The growing number of lithium-ion battery fires involving e-scooters and e-bikes in London has sparked calls for increased regulation.
Tower Hamlets Council has reported an average of one e-bike or e-scooter fire per month in its area, with one fatality recorded in March. In response to this influx, a coroner has approached the Office for Product Standards and Safety (OPSS) to request the implementation of additional safety measures.
The London Assembly Fire, Resilience, and Emergency Planning (FREP) Committee reported three fatalities in the city due to fires believed to be linked to e-bike battery malfunctions. Moreover, 51 people have sustained injuries from similar incidents this year.
To address these fears, the council has reached out to government ministers. Kevin Hollinrake, the Minister for Enterprise at the Department for Business and Trade, emphasised the government’s commitment to consumer safety.
Hollinrake also mentioned that the OPSS is currently conducting a safety study to better understand the causes of product failures and the associated risks.
Tower Hamlets Council has been at the forefront of this advocacy, proposing a comprehensive approach. This includes improved legislation, increased funding for local authorities to establish secure charging facilities and more rigorous quality control measures for imported lithium batteries.
The proposal also suggested creating a national registration body for businesses dealing in these batteries, as well as further research.
Recently, the London FREP Committee urged the Department for Business and Trade to provide details of the intended actions, including a timeline for enhanced regulation. The committee has since identified one of the key issues as being unregulated products available for purchase online, often at lower prices compared to those meeting UK standards.
Anne Clark AM, Chair of the Committee, expressed their worries, saying, “E-scooters and e-bikes have the potential to offer quick travel across the city, with minimal carbon footprint. However, we are hugely concerned that some of the batteries in e-bike kits that are being bought online are not regulated and could be putting lives at risk”
Both Mayor Lutfur Rahman and Tower Hamlets borough commander at London Fire Brigade, Richard Tapp, have voiced their fears over the matter.
Mayor Lutfur emphasised the risks, stating, “As we see more and more e-bikes and e-scooters in our city streets, we’re also seeing more and more fires caused by their batteries – which are putting lives at risk. Given that 80% of homes in Tower Hamlets are flats, it’s a particular concern because of the rapid rate at which fire could spread from home to home.”
Richard Tapp echoed these thoughts, saying: “It’s incredibly concerning that we’re continuing to see a rise in incidents involving e-bikes and e-scooters. When these batteries and chargers fail, they do with such ferocity and because the fires develop so rapidly the situation can become extremely serious.”