E-bike batteries are causing 'incredibly serious' blazes, warns fire brigade

After attending a West London tower block blaze, London Fire Brigade say dozens of similar incidents have been reported.

Fire Engine
(Image credit: Ricky Deacon)

After attending to a fire at a Shepherd’s Bush tower block caused by an e-bike battery failing, London Fire Brigade (LFB) have warned of the dangers posed by the electrical units. 

On 21 June, 60 firefighters attended a large fire in West London which took place less than a mile from Grenfell Tower, the site of the 2017 tragic blaze that killed 72 people. An investigation by LFB found the fire was caused by a faulty e-bike battery. 

The LFB said multiple incidents involving the batteries had been reported in recent months and told Cycling Weekly it has issued extensive warnings on the matter.

It said that in 2022 it had attended 32 fires involving e-bikes. A further 17 incidents had been reported this year involving other lithium-ion batteries, the type commonly used in e-bikes.  

Photos from the London blaze show the burnt out remains of the apartment along with the remains of the bike.

The advice issued by the LFB included making sure to use the correct charger for your device and to allow e-bike batteries to properly cool down before attempting to re-charge them. 

Charlie Pugsley, assistant commissioner for fire safety at LFB, said: “It’s incredibly concerning that we are continuing to see a rise in incidents involving e-bikes. 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.”

Pugsley called on the public to not store e-bikes in communal areas of apartment blocks because in the event of a fire they can block people’s only means of escape.

“Another issue with fires involving lithium-ion batteries and which we saw at yesterday’s fire is that when they fail, they eject their contents over a wide area which can lead to multiple areas of burning in the room where the fire has started. The Brigade’s advice is to never store e-bikes or e-scooters in communal areas as if they are involved in a fire, it can easily block the only means of escape,” he added. 

Image of e-bike after fire

(Image credit: London Fire Brigade)

Fire investigators in London have discovered that many of the incidents have involved e-bike conversion kits that add the benefit of pedalling assistance to a standard bicycle. The conversion kits often provide the motors and control gears but users need to source batteries separately. 

Assistant commissioner Pugsley said the batteries sourced on the internet may not always be the right ones for your machine: “There is a significant risk posed by the e-bikes which have been converted and we are predominantly seeing fires in ones which have been purchased from online marketplaces and batteries which have been sourced on the internet, which may not meet the correct safety standards. Lithium-ion batteries are susceptible to failure if incorrect chargers are used.”

The LFB also said that unplugging batteries once they are charged is important. It added, never leave them charging overnight while people are asleep as they can overheat very quickly.

Always buy batteries from reputable sellers and follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

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