note 7 smartphone, the new flagship product from Samsung which has, literally, "gone up in flames".
So` how about mobility aids? New motorised wheelchairs and mobility scooters such as the KD Smartchair, PW-800AX, PW-1000XL, Solax Mobie and Solax Genie are all using lithium batteries. What is the best way to avoid such incidents?
You can find a few useful tips below:
1. First of all, buy products that are branded and have been known in the market for some time. All of the products offered by Falcon Mobility are well-known products that have been in the market, whether locally or overseas, for at least 6 months or more.
Avoid products that come from shady manufacturers, that are too cheap to be true, and claim to be able to run huge distances but charge in half the time compared with the well-known models.
Lithium batteries are one of the most expensive components in the mobility scooter or motorised wheelchair. Reliable lithium cell manufacturers invest a lot of money and effort into R&D to come up with safe, reliable designs, and also QC to make sure the end product is manufactured according to specifications. If the product is too cheap to be true, it's probably using cheaply-manufactured batteries.
2. Use compatible batteries and chargers.
Overcharging is one of the reasons why lithium batteries explode. Most batteries are designed to prevent that, the charger has to be compatible as well. If in doubt, it is best to buy the original charger supplied by the manufacturer.
3. Do not overcharge
Try not to charge your scooter or wheelchair longer than is necessary. Once the charger light has turned green, turn it off.
It is best to charge it in the day so that you can monitor the charger and turn it off at night before you sleep. But if you do need to charge it overnight, you can still do it, but do make sure to turn it off in the morning. Do not leave it plugged in when it is fully charged for an extended period of time, as this is very damaging to your battery.
Yes, this is quite different from the advice we normally give to clients buying lead-acid battery powered devices, where the best practice is the charge daily, every night, at least 8 hours a day. But lead-acid batteries have a different chemistry, and the risk of catching fire is very, very much lower compared with lithium batteries.
This video from The Verge explains why lithium batteries catch fire in a very easy-to-understand way.