Firefighters in London have tackled more e-bike and e-scooter fires so far in 2023 than they did for the whole of 2022, according to figures released by the London Fire Brigade (LFB).
By the end of August, crews had fought 104 e-bike fires along with 19 e-scooter blazes, overtaking the 116 total fires attended last year, and higher than in any other year in London.
Three people this year have lost their lives in fires believed to have been caused by a failure of an e-bike’s lithium battery, while 51 people have been injured.
A coroner has now written to the Office for Product Standards and Safety (OPSS) asking for further safety standards to be introduced following the death of a man in an e-bike fire in March.
Dom Ellis, deputy commissioner at LFB, said: “Unfortunately we are seeing an ever-growing number of fires caused by e-bikes and e-scooters in London, roughly one every two days, and already more this year than we saw in 2022.
“We recognise the environmental benefits they bring to travel in our city, but the stark reality is that some of these vehicles are proving to be incredibly dangerous, particularly if they have been modified with second-hand products or if batteries are used with the wrong chargers.
“Without urgent research into the causes of these battery fires and proper regulation that will help prevent people unknowingly purchasing dangerous products from online marketplaces, such as batteries and conversion kits, we fear we will continue seeing a high level of these types of fires in London.”
E-bikes and e-scooters can catch fire quickly if their lithium batteries become damaged or begin to fail.
Privately owned e-scooters remain illegal in public places and on London’s roads, but they are not illegal to purchase. London Fire Brigade says it is continuing to support the police’s enforcement activity to prevent them being used in a dangerous manner.
London Fire Brigade has been running its #ChargeSafe campaign to raise awareness of the fire risks and outline what Londoners can do to protect themselves and their livelihoods.
The most recent incident saw a man taken to hospital suffering from burns after an e-bike fire in Brixton.
Senior London fire officials have called for regulations and/or standards to be introduced for e-bikes, conversion kits, batteries and chargers, as well as surveillance of online marketplaces, where products are being sold that may not meet the correct safety standards.
The Brigade also believes you are far safer if you buy your bike from a reputable seller where you can be more confident that the product has been built to the required safety standard.
Whereas e-bikes or e-scooters that have been fitted with batteries or other parts purchased separately online pose a far greater risk.
Fire investigators have analysed the 73 e-bike fires that occurred in the first six months of this year, and found that at least 40% of those fires are believed to have involved a converted e-bike.
At least 77% are believed to have involved the failure of the bike’s battery – cheaper batteries purchased from online sources which don’t necessarily adhere to UK safety regulations are more likely to fail and cause a fire, particularly if not used with the correct charger.
Meanwhile, at least 41% of the bikes are believed to have been on charge at the time of a fire starting.
Deputy commissioner Ellis added: “We know just how ferocious and harmful these fires can be, so if something was to go wrong, we don’t want an e-bike and scooter inside a property. However, we appreciate for some people, keeping it inside is the only option. If that is you, please follow this crucial safety advice that will protect yourself and those you live with.
“Never store the vehicle by your front door, in a hallway, or on any escape route. We’ve seen the devastating consequences of what can happen when an exit is blocked by an e-bike fire. Instead, keep it in a room where you can shut a door, contain the fire and call 999.
“Never charge your e-bike or e-scooter whilst you are asleep and unplug the charger once the vehicle has finished charging. Please also make sure you are using the correct charger for the vehicle.”
New guidance has also been published on the Brigade’s website for landlords and the responsible person(s) for a building.
The purpose of this guidance note is to provide information to those storing and/or charging electrically powered personal vehicles, such as e-bikes and scooters, within buildings that are covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, as amended by the Fire Safety Act 2021.