An investigation has found cheap or faulty e-scooter and bike batteries can fail ‘with ferocity’ and threaten to trap people in their burning homes.
Firefighters in London have attended more than two dozen blazes involving the electric vehicles this year – some of which were ‘significant incidents resulting in serious injuries’.
Five people were taken to hospital after one of the Lithium-ion battery cells in an electric scooter that was charging failed, causing a flat in Southwark to go up in flames on May 26.
A man also jumped out of a first-floor window at his Tottenham home when his e-bike battery caught fire while charging.
Nihad Chemban, 21, backed the ‘urgent’ warning issued in a report by London Fire Brigade.
Mr Chemban was in the shower on May 2 when he heard a loud bang and opened his bathroom door to find smoke pouring into the corridor.
He was unable to get to the front door because the bike was blocking his route.
The delivery rider ‘lost everything’ but was fortunate to avoid injury as he jumped and landed on the canopy of the shop below.
He said: ‘People must be aware of these risks as you buy these batteries and you just don’t know if they are safe.
‘If I had been asleep it could have been different. I would never charge my batteries overnight now.’
‘Modified’ push bicycles was one of the causes of the 25 fires involving electric bikes or scooters in 2021, London Fire Brigade said.
Ordinary bicycle owners have bought e-bike conversion kits – which come with only the motors and control gear – but been left to source an unsuitable separate battery.
Lithium-ion batteries in particular are ‘susceptible to failure’ if the wrong charger is used.
A first floor flat in Brixton was badly damaged in a fire on May 24, sparked by a fault in the lithium-ion battery pack of a mountain bike which had been converted into an e-bike.
Fire investigation officer Matt Cullen said: ‘We have seen that when these batteries and chargers fail, they do so with ferocity which can leave residents with few safe options for escape.
What you can do to stay safe
London Fire Brigade’s advice is to always use the correct charger for the product and buy an official one from a reputable seller.
Batteries can get warm during their use and it is advisable to allow them to cool down before attempting to re-charge as they could be more susceptible to failure.
Batteries should always be charged on hard flat surfaces where heat can dissipate.
Batteries can also pose a risk if they have been damaged, so try to ensure they are not getting knocked around while in use or while being carried as spares as this can increase the chance of damage to cells.
You should always make sure you unplug your charger once it’s finished charging. Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when charging and we would advise not to leave it unattended or while people are asleep.
Ensure you have smoke alarms fitted in areas where e-bikes or e-scooters are being charged and make sure they are tested regularly.
Lastly, the brigade advised never to block your escape route with anything, including bikes and scooters. Store them somewhere away from a main through route.
‘These bikes and scooters are often stored and charged in escape routes in homes or communal areas so when a fire does occur, escape routes are blocked which immediately makes an already serious situation much more frightening for those involved.
‘We have seen people forced into jumping from windows as they can’t get out of their front doors as the bike or scooter which has caught fire is in front of it.
‘Even when the bikes or scooters aren’t in escape routes or communal areas, the fires are fierce enough that they pose an immediate danger to all occupants and we are seeing an increase in these types of fires.’