E-bikes and e-scooters are becoming increasingly popular, with the Bike Association estimating that there are around 550,000 in the UK. These are usually powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries which are small, lightweight, and hold lots of power. These types of batteries are seen in a wide range of household products such as phones, tablets, and e-cigarettes.
Charging e-bikes and e-scooters should be done safely to avoid a risk of a fire starting that puts your families and homes at risk. The damage from these types of fires can be devastating, as seen in the London Fire Brigade's news story on electric bike fires.
On occasions batteries fail catastrophically, they can ‘explode’ and/or lead to a rapidly developing fire.
The incorrect disposal of lithium-ion batteries in general household and recycling waste can lead to significant waste fires.
In the event of an e-bike, e-scooter or lithium-ion battery fire, do not attempt to extinguish the fire. Get out, stay out, call 999.
Follow these key messages to minimise the risk of fire:
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when charging and always unplug your charger when it’s finished charging.
- Ensure you have working smoke alarms. If you charge or store your e-bike or e-scooter in a garage or kitchen ensure you install detection. We recommend heat alarms rather than smoke detectors for these areas.
- Charge batteries while you are awake and alert, so if a fire should occur you can respond quickly. Don’t leave batteries to charge while you are asleep or away from the home.
- Always use the manufacturer-approved charger for the product. If you spot any signs of wear and tear or damage, buy an official replacement charger for your product from a reputable seller.
- Do not cover chargers or battery packs when charging as this could lead to overheating or even a fire.
- Do not charge batteries or store your e-bike or e-scooter near combustible or flammable materials.
- Do not overcharge your battery – check the manufacturer’s instructions for charge times.
- Do not overload socket outlets or use inappropriate extension leads (use un-coiled extensions and ensure the lead is suitably rated for what you are plugging in to it).
- Avoid storing or charging e-bikes and e-scooters on escape routes or in communal areas of a multi occupied building. If there’s a fire, it can affect people’s ability to escape.
- Responsible Persons should consider the risks posed by e-bikes and e-scooters where they are charged or left in common areas such as means of escape, bike stores and mobility scooter charging rooms. They may wish to offer advice to residents on the safe use, storage and charging of these products.
- Store e-bikes and e-scooters and their batteries in a cool place. Avoid storing them in excessively hot or cold areas.
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions for the storage and maintenance of lithium-ion batteries if they are not going to be used for extended periods of time.
- Buy e-bikes, e-scooters and chargers and batteries from reputable retailers.
- Many fires involve counterfeit electrical goods. Items which don’t meet British or European standards pose a huge fire risk and while genuine chargers (or battery packs) may cost more, it’s not worth putting your life at risk and potentially destroying your home by buying a fake charger to save a few pounds.
- If buying an e-bike conversion kit, purchase from a reputable seller and check that it complies with British or European standards. Take particular care if buying from online auction or fulfilment platforms. Also be aware that if buying separate components, you should check that they are compatible.
- Register your product with the manufacturer to validate any warranties – batteries are usually included in warranties. Registering makes it easier for manufacturers to contact you in the event of safety or recall information.
- Check any products you have bought are not subject to a product recall. You can do this but checking Electrical Safety First’s website or the government website.
Damage and Disposal
- Batteries can be damaged by dropping them or crashing e-bikes or e-scooters. Where the battery is damaged, it can overheat and catch fire without warning. Check your battery regularly for any signs of damage and if you suspect it is damaged it should be replaced and should not be used or charged.
- If you need to dispose of a damaged or end of life battery, don’t dispose of it in your household waste or normal recycling. These batteries, when punctured or crushed can cause fires in bin lorries, recycling and waste centres. Your e- bike or e- scooter manufacturer may offer a recycling service. Alternatively check with your local authority for suitable battery recycling arrangements in your area.
For more information on electric scooter safety, visit Electrical Safety First.