Fire risk call for regulation of e-bike batteries

Close up of battery pack of a modern, white electric bicycle, being ridden by person wearing blue jeans, with legs only visible.

Calls are growing for tighter regulation and enhanced public awareness of the manufacture, plus safe and proper use of e-bike batteries, following a recent spate of high-profile fires — including a serious blaze in the Bronx, New York, where seven people were injured, plus an incident at a house in Hampshire, England, UK.

With a number of deaths also having been recorded in New York, to date, the City Council there has now begun a legislative crackdown, in a landmark move that may carry significant consequences for food delivery firms.

Leading electrical safety and compliance expert, Bureau Veritas has issued a reminder of the potential volatility and instability of a Lithium-ion battery systems, which are found in most e-bikes and EV cars and is calling for greater regulation by government and manufacturers of these energy-dense and toxic-chemical containing devices.

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) reported it had attended over 70 fires involving e-scooters and e-bikes during 2021 and Transport for London (TFL) has banned e-scooters from its services after a related fire on a tube train. 

Due to the lack of adequate regulation surrounding Lithium-ion batteries, more and more devices are being purchased online, which may not meet even minimal safety standards. Bureau Veritas argues for immediate action to be taken to regulate the manufacture and sale of e-bike batteries to prevent further fires and potential fatalities.

Danger overcharging can lead to overheating

It is suggested that Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery systems as a whole should be viewed as a bridge technology on the way to safer and more ecologically friendly options.

Consequently, the proper regulation and consideration of these systems, their dangers and their environmental impact must be addressed now to prevent the legacy problems, argues Jeff Ansell, Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser at Bureau Veritas:

“E-bikes and e-scooters can experience a lot of wear and tear when being used, which can cause significant damage and degradation to a Lithium-ion battery pack, especially if the correct charging apparatus for the specific battery cells is not being used. Consequently, these batteries which are large stores of energy in quite an unstable system, can become very volatile, especially when not properly manufactured, charged, used, and regulated.

“Currently, the onus is ostensibly placed on e-bike users to keep themselves safe, so it’s vitally important owners only use a manufacturer-approved charger for the product and cease use if it shows any signs of deterioration. In the current cost-of-living crisis it can be tempting to opt for cheaper versions available online, but this is a false economy and user safety must come first.

“Many manufacturers advise not charging batteries to 100% to prevent overheating — as overcharging is one of the key causes of a fire — as well as not charging them in enclosed spaces, such as inside the home, or even a car port. Serious degradation of Lithium-ion cells, known as ‘roll collapse’, can also occur when these batteries are undercharged or fully depleted.”

In conclusion, Ansell challenges interested parties to accept ownership of the problem and act accordingly:

“While human error can form a significant part of the cannon of problems seen, more must be done by regulatory bodies and manufacturers to better educate users and regulate the products themselves thus engineering-out these problems at source.”

With a highly experienced and qualified nationwide team of over 60 fire safety experts, Bureau Veritas undertakes in excess of 20,000 fire risk assessments annually across more than 6,000 properties. It can support businesses and local authorities to understand their fire safety obligations and put in place steps to mitigate fire risk.

Further Reading:

Do you have sustainability news to broadcast and share? If you would like to see it featured here on SustMeme, please use these Contact details to get in touch and send us your Press Release for editorial consideration. Thanks.