Bike and scooter-sharing company Lime has withdrawn a number of Segway Ninebot scooters from its fleet. In a blog post, the company said a "manufacturing defect" in these scooters "could result in the battery smoldering or, in some cases, catching fire."
Lime's statement said the company first learned of the issue in August. The release claims it immediately began working with Segway to create software to identify potentially-affected batteries, and then refined the software on its own, and deactivated affected scooters once they were identified.
The Drive reached out to Segway for comment but did not receive a response at the time of publication.
Scooters thought to have manufacturing defects in their batteries were found in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Lake Tahoe, according to Lime. The company said removal of these scooters "minimally" impacted service in those areas. A Lime spokesperson speaking to The Washington Post said around 2,000 scooters were removed from circulation, adding that this was done out of an abundance of caution and that there was only a real risk of fire in a tiny percentage of cases.
"At no time were riders or members of the public put at risk," Lime said in its statement. But The Washington Post did report one incident of the fire department being called when a scooter burst into flames in Lake Tahoe. The fire department's report said an employee went to investigate a "loud bang" and found "flames showing from the battery area of a scooter as well as an adjacent chair."
The Washington Post reported that Lime employees were concerned about battery problems well before Lime's public announcement. An internal Slack message on Lime's "mechanics" channel included messages calling for the affected scooters' withdrawal on safety grounds.
Lime said it has also received unconfirmed reports that a different Segway Ninebot model may also be vulnerable to battery issues, adding that an investigation is ongoing. Lime also noted that it has since unveiled a new scooter model called "Generation 3.0," and that these scooters and other models besides Segway Ninebots make up the majority of its fleet.
Due to the risk of battery fires, Lime is taking precautions. 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 to charge its scooters) until the issue is resolved. Facilities will be staffed by people specially trained to handle the batteries in question, and Lime has instituted a "daily diagnostic program" to check the battery health of all scooters, regardless of manufacturer.
"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."
In addition to the Segway Ninebot battery issue, Lime reported an unrelated issue with baseboards of its Okai scooters breaking under "repeated abuse." Lime said it is investigating the problem and will incorporate lessons learned into future scooter designs.