9:37 AM, 23rd May 2023, About 9 months ago 2
From a few wisps of smoke to a toxic explosion in just 12 seconds – the damage e-bikes and e-scooters can cause are catastrophic.
With their ever-growing popularity, it’s no wonder landlords are becoming worried about how much damage they could cause to a property.
This Property118 investigation looks at the dangers these machines pose in properties, with advice to landlords and tenants on how to store them safely.
Exploding batteries on e-scooters and e-bikes poses one of the biggest threats to properties. The London Fire Brigade says it has had to attend 158 e-bike and e-scooter fires since the start of last year.
These fires usually start with faulty e-bike and e-scooter batteries which are sold cheaply online from around £100.
According to data from The Times, there are now estimated to be more than one million private e-scooters in the UK.
Last year almost 492,000 were imported into Britain up to November, according to official customs data, to be sold by retailers including Amazon, Currys and John Lewis.
They typically range in price from £150 to almost £1,000.
But recently, a housing association in Manchester launched a fire safety campaign after the tenth floor of a tower block it owns was substantially damaged by a charging e-bike battery which exploded in a tenant’s bedroom.
Salix Homes which rents out 8,500 homes, is urging its tenants across Salford to be aware of the potential dangers posed by the lithium-ion batteries in e-bikes and e-scooters.
Stewart Kerr, the building safety manager at Salix Homes, said: “Thankfully no one was injured during the fire at Mulberry Court, but the outcome could have been very different, and we want to warn our residents about the dangers associated with charging the lithium batteries in e-bikes and e-scooters.
“We’ve carried out extensive fire safety improvements to all our tower blocks in Salford, and fortunately the fire was contained to the flat where it originated, but the ferocity at which the fire took hold and the damage it caused to the property is quite shocking.”
He added: “The fire service has seen a rise in e-bike-related fires and we are seeing more of our tenants owning and using e-bikes and e-scooters, so we want to ensure they’re taking the necessary steps to ensure they’re not putting peoples’ lives or homes at risk.”
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) attended 14 fires that had been sparked by e-bikes and e-scooters last year – an increase from eight in 2021 and three in 2020.
GMFRS’s head of prevention area manager Billy Fenwick said: “The fire started due to a faulty lithium-ion battery pack that was left charging, and the pictures show [see below] just how quickly this type of fire can rip through a property.
“We are urging everyone with an electric bike to please be responsible and follow our safety guidance. Batteries can be a fire risk if they’re over-charged, short-circuited, or damaged, so it’s important to protect them against being damaged and to charge them safely.”
He added: “It’s also really important that when buying an electric bike, to purchase them – as well as the batteries and chargers – from a reputable seller.”
To underline the dangers, we recommend that ALL landlords watch this London Fire Brigade video of what can happen above:
The latest London Fire Brigade data shows that there have been 48 e-bike fires and 12 e-scooter fires in the capital in 2023.
The National Fire Chiefs Council has also issued guidance on how to safely store and charge e-bike and e-scooter batteries that landlords and letting agents should take note of. The tips include:
A full list can be found here.
London Fire Brigade’s assistant commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, told Property118: “As e-bikes and e-scooters have increased in popularity we’ve seen an increase in fires related to these products.
“We encourage people to be aware of the risks and ensure products are bought from reputable retailers. This includes conversion kits and batteries, so they meet UK safety standards.
“Many of these fires happen when the batteries are charging. So, we also strongly encourage people not to charge these products on escape routes so they can get out if a fire starts.”
He added: “It’s important to always follow manufacturers’ instructions when charging and we would advise you not to leave it unattended or on charge while people are asleep.
“London Fire Brigade’s #ChargeSafe campaign has plenty of useful safety advice for people, so please check the website for more information.”
If a fire starts in a residential property by an e-bike or e-scooter, is it covered by insurance?
With the ever-growing popularity of e-bikes and e-scooters, Jason McClean from the Home Insurer says it is important for landlords to check their insurance policy and make sure it is not excluded.
He says: “If the client has insurance covering ‘Fire’ then all should be covered in the event of a fire – depending on the terms of their exact policy (it may exclude fires caused by e-scooters for example). They need to read the terms and conditions of their own policy carefully.”
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is also concerned about the fire risk that lithium batteries pose and is calling for more regulations to be developed around how they can be safely transported and stored within residential and commercial properties.
A spokesperson from the Association of British Insurers told Property118: “Insurers have raised concerns about the fire risk that the lithium batteries used in e-scooters and e-bikes can pose. The industry supports the need for government to develop regulation around how they can be safely transported and stored within both residential and commercial properties.”
Laura Hughes, ABI’s manager for general insurance, added: “We share the government’s vision of a greener and more inclusive transport system.
“But at present, used illegally on the roads and pavements, e-scooters are dangerous to their owners, other road users and pedestrians. To help ensure they can reach their potential, it is essential that the government develops robust regulations around their construction and use, so that e-scooter travel can become as safe as possible.”
As e-bikes and e-scooters continue to grow in popularity so is the likelihood of property damage caused by fires from them.
The government will need to impose stricter regulations to ensure people’s safety and make sure that devasting fires caused by them are not allowed to continue.
Until then, landlords and letting agents will need to be aware of the dangers that charging the batteries of e-scooters and e-bikes bring and inform tenants to make safety a paramount issue when recharging batteries.
The consequences of not doing so, and tenants failing to heed the warnings, is that more landlords across the UK will be visiting a rental property that looks like the bedroom at the top of this article.