The fire in Recoleta, in which three boys, a teenager and a woman diedwas caused by the malfunction of the lithium battery of a electric skateboard.
The prosecutor Sebastian Fedulloin charge of the investigation, said this Friday that “there could be several causes” that explain the reaction of the batteries, but explained that “there was no explosion” and pointed out that “sometimes an effect is generated as if it were a Bengalwhich produces a flame that then spreads”.
Asked about the possible reasons for the episode, the prosecutor said that it is related to the sudden exothermic reaction of lithium batteriesbelonging to an electric “skateboard scooter”.
The hypotheses are various.: overload or excessive discharges, knocks on the cells or exposure to heat sources, whose thermal potential is transmitted to the elements suitable for burning.
What are lithium batteries
exist different types of lithium batteries. The most common are the non-rechargeable ones, like the ones we can use for the remote control batteries or the ones that are coin-shaped (CR2032for example) and rechargeablelike the ones we can have on our cell phone.
These latter, known as lithium ion batteries, are devices with different energy cells that store electrical energy. And this type of battery is what caused the fire in Recoleta.
What signs can anticipate the failure of a lithium battery
First of all, you have to understand that these failures are rare. “Batteries are generally giving signs. Unless it comes out with a factory fault or takes a hit, it’s very difficult for it to explode out of nowhere”explained the electronic engineer Michael Aguirrein dialogue with radio Urban Play.
“One indication is that it overheats, which is noticeable to the touch. It is important that it does not get too hot. If it swells it also means that it needs a change. And another hint is that take longer to load either run out of battery after a short time of use the device. The manuals say that its use must be discontinued and changed when these symptoms appear, “he added.
On the other hand, the expert clarified that “batteries used for electric traction” require additional care than smaller devices, because “move a motorcycle, a bicycle or a skateboard for two or three hours in a city requires much more energy“.
And he closed: “You have to check that they don’t get hot when charging, that they don’t swell and take care if they don’t last long. And always use chargers of the corresponding brand. When in doubt, consult a technical service”.
What devices use lithium batteries
Various devices use lithium batteries. Photo Pexels
Among the most common devices that use these batteries are, first of all, the cellphones. The world learned of the potential problems with these batteries in 2016, when Samsung had to recall 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 phones, top of the range at the time, after the units had a tendency to suddenly explode and catch fire. They became prohibited on commercial flights.
But phones aren’t the only electronics that use lithium batteries. Today we are surrounded after all, of this chemical component.
Laptops were among the first to use them. AP Photo
Laptops are the second most commonly exposed device, due to the amount of use they are put through. usually give and for its portability.
Samsung Galaxy Watch4. Photo: Samsung
Smart watches are also powered by lithium batteries. Because of the location where they are, that is, the doll, they can be a problem that carries a health risk.
video game controls
Xbox controller: battery operated. Photo Microsoft
The “joysticks”, as it is said in the jargon, of video games, whether from Xbox, Nintendo or Playstation, use lithium or alkaline batteries.
The Xbox ones, for example, use common batteries, so it is less common for them to be exposed to these accidents. But those of Playstation and Nintendo Switch carry rechargeable batteries.
Ebooks, other devices that contain lithium. Photo: Shutterstock
The electronic readers They also use this technology. With much longer durations than other devices, they use lithium to function properly.
Tablets, like phones, use lithium. AP Photo
Like cell phones, tablets use lithium batteries. For this reason, you have to pay attention to its dimensions (that they do not swell), since temperature tends to rise from useEspecially if you play video games.
Sony WH-CH510, BT headphones. Photo sony
Many brands of bluetooth earphones and headphones They use lithium ion batteries.
Premium computer peripherals have become popular lately. HyperX photo.
Headphones, microphones, mice and keyboards are now often connected wirelessly. This means that they have to use lithium batteries to be able to operate.
Skateboards and electric bicycles
Lithium batteries in an electric bike. Photo Pexels
This was the case that triggered the situation in Recoleta.
Thus, all these devices are exposed, to a greater or lesser extent, to the danger of exploding. It happens that the combustible components, separated by extremely thin walls, increase your chance of overheating and this can lead to an incident.
The safety of the device depends on the quality of construction of these walls: if they do not work well, chemical reactions can be generated that generate fire.
For all these reasons, while it can happen as seen this week, it is an atypical event.