It is time for some safety instructions for electric surfboard batteries. The risk might be low, but what can you do to even lower the risk of a fire?
DISCLAIMER: We do not manufacture batteries and take no responsibility for any damage which can happen from a burning battery. This article is to collect feedback from manufacturers, professional researchers and users how to make the storage of the batteries safer. This does not mean that these tips make it 100% safe. The manufacturers have to come up with safe storage solutions and we hope this article will help to accelerate this process.
Update: We now have fireproof battery cases in our shop.
Just recently we got interviewed from Mike at Jetsurfingnation about this topic:
We all heard about burning Samsung Galaxy smartphones and also about Tesla cars who caught fire. This is unfortunately the nature of the lithium ion battery technology in this early stage. It does not happen very often, but it can always happen. Our safety instructions for electric surfboard batteries cannot completely eliminate this risk and we will not take any responsibility (we are not producing electric surfboards), but if you follow our tips the risk might be lower.
The risk for an electric surfboard battery is even higher than with smartphones or cars as the battery is used in the water. Especially salt water is increasing the risk. This should not mean that you should not use electric surfboards, but you should take the risk in account and follow the safety instructions for electric surfboard batteries.
We had a chance to talk to Juergen Kunkelmann, a leading fire protection researcher from the Institut of Technology (KIT) in Karlsruhe, Germany. Juergen has already published 2 research projects around fire protection for lithium ion technology and mentioned that there is currently no ideal solution for powerful battery pack of the size needed by an electric surfboard.
He is mainly worried about eBikes as they are shipping in high volumes and the first fires were reported. Electric surfboard batteries carry even more energy. Juergen suggested the storage in plastic, aluminium or steel boxes. Aluminium is melding at 600 degrees celsius, so in addition he suggested to fill up the box with fire protection granulate such like Extover/lithium-battery-fire-protection/ or PyroBubbles.
The quality of a battery pack is an important point here. About 30 - 40 % of the cost of materials for an electric surfboard is for the battery pack. Cheaper boards would use cheaper battery cells to bring the price down. This increases the risk. The best cells are currently produced in Korea from companies like LG and Samsung, but there also cheap battery cells from China available.
Why can batteries catch fire?
This can have different reasons. It might be a production failure as seen with the Samsung Galaxy or it might be because the battery cells get destroyed by an car accident like with the Tesla cars.
With electric surfboards it can also happen when water gets into the battery pack. Only one cell of the battery block (it can be hundreds of cells depending on the battery pack) needs to fail and overheat and can cause a chain reaction which is not to stop.
Safety instructions for electric surfboard batteries
So what can you do minimise the risk?
- When storing the batteries make sure they are not charged more than 10-20%-. Less charge means less energy and this means less damage and risk. Never store your batteries fully charged.
- For extended storage, it’s recommended to charge the battery every 1 or 2 months for 15 minutes. Always keep the capacity below 20% when keeping the battery in extended storage. Depth discharge can also harm the battery, this is why you should charge them a bit every 1-2 months.
- Avoid any shocks to the battery. Hard shocks can damage the cells. This does not mean they catch fire right away. It may take hours, days or even weeks. Don't let them fall. Be careful when putting them on the ground. Secure them if you are transporting them in a car.
- Store them in a fire safe box. When you store your battery at home it is even more important to be very careful. We suggest to store the batteries in fire resistant boxes such like the ones from Zarge, Genius Technologies or others. The Zarge boxes are made out of Aluminium and therefore you need to add the granulate as mentioned above.
We got a test video from Torque Jetboards who put several expensive battery packs under fire in several months to come up with a solution. They suggest a steel box with a special bag in combination. Torque will offer the solution to their customers and other manufacturers.
We also got a quote for different solutions from Genius Technologies who are specialised on fire protection and storage. I am uploading them here:
- Don't let them overheat in the sun. Don't let your battery sit in the sun for several hours, so that they can overheat. Put them into the shadow - ideally on a cold ground.
- Don't open the battery pack. If you open your battery pack the risk is very high that it might be not waterproof anymore. If water comes into the battery it can catch fire.
- Only charge the under supervision. Always charge batteries under supervision in an appropriate area and store them in a dry and safe place. Don't charge the batteries before they cooled down. Wait 1-2 hours (depending on the environment temperature) after your ride to charge the battery.
- Disconnect the battery from the board when storing. Do not leave the battery connected in the board if you don’t use it. The battery powers electronic electronic components from the moment it is inserted in the board. Although the power consumption is very low, it is not recommended to leave batteries in the board for longer periods without using the board.
How to prepare the storage room
- Try to store the batteries in a garage or garden house as far as possible away from where people are living and sleeping.
- You should have a smoke detector in the room where you are storing your batteries.
- Keep at least 2-3 buckets of sand to cover the battery in case it starts burning and a fire extinguisher to put out fire when anything else in the room catches fire.
We hope these safety instructions for electric surfboard batteries will help you to minimise the risk of a fire. We get more and more feedback from the manufacturers about this articles. Many of them are currently working with professional companies for brand protection and dangerous goods packaging in order to come up with solutions in the near future.
UPDATE: Please read our follow up article Lithium Ion battery storage and transport
Please continue the discussion at: forum.e-surfer.com/safety-instructions