E-bike battery risks: How can I stay safe?

July 10, 2024

Fire crew tackles large blaze

In the wake of a tragic death caused by an e-bike battery fire, Bristol coroner Maria Voisin has raised concerns about the lack of understanding over dangers posed by lithium-ion batteries.

Voisin’s investigation into the fire in a top-floor flat in Avon highlights the need for enhanced consumer protection.

While fires involving e-bike batteries are rare, their intensity can be extremely dangerous when they do occur. The primary culprits are often poor-quality charging kits. These kits, marketed as ‘universal’, are particularly hazardous because they are not properly matched to the specific battery they are charging.

Some cheaper versions do not have mechanisms to cut the power supply once the battery is fully charged or if it starts to overheat, posing significant fire risks.

Additionally, some e-bikes are equipped with sub-standard Battery Management Systems (BMS) which depend heavily on the original charger to prevent overcharging and overheating. If consumers unknowingly use incompatible or inferior chargers, the risk of battery fires increases substantially.


e-bike competition

E-bike battery fires: Should I be worried?

With an estimated two million e-bikes in the UK, and sales on the up, battery fires are on the increase. However, at present they occur at a rate of less than one per day. By comparison, 100,000 cars go up in flames every year resulting in the death of around 100 people. That's nearly 300 vehicles fires every day. In other words, a car is twice as likely to catch fire as an e-bike.

However, given electric bicycles are most often charged inside the home, it's a risk worth guarding against - especially when the safeguards are so easy to follow.

e-bike fire safety


E-bike fire risk advice

The greatest risk of e-bike fires stems from poor quality electric bicycles, chargers and batteries sold by disreputable dealers. E-bike conversion kits that have not been installed by a professional, and mismatching batteries and chargers also increases any risk.

The UK government recommends these five steps when buying and charging your e-bike:

  • Only buy an e-bike, e-scooter, charger or battery from a known seller and check any product reviews
  • Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and using e-bikes or e-scooters
  • Not all e-bike or e-scooter batteries and chargers are compatible or safe when used together. Check and only use the manufacturer’s recommended battery or charger
  • Always charge in a safe place without blocking exits and always unplug your charger when you have finished charging
  • Never attempt to modify or tamper with your battery

E-bike insurance

The ETA covers all road-legal electric bicycles. And we include battery theft and Cycle Rescue at no additional cost. If your e-bike develops a mechanical fault, you can call on our breakdown team 24/7.

Read a full list of everything we include as standard.


Lithium ion battery safety

Most of us already use lithium ion batteries in devices such mobile phones, laptops and cordless tools, and do so safely. Most of the fire risk occurs with products that don't conform with the CE or UKCA mark, or mixing and matching batteries and chargers. E-bike are no different.

Before a lithium-ion battery catches fire, there may be warning signs. Stop using or charging your battery immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • Excessive heat, or smoke
  • Swelling or leaks
  • Hissing or cracking sound
  • A strong or unusual smell
  • A sudden deterioration in performance

If the charger or battery starts smoking or catches fire, raise the alarm, get out, stay out and call 999 immediately. Remember to report your faulty charger or battery to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service.

Charging e-bike batteries

  • Don’t charge e-bikes and e-scooters in bedrooms or where escape routes can be blocked – for example, hallways
  • Always unplug your charger when you have finished charging
  • Don’t leave your battery charging unattended, when you are out or while you are asleep
  • If your battery can be removed from your e-bike, it should be charged on a hard flat surface where heat can disperse and in an area with good ventilation
  • Don’t cover chargers or battery packs when charging
  • Do not overload sockets or use inappropriate extension leads
  • Don’t charge or store batteries in direct sunlight or in hot locations
  • Don’t charge batteries close to combustible materials or hazardous substances

The ethical choice

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.

The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK's most ethical provider.




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