Firefighters are issuing another reminder about using e-bikes safely after a fire on Birkbeck Road in Hornsey.

Part of a ground floor flat in a four-storey residential block was damaged by fire. A man and a woman were taken to hospital by London Ambulance Service crews suffering from smoke inhalation. Around 30 other people left the block before firefighters arrived.

The fire is believed to have been caused by the catastrophic failure of a battery pack on a converted e-bike that was charging.

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “E-bikes and e-scooters are London’s fastest-growing fire risk. If you own an e-bike or e-scooter, there are a number of things you can do to help keep yourself and those around you safe.

“The e-bike had been converted from a normal e-bike. Converting pedal bikes into e-bikes using DIY kits bought online can be very dangerous. They can pose a higher risk of fire. Get a professional or competent person to carry out the conversion and make sure to buy a battery from a reputable seller and that it is not second-hand. 

“When charging your e-bike or e-scooter, make sure you are using the correct charger. Mismatching the charger increases the risk of fire. It’s also important not to overcharge and to unplug the charger once it’s completed charging. Never charge an e-bike or e-scooter unattended or whilst you’re sleeping and don’t charge it on an escape route, such as in a hallway. Instead, charge or store the device outdoors or in a shed. If this is not possible, make sure the device is in a room where you can shut a door and contain a fire.”

E-bikes and e-scooters are powered by lithium batteries. Lithium batteries store a significant amount of energy in a very small space and are much more powerful compared to other types of batteries. If that energy is released in an uncontrolled way, then a fire or explosion may result. If there is overheating, crushing, penetrating or overcharging, then a fault can occur within damaged battery cells which may cause the battery to catch fire and/or explode.

Many of the fires have involved second-hand vehicles or the bike has been modified using parts bought online. At this time, there is not the same level of regulation of products for e-bikes and e-scooters sold via online marketplaces or auction sites when compared to high street shops, so the Brigade cannot be confident that products meet the correct safety standard.

The Brigade was called to this fire at 0443 and the fire was extinguished by 0530. Three fire engines from Hornsey and Holloway fire stations attended the scene.

E-bike or e-scooter top safety tips

Never block your escape route with anything, including e-bikes and e-scooters. Store them somewhere away from a main through route. Our advice is to store these items in a safe external location if possible, such as a garage or a shed. 
Always use the correct charger, otherwise the risk of fire increases, and buy an official one from a reputable seller. 
Do not attempt to modify or tamper with your battery. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 
Converting pedal bikes into e-bikes using DIY kits bought online can be very dangerous. They pose a higher risk of fire. Get a professional or competent person to carry out the conversion and make sure to buy a battery from a reputable seller and that it is not second-hand. 
Check your battery and charger meets UK safety standards.  We have particular concern 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.  Consumers buying any product can check that the item displays a UKCA or CE mark that ensures that the products meet UK and EU safety, health or environmental requirements. If buying online, buy from a UK supplier.
Watch out for signs that the battery or charger aren’t working as they should – e.g. if the battery is hot to the touch or has changed shape. 
Let the battery cool before charging. Batteries can get warm during their use and it is advisable to allow them to cool down before attempting to re-charge as they could be more susceptible to failure if overheated. If you are charging batteries indoors, please follow our advice on safe charging.
Unplug your charger once it’s finished charging. Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when charging and we would advise not to leave it unattended or while people are asleep.
Fit alarms where you charge. Ensure you have smoke alarms fitted in areas where e-bikes or e-scooters are being charged and make sure they are tested regularly. You can quickly and easily check your home by visiting our free online home fire safety checker tool

Leave a Reply