Electric vehicles may be the wave of the future, but in at least one Bay Area city they are also posing new hazards for their owners and first responders alike.

At least six recent fires in Berkeley have been caused by lithium-ion batteries left unattended while charging, fire officials there said recently.

The battery fires involved e-skateboards, e-scooters, and at least one e-bike, the Berkeley Fire Department said in a statement.

“Electric bikes, scooters, and other devices are important to building sustainable transportation in our community,” Fire Chief Dave Sprague said. “As these and other devices become an increasing part of our lives, we also want to be smart in how we use and take care of them.”

YouTube video
Lithium batteries power most of the wireless devices and electric vehicles currently in use. They are mostly safe, but can fail spectacularly when they do, potentially causing major fires. This video shows several examples of lithium-ion battery fires. (Firechief/YouTube)

Lithium batteries have the potential to overheat, short circuit, or catch fire in a chain reaction from overcharging, the department said.

Consumers should use the original manufacturers’ chargers, batteries, or replacements, and charge for only as long as it takes to reach full capacity, then disconnect from the power source, the department said.

Batteries that appear swollen, dented, or otherwise damaged should be discarded, according to the department.

If a fire breaks out, the department advises to evacuate the area and call 911.