London Fire Brigade has issued an urgent warning after a spike in “ferocious” fires caused by e-bike and e-scooter batteries. Investigators are urging people to use the correct chargers and to buy only recognised brands of battery from reputable sellers.
The warning comes after a recent fire in a flat above a shop on High Road in Tottenham which drew four fire engines and around 25 firefighters.
Nihad Chemban and his flatmate were both at home when the fire broke out, with the latter resorting to a leap from a first-floor window to escape as the bike was blocking his route to the door. Fortunately, he landed on the canopy of the shop below and was uninjured.
“I had only just bought the battery online a few days before the fire,” said Chemban. “I hadn’t had any problems with the bike before and I have had it for about seven months.
“I have lost everything – all my clothes were destroyed; the bike was destroyed and even my passport has gone. It was so scary – everything is gone, everything is burnt.
“People must be aware of these risks as you buy these batteries and you just don’t know if they are safe.
“You just never imagine you will have a fire. I didn’t expect it, but I’m just lucky it didn’t happen overnight and I was awake. If I had been asleep it could have been different. I would never charge my batteries overnight now.”
The fire was just one of 25 involving e-bikes or e-scooters so far this year in London.
Station Officer Matt Cullen, who has been investigating the trend, said: “At some of these incidents we have seen multiple batteries and chargers for a number of bikes in one property, which has resulted in the mixing of different chargers and batteries.
“We know that lithium-ion batteries are susceptible to failure if incorrect chargers are used and this may be a contributing factor in some cases.
“We also know many of these incidents involve batteries which have been sourced on the internet, which may not meet the correct safety standards.”
Fire Brigade advice is therefore to always use the correct charger and to only buy from reputable sellers.
The recommendation is to charge batteries on hard flat surfaces where heat can dissipate and to allow them to cool first before doing so.
You should always make sure you unplug your charger once the battery is charged and should avoid leaving it charging unattended or while you are asleep.
There is also increased likelihood of a fault if the battery has been damaged, so you should protect spare batteries in particular when carrying them around.
Finally, ensure you have smoke alarms fitted in areas where e-bikes or e-scooters are being charged and store them away from any main through route.