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Cambridge City Council

Council appeals to government to raise awareness around risks of E-bike battery fires

14 September 2023

Cambridge City Council has written to the government asking for more to be done to warn the public of the risks associated with batteries used to charge electric vehicles such as E-bikes.

The council sent the letter to the Department of Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities following a tragic fire at a council-owned property in the city earlier this year, in which three people lost their lives. A Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service investigation into the incident concluded that the most probable cause of the accidental fire was a faulty E-bike battery which was being charged overnight.

The letter signed by Cllr Mike Davey, Leader of Cambridge City Council, and Cllr Gerri Bird, Executive Councillor for Housing and Homelessness, asks the government and other organisations to:

  • raise awareness of the potentially deadly risks associated with E-bike/E-scooter batteries, which are mostly lithium-ion batteries
  • review current legislation and guidance, and
  • consider launching a wider campaign to increase safety awareness.

Since the tragic fire at Sackville Close in King’s Hedges ward earlier this year, the council has been working with its partners at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service to raise awareness of the risk of battery fires to its tenants and to Cambridge residents.

The council is publishing an extensive article on how to reduce the risks of fires from E-bike and similar batteries in the autumn issues of Cambridge Matters magazine – which goes to all Cambridge households – and Open Door, which is delivered to all council tenants.

The article outlines the joint advice from the council and the fire service for using lithium-ion batteries at home, including advice for people:

  • Always use manufacturer approved chargers and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging, storage and maintenance
  • Charge batteries while awake and at home
  • Do not overcharge batteries
  • Store E-bikes/E-scooters in a safe, cool place with a closed door and a smoke alarm if possible
  • Buy E-bikes and E-scooters from reputable dealers, and check they meet British or European standards
  • Check batteries for signs of damage and replace if damaged
  • Do not dispose of batteries in household waste or normal recycling
  • Do not attempt to extinguish a fire caused by an E-bike/E-scooter/lithium ion battery but to get out, stay out and phone 999

In addition the council is reviewing all of the information currently provided to its tenants regarding fire safety to ensure advice regarding lithium-ion batteries is up to date and to remind people of the importance of having working smoke alarms and a fire plan for their home.

Cllr Gerri Bird, Executive Councillor for Housing and Homelessness, said: “Following the tragic fire at Sackville Close earlier this year, it is vital that we spread the message as widely as possible about the risks associated with E-bikes, E-scooters and lithium-ion batteries.

“That’s why we have written to the government asking them to do more to raise awareness, as more people are using E-bikes and E-scooters as a positive alternative to other forms of transport.

“Fully charged lithium batteries can contain a huge amount of energy, so if they malfunction they can cause explosive fires which spread rapidly. I’d really urge anyone with an E-bike, E-scooter or any item that uses a lithium-ion battery to take the risks seriously and to read all the latest advice on how to use, charge and dispose of them safely.

The latest advice from the Fire Service regarding E-bike and E-scooter safety can be found on their website here.