The London Fire Brigade has dealt with a concerning surge in e-bike and e-scooter fires this year, surpassing the total number of incidents recorded in 2022.
Data reveals that 104 e-bike fires and 19 e-scooter blazes have occurred by August, eclipsing last year’s total of 116 fires and marking a record high for such incidents in the city. Tragically, three individuals have lost their lives due to fires linked to e-bike lithium battery failures, with 51 others sustaining injuries. A coroner has called for enhanced safety standards following a fatal e-bike fire in March.
The fires have highlighted the dangers of converting e-bikes and e-scooters, as damaged or failing lithium batteries can lead to rapid and dangerous fires. While privately owned e-scooters are illegal on public roads in London, they remain legal to purchase. The London Fire Brigade supports law enforcement in curbing their hazardous use.
The brigade has launched the #ChargeSafe campaign to educate the public about fire risks and ways to protect against them. To mitigate the dangers, senior fire officials advocate for regulations on e-bikes, conversion kits, batteries, and chargers, as well as stricter monitoring of online marketplaces for products that may not meet safety standards.
Comparatively, in New York, the City Council is preparing to enact laws that prohibit the sale, lease, or rental of e-bikes, e-scooters, and their storage batteries if they do not meet recognised safety criteria.
Deputy Commissioner Dom Ellis 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.”
Our 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. It is important to always use the correct charger for your e-bike or e-scooter’s battery, that and to only buy them has been bought from a reputable seller.
Deputy Commissioner Ellis continued: “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.
“You can also get free tailored advice for your home using our online Home Fire Safety Checker.”
Deputy Mayor for Fire and Resilience, Fiona Twycross, said: “The rising number of privately-owned e-bike and e-scooter fires that London Fire Brigade has attended this year demonstrates the need for them to be stored and charged safely, as well as being built to required standards. That’s why I am continuing to call on the Government to introduce a regulatory framework which can help improve product safety, especially for lithium-ion batteries, and supporting the London Fire Brigade’s #Chargesafe campaign.
“TfL has extended its successful e-scooter rental trial until May 2024 and we know how important safe and sustainable travel is in our city as part of the Mayor’s commitment to building a greener London for everyone.”