Call for dangerous e-bike chargers to be banned after spate of fires

Recent deadly fire in Bristol tower block attributed to electric bike

fire engine
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A London council has called on the government to ban the sale of dangerous e-bike chargers, amid a spate of fires linked to electric bikes.

Hammersmith & Fulham councillor Frances Umeh told the BBC the chargers "should never have been available for sale".

An investigation conducted by Electrical Safety First, a UK charity dedicated to reducing death and injury caused by electricity in the home, published last month, revealed that Amazon Marketplace, eBay, and AliExpress have all been selling suspected illegal and highly dangerous charging devices for e-bikes on their websites.

The charity found 59 listings of illegal and dangerous e-bike chargers across the four retailers, which were all subsequently removed or blocked. One marketplace also removed hundreds more listings based on the information provided by the charity. 

The chargers are incompatible with the lithium-ion batteries in e-bikes, increasing the risk of a fault occurring within the battery, which can subsequently cause  fires. They also found they fell below the necessary safety standards for sale to UK consumers. There have been 57 e-bike related fires in London so far this year, according to the London Fire Brigade (LFB).

This is an increase on the 47 fires of last year, 13 in 2020 and 10 in 2019.

In June, a large tower block fire was started by an e-bike battery malfunctioning as it charged.

>>> Do e-bike batteries spontaneously combust? After another house fire and a London Fire Brigade safety warning, how worried should we be?

Ms Umeh said: "We're calling on the government to ban the sale of these dangerous chargers.

"They pose an increased risk of fire to consumers as well as their neighbours. These products should never have been available for sale to UK shoppers in the first place."

Just last weekend, an electric bike was found to have caused a fire in Bristol which resulted in the death of a man, and eight people being treated in hospital.

Emergency services were called to the blaze on the top floor of Twinnell House on Wills Drive, in the Easton area of the city, on Sunday. 

Avon Fire and Rescue area manager Steve Quinton, who conducted the fire investigation, said that the cause was "accidental, due to an electric bike".

LFB fire investigation officer and station officer Matt Cullen told the BBC that people should only to buy batteries and chargers from reputable sources.

"We know that lithium-ion batteries are susceptible to failure if incorrect chargers are used and this may be a contributing factor in some cases," he said.

"We also know many of these incidents involve batteries which have been sourced on the internet, which may not meet the correct safety standards."

A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson said: "The government's top priority is to keep people safe.

"Goods sold in the UK, whether online or on the High Street, must meet some of the strictest safety laws in the world.

"Manufacturers must ensure all products supplied, including the batteries that power them, abide by product safety regulations before being placed on the market." 

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