Charity Seeks MP Support to Fight Deadly E-Bike Fires
With the ballot for Private Members Bills taking place in Parliament this week, Electrical Safety First explains how their draft Bill can save lives - by reducing the growing number of extreme fires caused by lithium-ion batteries used in e-bikes and e-scooters.
In the UK this year, lithium-ion battery fires have caused nine deaths, hundreds of injuries, and millions in property damage. Not surprisingly, there seem more in major conurbations ─ London Fire Brigade is attending one every two days ─ but we estimate that, since 2020, almost 150 MPs have had a constituency fire linked to an e-bike or e-scooter.
Electrically powered micromobility, such as e-bikes and e-scooters, are increasingly popular as a ‘greener’, healthier, and more economic form of transport. However, as the demand for them expands, so does the risk of battery fires. In 2022, the e-bike market alone was estimated to be worth £300 million, with double-digit growth forecast for 2024.
E-bikes and e-scooters are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which can store far more energy than other types of battery, so a single charge allows much longer use. Yet most people are unaware that a fully charged e-bike battery contains a similar amount of energy to six hand grenades, nor that they can be putting their lives at risk when charging them at home.
If overheated ─ through, for example, damage, flawed design, or using a substandard charger ─ lithium-ion batteries can create fierce fires that are not only difficult to extinguish but also release toxic gas. They can occur when just one cell of the battery overheats, creating a domino effect or ‘thermal runaway’, with a fire developing within seconds that can reach a temperature of over 600 degrees centigrade.
As extensive media headlines will attest, we have been campaigning to raise consumer awareness of the dangers of lithium-ion batteries. Buying substandard or counterfeit batteries ─ particularly online, where provenance is difficult to establish ─ or charging an e-bike or e-scooter incorrectly, can have a devastating outcome.
To save lives action needs to be taken now. So ESF have developed a draft Bill ─ The Safety of Electric-Powered Micromobility Vehicles and Lithium Batteries Bill ─ which we hope will find a sponsor via the Private Members Bill Ballot. Our proposals have already gained widespread support from stakeholders, including the Association of British Insurers, Trading Standards, and the UK Fire Association.
If adopted and passed, this legislation would introduce three key changes to tackle e-bike fires. These include:
- A legal requirement for e-bikes, e-scooters, and their batteries to undergo third party approval before coming to market – regulating them in the same manner as fireworks.
- A temporary ban on the sale of ‘universal chargers,’ until measures are established to ensure the safe compatibility of batteries and chargers. One solution is by developing a communications protocol to ensure the battery and charger can ‘talk’ to each other, which reduces the risk of an over-charged battery instigating a fire.
- Clearer markings on lithium-ion batteries, highlighting that they are not suitable for disposal in general waste.
Our draft Bill is designed to tackle the main causes of deadly battery fires – poorly manufactured devices and incorrect usage – and will ultimately make it more challenging for dangerous devices to enter people’s homes. New York City recently enforced a similar law, whereby all e-bikes and their batteries sold or operated in the area must have third party approval, to ensure they conform to safety standards.
In the UK, time is of the essence. The number of deaths is rising rapidly and legislation is urgently needed to help prevent the wholly avoidable loss of life we are seeing from these devices.
We need the political will to tackle this issue head-on. Our Bill is ready to go and offers pragmatic, life-saving solutions, first outlined in our report, Battery Breakdown. To prevent further tragedies, we urge parliamentarians to adopt this Bill.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Electrical Safety First is the campaigning UK charity dedicated to preventing deaths, injuries and fires caused by electricity. We are recognised by Government and industry as the leading consumer protection and technical authority on home electrical safety.
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