Council calls for Government action to tackle 'dramatic rise' of e-bike fires

credit DFES 2

Credit: Department of Fire and Emergency Services Western Australia


Tower Hamlets Council has called on the Government to do more to tackle the increasing number of fires caused by e-bikes and e-scooters.

In a letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the council said that the growing popularity of e-bikes and e-scooters has resulted in a ‘dramatic rise’ in fires caused by their batteries and called for more to be done to protect residents.

Improved legislation, more funding for local authorities to create safe charging spaces, more robust sampling and examination on importation of lithium batteries - including a national registration body for businesses providing them - and greater research into the issue, are some of the measures being called for by the council.

On average, an e-bike or e-scooter catches fire every month in Tower Hamlets, according to London Fire Brigade. Sadly, one fire that took place in March resulted in 41-year-old man losing his life.   

Following this, a Coroner has written to the Office for Product Standards and Safety (OPSS) asking for further safety standards to be introduced.

Recently, the council found and removed 77 imported and unsafe lithium batteries in local shops.

The council has launched #ChargeSafe Tower Hamlets, a local awareness campaign which is backed by the London Fire Brigade.

Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said:

“As we see more and more e-bikes and e-scooters on our city streets, we’re also seeing more and more fires caused by their batteries - which are putting lives at risk.

“Given that 80 per cent of homes in Tower Hamlets are flats, it’s a particular concern because of the rapid rate at which fire could spread from home to home.  

“Doing nothing is simply not an option. We have taken steps locally to warn people of the dangers but we need the Government to take action to help prevent these fires and keep people safe.”

London Fire Brigade reported a 60% increase in e-bike and e-scooter related fires compared to last year and between January and July 2023, they attended 13 reported e-bike and e-scooter fires in Tower Hamlets alone.

More data shows that, almost a third of people injured were in their twenties, and often the fires are in homes where multiple adults are living together without children.

Richard Tapp, Tower Hamlets Borough Commander at London Fire Brigade, said:

It’s incredibly concerning we’re continuing to see a rise in incidents involving e-bikes and e-scooters. When these batteries and chargers fail, they do so with ferocity and because the fires develop so rapidly the situation can quickly become incredibly serious. 

Lithium batteries are susceptible to failure if incorrect chargers are used and there is a significant risk posed by e-bikes which have been converted. We are predominantly seeing fires where batteries have been purchased from online marketplaces and when they've been sourced on the internet, which may not meet the correct safety standards.

“Our advice is to store and charge these items in a safe location if possible, such as in a shed or a garage, and if they have to be stored inside, make sure there is smoke detection fitted and your means of escape is not obstructed. Do not leave them to charge unattended. However, we know this won’t be possible for everyone, so if you are charging them indoors, please and ensure everyone in your home knows what to do in the event of a fire. 

“If you find a fire in the home never tackle the fire yourself, shut the door, leave the property immediately and call 999.”

The letter was deferred to the Department for Business and Trade and the council received a response from the Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business, Kevin Hollinrake.

The Minister told Tower Hamlets Council that the safety of UK consumers is ‘a top priority for the Government’ and that the OPSS is ‘undertaking a safety study to better understand the causes of product failures and the risks presented as a result’.

Posted on Friday 15th September 2023