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More e-bike fires… followed by more calls for government action

The London Assembly Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning Committee yesterday (18 September) wrote to the Government raising ‘serious concerns’ over the regulation of e-bikes and e-scooters, and called for the Department for Business and Trade to outline what action it is taking to address the issue.

This come days after a man suffered serious injuries in a Highgate flat, when e-bike caught fire inside a bedroom.

This incident is among a spate of e-bike fires in London over the last week or so. On 13th September, 40 firefighters were needed to tackle a blaze at a shop in Bow after an e-bike battery failed. 

The previous weekend, a total of 80 firefighters were needed at two separate fires that are believed to have been caused by the failure of a lithium battery in an e-bike.

There have been at least 137 such these fires this year, of which at least 115 have involved an e-bike. These resulted in three people dying and more than 50 being injured. 

Following the death of a man in Shadwell in March, the Coroner wrote to the Office for Product Safety Standards (OPSS) asking for further safety standards to be introduced for e-bikes and scooters.

The OPSS has recently published information for consumers to raise awareness around the safe purchasing, use and charging of e-bikes and e-scooters, and the Home Office is including messaging for these fires as part of the ongoing ‘Fire Kills’ campaign.

Last week Tower Hamlets Council called on Home Secretary Suella Braverman to improve legislation and provide more funding for local authorities to create safe charging spaces, and for more robust sampling and examination of importated lithium batteries.

Deputy Commissioner Dom Ellis said: ‘Fires involving lithium batteries can be ferocious, producing jets of flame. The blaze is also hot enough to melt through metal. This type of fire produces a highly flammable, explosive and toxic vapour cloud which should never be inhaled. The fire can also be extremely challenging to put out.   

Referring to the Highgate fire, he said: ‘This incident, and the severe injuries sustained by this e-bike owner, highlights why you should never tackle a lithium battery fire. Our advice is to get out and call 999.’

The Brigade’s investigation into this fire found the e-bike was on charge when it caught alight and that the charger had been purchased from an online marketplace just a day earlier.

Deputy Commissioner Ellis said: ’We recognise the many benefits E-bikes 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.

‘We fear we will continue to see a high level of these fires unless urgent research takes place into the causes of these battery fires. Proper regulation is also required to help prevent people unknowingly purchasing dangerous products, such as batteries and conversion kits, from online marketplaces.’

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