Tower Hamlets Council call on Government to act over rise in e-bike fires

The London borough of Tower Hamlets suffers an e-bike or e-scooter fire every month, according to the London Fire Brigade – and these incidents are becoming more frequent. In March, such a fire resulted in the death of 41 year-old man.

The council has now been moved to call on the Government to do more to tackle these fires and have  launched #ChargeSafe Tower Hamlets, a local awareness campaign, backed by the London Fire Brigade.

In a letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, they call for improved legislation, more funding for local authorities to create safe charging spaces, more robust sampling and examination on importation of lithium batteries – including a national registration body for businesses providing them – and greater research into the problem.

The council recently found and removed 77 imported and unsafe lithium batteries in local shops.

Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: ‘As we see more and more e-bikes and e-scooters on our city streets, we’re also seeing more and more fires caused by their batteries – which are putting lives at risk.

‘Given that 80 per cent 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.

‘Doing nothing is simply not an option. We have taken steps locally to warn people of the dangers but we need the Government to take action to help prevent these fires and keep people safe.”

London Fire Brigade reported a 60% increase in e-bike and e-scooter related fires compared to last year and between January and July 2023, they attended 13 reported e-bike and e-scooter fires in Tower Hamlets alone.

More data shows that, almost a third of people injured were in their twenties, and often the fires are in homes where multiple adults are living together without children.

Richard Tapp, Tower Hamlets Borough Commander at London Fire Brigade, said: ‘It’s incredibly concerning we’re continuing to see a rise in incidents involving e-bikes and e-scooters. When these batteries and chargers fail, they do so with ferocity and because the fires develop so rapidly the situation can quickly become incredibly serious.

‘Lithium batteries are susceptible to failure if incorrect chargers are used and there is a significant risk posed by e-bikes which have been converted. We are predominantly seeing fires where batteries have been purchased from online marketplaces and when they’ve been sourced on the internet, which may not meet the correct safety standards.

‘Our advice is to store and charge these items in a safe location if possible, such as in a shed or a garage, and if they have to be stored inside, make sure there is smoke detection fitted and your means of escape is not obstructed. Do not leave them to charge unattended. However, we know this won’t be possible for everyone, so if you are charging them indoors, please and ensure everyone in your home knows what to do in the event of a fire.

‘If you find a fire in the home never tackle the fire yourself, shut the door, leave the property immediately and call 999.’

The letter was deferred to the Department for Business and Trade and the council received a response from the Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business, Kevin Hollinrake.

The Minister told Tower Hamlets Council that the safety of UK consumers is ‘a top priority for the Government’ and that the OPSS is ‘undertaking a safety study to better understand the causes of product failures and the risks presented as a result’.


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