An e-bike that had been on fire

London e-bike fires almost double in the last year

Fires related to e-bikes have almost doubled across the capital in the last year, according to statistics from the London Fire Brigade (LFB).

In total, there were 155 fires linked to e-bikes in 2023, up from 87 in 2022.

This continues an exponential rise, with figures jumping from 10 in 2019 to 48 in 2021.

Three people have also been killed in the past year, with 51 injured, and the LFB is campaigning for new legislation to safeguard against poorly manufactured batteries.

Charlie Pugsley, assistant commissioner for fire safety at the LFB, said: “E-bikes have become London’s fastest-growing fire risk, and in 2023 there was a fire, on average, once every two days.

“The stark reality is that some of these vehicles are proving to be incredibly dangerous, particularly if they have been modified and fitted with second-hand products or products purchased online, like batteries, chargers and conversion kits, which may not meet the correct safety standards.

“As part of our charge safe campaign, we are calling for much-needed legislation for online marketplaces to ensure that these products are strictly regulated.”

The sharp rise in e-bike fires across the capital

One victim of an e-bike fire was 21-year-old Sofia Duarte, who was killed after the lithium battery used to charge the bike failed on New Year’s Day 2023.

The battery caught fire with Duarte trapped inside her boyfriend’s flat in Southwark, the borough that has seen the third most fires over the last six years.

A family friend, Alda Simoes, is now heading a campaign calling for greater regulation of e-bikes across the capital and beyond.

She said: “I can’t put into words the shock of finding about her death.

“As we never heard about someone dying in a fire caused by an e-bike we started wondering if the public also didn’t know about the fire risks and the damage that a faulty battery or charger can do when things go wrong.

“We hoped that by supporting the LFB charge safe campaign we could bring public awareness to help prevent more deaths making sure that Sofia’s death won’t be in vain.

“We are doing everything we can so that others won’t suffer Sofia’s fate and have now started a petition calling for implementation of legislation and regulations on e-bikes and e-scooters.”

The ten London boroughs with the most e-bike fires from 2017-2023

E-scooters have also come under scrutiny in recent months for their propensity for catching fire, with TfL banning them from their services after a series of combustions.

Despite that, they are yet to ban e-bikes, with both Simoes and the LFB calling for this to be reconsidered.

A TfL spokesperson said: “Our primary concern is always for the safety of our customers and staff, and we banned privately owned e-scooters and e-unicycles from our network in December 2021 due to the risk of fires.

“E-bikes from certified manufacturers are generally subject to better manufacturing standards and the batteries are usually positioned in a place where they are less likely to be damaged, and so are less of a fire risk.

“However, faulty third-party e-bike batteries and batteries bought for ‘modified’ e-bikes currently do not have to adhere to UK safety regulations and the battery is more likely to fail and catch fire.

“We support urgent research and urge the government to introduce regulation into this marketplace.

“We continue to actively monitor this risk, working closely with the London Fire Brigade and other experts in the UK and internationally to ensure the restrictions we have in place for electric vehicles is appropriate and allows our customers to travel safely.”

Despite this, there are calls for the transport operator to do more, with the LFB urging caution in light of the rise in incidents.

A spokesperson said: “Our firefighters have attended around five times as many e-bike incidents as those involving e-scooters.

“Given e-bikes are not included in the ban, we are also encouraging operators to consider whether they have adequate safety measures in place should an e-bike fire happen on their service.”

Simoes added: “I don’t understand why e-bikes are not banned on TfL. I feel as if a tragedy needs to happen caused by an e-fire like underground so they actions will be taken.

“We should be preventing deaths. We shouldn’t have to wait for a tragedy.

“It is the government’s responsibility to do their best to protect the public and not enough has been done.”

Her petition, which has now amassed over 50,000 signatures, appeals to the Office for Product Safety and Standards in an effort to introduce new legislation.

Featured image: Aftermath of an e-bike fire in Penge (London Fire Brigade)

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