Don’t Ban Batteries—Make them Safer

Don’t Ban Batteries—Make them Safer

Repair Roundup Week of November 21

Every week there are too many developments in the world of repair for any mere mortal to keep track of; fortunately, the authors of the Fight to Repair newsletter, including Jack Monahan, are no mere mortals, at least when it comes to recapping the most important repair news. Each week, they highlight the biggest and most important repair story you need to know about.

The Big News:

The New Battle Over Batteries

Recently, iFixit released a video of people who typically fix things stabbing different lithium Ion batteries (it’s all for science, of course). The video proved that, yes, repeatedly stabbing a battery can start a fire—but it also proved that, when properly discharged before a repair, a battery is very unlikely to catch fire. That’s part of why repair instructions matter so much: By following them, anyone can replace a battery safely.

This safety warning comes at a time when New York City is considering a bill to ban the sale of lithium-ion batteries. This bill comes partially in response to the increase of e-bike fires in NYC.

Let’s be clear: This blunt policy tool would do more harm than good.

Consumer safety is incredibly important. But narratives around the consumer safety risks of exploding batteries have been around for a long time. Consistently, manufacturers say they’re worried about consumer safety but then turn around and do things that make repair more dangerous—for example, gluing batteries into devices.

Electronics manufacturers use consumer safety as a way to keep money flowing to repair services and from consumers by stopping self repair. Whenever there’s a hearing on right to repair, manufacturers call out battery experts like George Kirchner to remind legislators about videos of exploding hoverboards and the high temperatures of potential fires.

While videos go viral of batteries exploding, contributing to a narrative that repairing devices is not safe (or that battery-powered devices are inherently dangerous), the reality is any piece of advanced machinery needs to both be handled with care and designed with safety in mind. 

If batteries were more easily removable this wouldn’t happen so often.

Choose Your Adventure: Negligence or Malicious Intent

In 2009, ten thousand people were seriously injured using car jacks to complete work on their cars, but those injuries drew no sensationalist rhetoric about the safety issues inherent to car repair.

Device Page

Self-Balancing Board

Repair guides and support for self-balancing two-wheeled electric scooters, sometimes incorrectly called hoverboards. These boards are manufactured by many companies under many different names, but are virtually identical in construction.

View Device

Louis Rossmann highlighted a perfect example: an electronic skateboard company called OneWheel which will brick itself if you try to replace or unplug the battery. The only possible option is to go through their one repair provider. The company has also received a warning from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, signaling that maybe they don’t care much about consumer safety when it comes to these batteries. These clues tell us that OneWheel is not necessarily committed to safety as much as it is to revenue-generating schemes through monopolizing repair. There is no doubt that consumer safety is important; however, it seems that companies are either unconcerned or unequipped with hiding the fact that financial interests trump the well-being of their customers. 

If, as companies say, the problem is uneducated and unskilled consumers repairing products in their living rooms, wouldn’t they want to make your consumers better at repair? The better consumers are at repairing their things, the less likely they would be to get hurt by a product. By making it more difficult for consumers to build skills in repairing and maintaining products, companies make repair inherently more dangerous.

Don’t ban batteries. Don’t ban battery repair. Make it safer to change batteries in products—because batteries are consumables, and if products are high-enough quality to last more than a couple of years, their batteries will need replacing.

Other News

  • Same-day iPhone 14 repairs: MacRumors obtained a memo that shows “Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers around the world are now able to complete same-unit repairs for all four iPhone 14 models, instead of having to replace the entire device”.
  • Malicious compliance: Marques Brownlee believes that the European Union’s USB-C standardization will likely lead Apple to remove ports on iPhones, opting instead for exclusively wireless charging.
  • India to create online repair portal: India’s government is preparing a “unified national portal” housing information on how citizens can access repairs for their electronics devices.
  • Tax monopolies to save small businesses: A new report shows how local and federal lawmakers have handed corporations power while small businesses deeply connected to their communities have been left out to dry.
  • DIY solution to rising energy costs: A DIYer poses the question—with inflation and higher energy costs, what’s the cheapest way to brew a cup of tea (or coffee)?
  • What’s stopping repair in Canada? Researchers have found three key barriers to repairable products:
    • Consumer perceptions and willingness to participate in repair activities;
    • Availability of tools, parts, and technical knowledge to execute repairs; and
    • Technical barriers inherent to the products themselves.