The family of a woman who died in a fire believed to have been caused by a converted e-bike’s battery bursting into flames has called for stronger legislation on e-bikes and e-scooters to ensure their safe usage.
21-year-old Sofia Duarte died on January 1, 2023 in a flat fire on Old Kent Road, South Bermondsey. Investigators found a bike had been converted into an e-bike and the bike’s lithium battery pack had failed ‘catastrophically’, causing the fire.
The petition on change.org is ‘begging’ MPs to urge the Office for Product and Standards and Safety (OPSS) to implement stricter regulations. They would like an immediate commitment from the Government to prioritise fire safety within any new standards, regulations, or frameworks relating to e-scooters and e-bikes.
They would also like to see stricter enforcement of quality control and standards governing the sale of lithium-ion batteries and chargers (and conversion kits), and clear guidelines for proper handling and storage of these batteries.
The petition also says research is needed to fully understand the potential dangers of conversion kits for e-bikes, batteries and chargers which it says should inform the introduction of specific product safety standards. It also calls for legislation to be brought forward that gives TfL and other transport authorities across the UK the power to regulate the use of e-bikes and e-scooters.
The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) recently backed charity Electrical Safety First’s (ESF) Safety Bill which seeks to improve the safety standards of e-bike and e-scooter batteries.
Fire crews in London had fought 104 e-bike fires and 19 e-scooter blazes by the end of August last year, data has revealed. There were 73 e-bike fires in the first six months of 2023, and of these, 40% are believed to have involved a converted e-bike.
Last month, the OPSS issued an ‘Important Safety Message’ aimed at those looking at buying an e-bike or e-scooter. The steps recommended include only buying from a known seller, always following the manufacturer’s instructions, only using the manufacturer’s recommended battery or charger, always charging in a safe place, and never attempting to modify or tamper with a battery.
The Government told MyLondon the OPSS is conducting a safety study to understand data and evidence of risks to see if enforcement action is needed when non-compliance with existing regulations is identified.
The Home Office is also working with the OPSS and Department for Transport to reduce the fire risk and develop educational resources with local fire chiefs and the National Fire Chiefs Council.