Tighter regulations needed to stop e-bike fires, warns City Hall

London’s fire crews have fought 104 e-bike fires and 19 e-scooter blazes so far in 2023, with three fatalities, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

The aftermath of a recent e-bike fire in Crouch End and (inset) Anne Clarke AM
The aftermath of a recent e-bike fire in Crouch End and (inset) Anne Clarke AM

The rising number of fires caused by e-bikes and e-scooters in London has led a City Hall committee to urgently request tighter regulation from the government.

The London Assembly’s fire, resilience and emergency planning committee said it was “very concerned” by the issue, warning that an e-bike fire is now occurring in the capital approximately once every two days.

The cross-party committee’s Labour chair, Anne Clarke, said: “E-scooters and e-bikes have the potential to offer quick travel across the city, with minimal carbon footprint.

“However, we are hugely concerned that some of the batteries in e-bike kits that are being bought online are not regulated and could be putting lives at risk.”

The government said it takes the issue seriously and is reviewing the evidence to shape future policies.

It comes shortly after an e-bike blaze at a flat in Crouch End led a man to suffer life-changing injuries.

According to data released at the start of September, London’s fire crews have in 2023 already fought 104 e-bike fires along with 19 e-scooter blazes, overtaking the 116 total fires attended in the whole of last year, making this year already a record-high for the capital.

In a letter to Lord Minto – the government’s minister for regulatory reform – Clarke noted that a total of three deaths arising from an e-bike being left on charge have so far been recorded in London this year: Sofia Duarte’s death on New Year’s Day, a second in March in Shadwell, and a third in Kentish Town in July.

In June, the committee was told that the increasing number of fires is primarily due to faulty or poor-quality lithium-ion batteries or chargers, or from e-bike ‘conversion kits’ for pedal cycles sold online.

“A report published in September 2022 by electrical safety charity, Electrical Safety First, found nearly 60 listings on prominent [online] marketplaces […] which fell below the required safety standards for sale to UK consumers,” Clarke wrote.

This story is published by Waltham Forest Echo, Waltham Forest's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

She asked Lord Minto to set out what actions the government will take to crack down on the regulation of e-bike products, and for an expected timeline of proposed reforms.

A spokesperson at the Department for Business and Trade said: “We take all incidents of fires involving lithium batteries seriously.

“The Office for Product Safety and Standards is working closely with the fire service to review all evidence of fires involving lithium batteries in e-bikes and e-scooters to ensure the product safety issues are properly assessed and action is taken to protect users from harm.”

According to data collected by LFB, most people injured in fires related to e-bikes and e-scooters in London are in their twenties, and these fires are often in homes where multiple adults are living together without children.

The brigade has started a ‘Charge Safe’ campaign to raise awareness of the dangers. It has reached out directly to fast food delivery riders, who are thought to be particularly at risk from the fires.

Clarke said in her letter: “These riders often use conversion kits on pedal bikes to speed up their delivery times to meet targets, as well as being in the high-risk demographic identified by LFB.”

The assembly’s concern comes as Tower Hamlets Council made its own appeal to the government for improved regulation and more funding to tackle the issue.

The borough’s mayor, Lutfur Rahman, said: “Given that 80% 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.”

Between January and July this year, LFB attended 13 reported e-bike and e-scooter fires in Tower Hamlets alone. In his own letter to ministers, sent in July, Rahman called for improved legislation, more funding for councils to create safe charging spaces, more robust sampling and examination on the importation of lithium batteries – including a national registration body for businesses providing them – and greater research into the issue.

A response to was provided by Kevin Hollinrake MP, the minister for enterprise, markets and small business. He told the borough mayor that “the safety of UK consumers is a top priority for the government” and that a cross-departmental programme of work has been started, aimed at ensuring “we get to the root of the issue, understand why incidents occur, and deliver the right regulatory activity to help prevent further occurrences”.

No news is bad news 

Independent news outlets like ours – reporting for the community without rich backers – are under threat of closure, turning British towns into news deserts. 

The audiences they serve know less, understand less, and can do less. 

In celebration of Indie News Week, Public Interest News Foundation's Indie News Fund will match fund all donations, including new annual supporter subscriptions for the month of June.

If our coverage has helped you understand our community a little bit better, please consider supporting us with a monthly, yearly or one-off donation. 

Choose the news. Don’t lose the news.

Monthly direct debit 

Annual direct debit

£5 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else, £10 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else and a print copy posted to them each month.  £50 annual supporters get a digital copy of each month's paper before anyone else.

Donate now with Pay Pal

More information on supporting us monthly or annually 

More Information about donations