The recent spate of high-profile e-bike and e-scooter fires risk slowing the momentum of the micromobility sector, according to the head of a UK bike brand.
Responding to a recent video of an explosion caused by a faulty e-bike battery, the video shared by the London Fire Brigade, managing director of children’s bike brand Islabikes, Tim Goodall, has shared his concerns about the wider impact of these types of incident.
In a statement responding to the most recent incident, Goodall said consumers need to do their own research before buying imported micromobility products to ensure they meet UK safety regulations.
Goodall said: “In a matter of moments, a faulty lithium battery in an e-bike or e-scooter can cause serious damage and potentially serious injury. The London Fire Brigade has just released footage of an explosion caught on camera which was caused by an e-bike’s lithium battery erupting after entering an uncontrollable, self-heating state – the second incident of its kind in recent weeks. In 2023, the London Fire Brigade has been called to a fire caused by e-bike or e-scooter every two days.
“As far as we’re aware, the fires are being started by botched conversions, and maybe use batteries that don’t comply with UK regulations. It’s important that consumers do their own research before buying an illegal import. As with any online product, buying the cheapest product available from an unknown brand can come with unexpected risks.”
In the most recent incident, which happened on Saturday, May 20, firefighters were called to a block of flats in Roehampton, West London after an e-bike battery burst into flames.
London Fire Brigade has released CCTV footage of the incident, to raise awareness around micromobility battery safety.
The fire service has been called to 52 e-bike fires and 12 e-scooter fires in London so far this year.
Deputy Commissioner Dom Ellis said: “Although we can’t be sure why this particular battery failed, we do know that Avi’s e-bike was purchased second-hand and that an additional battery pack, bought from an online marketplace, had been fitted.
“Cheaper batteries purchased from online sources which don’t necessarily adhere to UK safety regulations are more likely to fail and present an increased fire risk. Our advice is also to buy from a reputable seller. As the video clearly shows, once the bike goes into thermal runaway, it can lead to a rapid and ferocious fire.”
Goodall said: “This presents a serious ethical issue and also risks slowing the momentum of the micromobility sector. We are finally seeing major cities re-evaluate its use of public space and the inefficiency of allocating it to private vehicles, spurring infrastructure developments like bike lines and multi-use paths – an incredibly encouraging and positive development for the emerging sector, which risks being slowed by the unethical practices of a few micromobility players who, evidently, aren’t to be trusted.
“There are a few ways to help reduce the risk of fire when you charge an e-bike or e-scooter with a lithium battery, such as purchasing the correct charger from a reputable seller, letting your battery cool before plugging it in and fitting smoke alarms in the area of your home where you charge your e-bike or e-scooter. You should also avoid leaving your e-bike or e-scooter to charge when you aren’t present and aware, such as going out for the day or overnight.
“You might be able to spot the signs of a faulty battery beforehand as well. If your device feels extremely hot to touch – more so than the usual heat generated by a battery in use – then it might be defective. The added heat might also cause it to bulge, leak or swell. Alternatively, you may hear a cracking or hissing noise when using your e-bike or e-scooter or notice a strong or unusual smell.”