- A Lime bike caught on fire in Seattle last week, as did the company’s warehouse.
- Fires have plagued the quickly growing micromobility industry, which relies on small electric vehicles to power its fleets of bikes, scooters, and more.
- A Lime representative said the isolated incident appeared to be caused by vandalism.
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Micromobility startup Lime is the latest victim of bike and scooter fires that have plagued many startups in the quickly growing industry.
Two overnight fires broke out at the Uber-backed company’s warehouse in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle last week, the local news website MyBallard reports. The fire department responded twice in the same night after the fires reignited, a common pattern with fires involving lithium-ion batteries.
A video of a Lime bike on fire near the University of Washington campus also surfaced last week on Reddit. A fire department official told Crosscut that it’s likely the first time a crew has responded to a bike fire.
A Lime representative said the isolated incident was caused by vandalism, adding that significant damage to any lithium-ion battery, even in a phone or laptop, could cause a fire.
"After an initial investigation this appears to be an isolated incident as a result of someone forcibly tampering with the bike battery," the company said. "We continue to work closely with local authorities and are thankful no one was hurt. Our bikes are entirely safe when used properly, and we remind riders that vandalism is dangerous and illegal."
To be sure, three fires is a small number compared to the 287,000 trips taken in July 2019 throughout Seattle, according to the city's department of transportation. Uber's Jump bike service, which uses bikes very similar to those of Lime, also operates bike rentals in the city.
There have been no Jump fires to Business Insider's knowledge, but the company recently unveiled a new bike design which will utilize replaceable batteries very similar to those employed by Lime.
Lyft, which received a permit from Seattle for electric bikes in 2018 but has not launched them in the city, pulled its electric bike fleet from San Francisco in July, less than a month after launch, because of two mysterious fires.
"Out of an abundance of caution, we are temporarily making the ebike fleet unavailable to riders while we investigate and update our battery technology," a Lyft spokesperson told Business Insider at the time.
As electric vehicles - including bikes, scooters and cars - continue to grow in popularity, so too have fires. Fires involving Tesla vehicles, some of which have occurred seemingly spontaneously, can take hours and hundreds of gallons of water to extinguish.
"There are really only a few reasons why a lithium-ion battery catches on fire," Brock Archer, an auto-extrication and fire-rescue expert told Business Insider's Linette Lopez in March. "Liquid, dead short," or, for every one battery cell in a billion, "spontaneous combustion."