Electric scooter sharing company Lime has pulled a number of Segway Ninebot scooters from its fleet after learning that a manufacturing defect could result in batteries “smoldering or, in some cases, catching fire.”
According to the company’s statement, it first learned of the issue in August. Working independently and with Segway, Lime created software to identify the scooters with these batteries, and deactivated them once identified. A Lime representative speaking to The Washington Post said that in an effort to be abundantly cautious, around 2,000 scooters were recalled in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Lake Tahoe.
The company says that at no time were members of the public at risk, but The Washington Post does mention that the fire department was called when a scooter burst into flames in August at Lime’s Lake Tahoe location. The fire department’s report says an employee went to investigate “a loud bang” and discovered “flames showing from the battery area of a scooter as well as an adjacent chair.”
Additionally, the company now has to deal with a new unconfirmed report stating that another Segway Ninebot scooter model has the same battery risk. That investigation is ongoing.
As a result of the discovery, Lime has put in effect the following changes: all Segway Ninebot scooters must be charged at Lime’s own facilities and can’t be charged by Juicers (Lime’s program to pay freelancers who charge scooters) until the battery issue is resolved; Lime is staffing all of its charging facilities with people specifically trained to handle the batteries; it has implemented a new daily testing program for its entire fleet of scooters to check battery health.
The Washington Post says that Lime employees were concerned about the scooters well ahead of the company’s public statement. An internal Slack message posted to Lime’s “mechanics” channel reads, “I feel that these scoots, or the product as a whole, should be removed from the market until they are safe to handle and operate. I get that the scoots are expendable and replaceable, but are we now resigned to say the same for the safety of employees and customers?”
Lime also mentions there is an unrelated problem happening with the baseboards on its Okai scooters cracking under repeated stress.
Other scooter rental companies use Segway Ninebot scooters in their fleet, including Bird. A representative for Bird provided The Verge with the following statement: “Upon reading The Washington Post news article pertaining to Lime’s recall, we contacted Segway Ninebot to obtain their verification that all scooters purchased by Bird are free of any manufacture defects found in Lime’s earlier model scooters. We have conducted our own initial investigation of the reported claims and believe that none of the vehicles Bird purchased from Segway Ninebot are affected. At Bird, our number one priority is the safety of our riders, chargers, mechanics, and all others who interact with our vehicles.”
The Verge has reached out to Segway for comment.