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Battery fire risks from electric bikes and scooters

by Jonathan Kearney

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service has issued a safety warning around the lithium-ion batteries used in e-bikes and e-scooters.

On average, during 2022/23, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service were called to an e-bike or e-scooter fire once every two weeks. In the same period, there were five injuries and very sadly, 2 fatalities which were directly related to fires in the home which involved e-bikes.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service Area Manager for Prevention Mark Thomas said: “These statistics are stark, and they highlight the potential risks when charging e-bikes and e-scooters in the home. Investigations locally and further afield in the UK have confirmed lithium-ion batteries as the source of fire at multiple incidents that have resulted in death and injury.

“Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service are working with the National Fire Chief’s Council to support further research and seek better regulation of e-bikes and e-scooters, especially in respect of better safeguards for people who use online marketplaces.

“Lithium-ion battery technology has many advantages and it is used across a range of products, but it provides unique fire safety challenges that must be considered as the technology becomes more commonplace. The energy expelled in failed Lithium-ion batteries can lead to particularly intense fires in the  home environment, and when this happens there is an immediate and increased risk to people within the property and firefighters called to assist.”

There is a growing number of fires caused by the failure of lithium-ion batteries in the region, particularly in e-bikes and e-scooters. While these modes of transport can provide a cheaper, more sustainable mode of transport, these fires can be particularly dangerous given the size of the batteries involved and the fact that failure often takes place while charging in people’s homes.

Mark Thomas continued: “In response to the growing number of incidents our firefighters are attending involving Lithium-ion batteries, we have amended our home fire safety visit to include whether residents have an e-bike or e-scooter in their home. If so, specific safety advice will be left with the householder – such as don’t charge whilst you are sleeping and make sure that you don’t compromise your escape route out of the property. We are speaking with our key partners and will work with local landlords and businesses, asking them to support us by sharing this messaging further, making sure we reach as many people in Merseyside as possible.”

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service has provided safety advice on the charging, purchasing, storage and disposal of e-bikes and e-scooters on their website.