The London Fire Brigade has warned people to ‘never tackle an e-bike battery fire yourself’ after another incident, this time in Highgate on September 12. According to the fire brigade, an e-bike caught fire inside a bedroom within a flat, and the owner attempted to put it out themselves with an extinguisher. The owner unfortunately suffered burns over several areas before firefighters attended the scene and extinguished the blaze.
London Fire Brigade’s Deputy Commissioner Dom Ellis commented: “We strongly recommend calling us immediately if there is a fire, but particularly if it involves your e-bike or e-scooter.
“Fires involving lithium batteries, which power these vehicles, 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.
"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 investigation into this particular fire found that the electric bike in question was charging when it caught fire. It was also found that the charger had been purchased from an online marketplace the day before.
Calls for government action
The incident comes days after Adam Smith, coroner for Inner North London called for tighter regulations on the sale of e-bike batteries and chargers, after a father of two lost his life in a similar incident back in March.
Firefighters in London have already tackled more e-bike and e-scooter fires so far in 2023 than they did for the whole of 2022, according to London Fire Brigade data.
This increase has compelled the London Assembly to send the government a letter outlining regulatory concerns around the online sales of e-scooters and e-bikes.
Consumer charity Electrical Safety First (ESF) has also called for a ban on ‘universal’ e-bike chargers among other things as part of its ongoing campaign.
Lesley Rudd, chief executive of ESF, commented: “The voices supporting our call on the Government to take action to prevent e-bike and e-scooter fires are mounting and with it, the desperate need for that action.
"Time is of the essence as we see the immense pressure these fires are putting on both the fire services and also the local communities affected by them. Our Battery Breakdown Report is extensive and offers the Government solutions to tackle the problem related to e-bikes, e-scooters and their batteries. Without swift action more lives will be lost.”
ESF's Battery Breakdown report highlights many of the safety issues connected with batteries and includes 30 recommendations for how to deal with them. It is available for free here.
London Fire Brigade says that if you do own an e-scooter or e-bike, there are a few steps you can take to stay safe.
- Never block escape routes with one
- Do not leave them unattended while charging (even while you’re asleep)
- If you do buy a conversion kit, get a professional to carry out the work
- Do not tamper with or modify the battery
A Fire England advice page also details battery warning signs to look out for, including battery overheating, deformation, odd noises or smells (including smoke) and the battery not charging as normal.