‘Wild west’ sale of killer e-bike chargers must end before more tragedies

More than ten people have been killed, dozens injured and scores of UK properties destroyed after a huge spike in fierce fires linked to e-bike and e-scooter chargers.

And unless “wild west” online sales of lithium-ion batteries are regulated, many more could die as that number grows “exponentially”, experts warn.

Toxic gas and 1200C heat combine to turn faulty or mis-used chargers into blow torches that send flames shooting two metres high and it can be a matter of seconds before an inferno takes hold.

Now the Government is being urged to bring in new rules for internet market places and launch an immediate nationwide awareness campaign – to save lives.

The move comes just weeks after the heartbreaking deaths of Gemma Germeney, 31, and her children Lilly Peden, eight, and Oliver Peden, four, victims of a deadly blaze thought to have been caused by an electric bike charging at their maisonette in Cambridge.

READ MORE: Terrifying video shows moment man ran for his life as e-bike battery exploded

The children’s father, Gemma’s partner Scott Peden, was badly injured as he heroically tried to rescue his family.

West Midlands Fire Service also recently released terrifying footage of the moment an e-bike owner ran for his life after its battery exploded inside his home in Birmingham while it was on charge.

The device suddenly blows up with a huge flash before sparks and thick black smoke begins billowing into the room.

Paul Christensen, Professor of Pure and Applied Electrochemistry at Newcastle University wants one Golden Rule writ large ‘in flames’ in any safety campaign: “Do Not Charge Any Device Indoors’”

He told the Daily Express: “I’m incandescent with rage that a campaign hasn’t happened already. It’s literally the wild west out there. Unregulated sales of lithium-ion cells should be killed dead now.

Don’t miss…
Mum and two kids killed in tragic house fire ‘started by e-bike charger[NEWS]
Some electric scooters and e-bikes ‘labelled as a major threat’ over fire risk[INSIGHT]
E-scooters could be removed from UK roads after Paris votes for ban[NEWS]

“There is no control whatsoever, anyone can buy them, In many cases there isn’t even a check on a buyer’s age. A mother and two lovely children died in Cambridge. My worry is that they won’t be the last.”

Lithium-ion batteries are now the main type of recharger batteries powering a wide range of consumer electronics. The key components are two nano particulate electrodes separated by a thin, porous plastic separator soaked in a mixture of organic solvents and a dissolved lithium salt.

The lithium ions move out of one electrode and into to the other during charge and discharge.

A surge in delivery services during the Covid pandemic combined with a push for ‘green’ ways of travelling mean thousands are buying cheap versions of bikes and their chargers from oversees on the internet.

Some cyclists are converting ordinary pedal bikes into e-versions using dangerous DIY kits – while cheap imported e-bikes and scooters are also causing fires.

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

Insurance giant Zurich says it has seen lithium battery fire claims triple over three years, with most caused by incorrect chargers, defective batteries and items being left on charge for too long.

In June Lib-Dem peer Lord Foster of Bath called for ‘more urgent action’ on the issue, which had seen fires caused by lithium-ion batteries in e-scooters and e-bikes quadruple in number since 2020,

At that point eight people had died and 190 had been injured in fires across Britain that had also cost millions of pounds, he said.

Speaking in the House of Lords, he added: “Unsafe batteries and chargers are still being sold and there is no effective campaign to ensure safe recharging or disposal,”

Prof Christensen, a senior adviser to the National Fire Chiefs Council, says the London Fire Brigade is dealing with an e-scooter or e-bike fire every two days.

He describes the battery cells as ‘hugely energetic’.

“We’ve seen nothing like them ever on this planet before,” he said. “But that comes at a cost. If they are abused by over charging or if you stick a nail through them or if they have a defect introduced at the manufacturing stage, chemical processes are triggered.

“The basic problem is that you get between 500 and 6000 litres of explosive and toxic gas per Kilowatt hour. An e-scooter is a quarter of a KW hour so you’re looking at 125 to 1500 litres of explosive and toxic gas just from an e-scooter battery .Imagine that amount of gas in somebody’s home.

“We’ve had both explosions where the gas just goes bang – and also fires – because you’re generating such a huge amount of gas inside the cells of the battery it comes out at very high pressure. If that ignites immediately you get long blow torch like flames that can be two metres long.

“The heat speeds up these processes making even more gas and even more heat. You end up in what’s called thermal runaway. By the time the Fire Service arrive it’s not an e-scooter or e-bike fire it’s an inferno – rocket-like flames – that’s why people don’t escape.”

The charity Electrical Safety First has been long campaigning against the unlawful sale of all dangerous electronics, calling for them to be regulated like fireworks and heavy machinery.

Its research found nearly 60 listings of highly dangerous mains chargers for e-bike batteries available on popular online marketplaces such as Amazon Marketplace, eBay,, and AliExpress.

Some lacked even the basic safety function of a fuse, posing a serious risk of fire in the event of a fault in the supply lead.

Lesley Rudd, chief executive of ESF, believes the Government has been ‘too slow’ to react and they have been waiting a Government report for 18 months.

She tells Express readers: “Every day that goes by without it being published is another day when one of these dangerous fires may continue to kill people.”

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) say they have ‘concern’ around the increasing frequency of incidents involving what they call micro-mobility devices (for example, e-scooters and e-bikes), ‘especially as when they do catch fire, the fire can develop very quickly and without warning’.

“Sadly, there have been a number of serious injuries and deaths from fires involving e-bikes and e-scooters. The NFCC are working with government departments, to try and reduce the risk to the public as well as raise public awareness of the safety of these products within their homes.”

Meanwhile Conservative MP Dame Maria Miller has tabled an amendment to the Energy Bill to make local fire services statutory consultees in the planning process for industrial lithium-ion battery storage facilities.

She told the Express, UK fire services and industry experts were alarmed at a series of devastating fires at facilities around the world.

“There have been deaths, and serious injuries along with millions of pounds worth of damage.

“Industrial lithium-ion batteries store electricity from wind and solar farms so it can be used throughout the year and are important in our transition to net zero. But battery fires can be devastating to the environment and current regulations allow them to be built in potentially dangerous locations.”

The ‘major uptick’ in fires from smaller lithium-ion batteries was also ‘deeply concerning’ and a subject that ‘requires action’, she said.

A Government spokesperson said: “The Office for Product and Safety and Standards is working closely with the fire brigade to ensure product safety issues are properly assessed and action is taken to protect consumers.

“If manufacturers don’t comply with product safety regulations, appropriate enforcement action will be taken such as ordering the removal of the product from the market.”

Source: Read Full Article