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E-bike fires in London reach a new record high

E-bike electric bike symbol on road

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In a concerning development this year, firefighters in London have addressed more e-bike and e-scooter fires than in the entirety of 2022.

This now marks e-bike incidents as the city’s most rapidly growing fire-related concern.

A closer look at the numbers

By the close of August, there were 104 e-bike fires reported, in addition to 19 e-scooter incidents.

This statistic surpasses the total of 116 fires managed in the previous year.

Tragically, three lives have been claimed this year from incidents suspected to stem from e-bike lithium battery malfunctions, resulting in an additional 51 injuries.

There’s been a subsequent plea from a coroner to the Office for Product Standards and Safety (OPSS) to instigate further safety protocols, stemming from a fatal e-bike incident in March.

Why are e-bikes and e-scooters catching fire?

E-bikes and e-scooters are prone to sudden fires if their lithium batteries sustain damage or start to malfunction.

While purchasing privately owned e-scooters is not illegal, using them in public spaces and on London roads is prohibited.

London Fire Brigade remains an ally of police enforcement activities, ensuring these vehicles are not employed hazardously.

E-bike fire awareness and safety campaigns

London Fire Brigade’s #ChargeSafe initiative is striving to educate the public about potential fire hazards and providing guidance on self-preservation.

Recently, an e-bike fire in Brixton necessitated a man’s hospitalisation for burn treatment.

Senior fire officials in London are advocating for the introduction of standardised regulations pertaining to e-bikes, their conversion kits, batteries, and chargers.

They are also seeking stringent oversight of online marketplaces where products might not conform to existing safety norms.

From the Brigade’s perspective, purchasing e-bikes from reputable sellers ensures the product’s compliance with safety standards.

Contrarily, e-bikes or e-scooters fitted with independently bought batteries or components pose a heightened risk.

International regulations and perspectives

In New York, legislative measures are underway to ban the sales, lease, or rental of e-bikes, e-scooters, and related batteries that do not fulfil recognised safety criteria.

Deputy Commissioner Dom Ellis remarked on the growing frequency of e-bike and e-scooter fires in London, highlighting the environmental merits of these vehicles, but also shedding light on the hazards, particularly when modified with substandard components or mismatched chargers.

The Commissioner emphasised the pressing need for in-depth research into battery fires and their causes, and for a stringent regulatory framework to curtail the influx of potentially dangerous products on online platforms.

In-depth analysis of recent fires

An in-depth review of the 73 e-bike fires from the year’s first half reveals that approximately 40% involved a converted e-bike.

Worryingly, around 77% likely involved battery failures – with cheaper, online-sourced batteries, which may not be in line with UK safety protocols, being the major culprits.

Furthermore, about 41% of the incidents occurred while the bikes were charging.

Official advice and guidance

Deputy Commissioner Ellis further emphasised the severity and potential harm of such fires, providing critical advice on safe storage and charging.

Safety guidelines for e-bike and e-scooter users have also been released, focussing on safe storage, not meddling with batteries, proper charging protocols, and ensuring all components meet UK safety standards.

IFSJ Comment

The surge in e-bike and e-scooter fires in London offers a pressing reminder of the challenges that come with emerging technologies.

As e-bikes and e-scooters become more prevalent due to their environmental advantages and convenience, it’s paramount that safety regulations and awareness campaigns keep pace.

The consequences of neglecting this can be fatal.

The report’s findings provide a critical resource for fire safety professionals globally, urging a proactive stance towards addressing potential hazards tied to these popular vehicles.

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