E-scooter battery fires: a growing risk for riders and residents
E-scooters and e-bikes are becoming increasingly common sights on our urban streets and pavements, with e-bikes accounting for nearly one in 10 new bikes sold in the UK, according to the Bicycle Association.
However, if their lithium-ion batteries are damaged, charged incorrectly, or left unattended, they can overheat, releasing flammable gases and ignite in a process called 'thermal runaway'. While e-bike battery fires are less common than fires caused by cooking, heating, or smoking, they are on the rise.
Data released by Zurich Insurance reveals that fires caused by e-bikes and e-scooters have risen by 149% from 67 in 2020 to 167 in 2022. Incidents include an £84,000 claim for a scooter that went up in flames in a garage, £13,000 for an e-bike that exploded in a customer's bedroom, and £6,000 for an e-bike that caught fire in a living room. Meanwhile, the London Fire Brigade reports that it is seeing a growing number of fires caused by e-bikes and e-scooters in London, roughly one every two days.
Why are e-scooter batteries prone to catching fire?
E-scooter lithium-ion batteries are particularly vulnerable to variations in temperature and tend to degrade when exposed to very hot or cold environments. Exposure to temperatures outside recommended operating conditions can lead the lithium battery to fail and become volatile. Batteries can also be damaged by using the wrong charger, overcharging, or undercharging. Moreover, some e-scooter users may buy cheap or counterfeit batteries online, which may not meet UK safety standards or be compatible with their devices.
How to mitigate the risk of e-scooter battery fires
To prevent lithium battery fires, you should follow these simple tips:
- Only buy e-scooters from reputable dealers and manufacturers, and check that they have the CE marking, which indicates that they comply with the European safety standards
- Inspect your batteries regularly for any signs of damage, such as cracks, bulges, or leaks, and replace them if they are faulty
- Only use the correct charger for your e-scooter or e-bike and avoid overcharging or undercharging your batteries
- Avoid charging your e-scooter or e-bike overnight or in places where it can block exits or pose a fire hazard to others
- Fit smoke and heat alarms where batteries are being charged.
Other products that use lithium batteries
Many products besides e-bikes and e-scooters use lithium batteries and pose a potential fire risk if you fail to use or store them properly. These include cordless power tools, mobile phones, laptops, tablets, cordless vacuum cleaners, drones, and even e-cigarettes.
You should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions when using, charging, and storing these products. You should also check your batteries regularly for any signs of wear and tear and dispose of them properly when they are no longer needed. By doing so, you can reduce the risk of lithium battery fires and protect yourself and others from harm.