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Concerns over charging e-scooters/bikes inside confined properties due to fire risk

E scooter (Pic: Cindy Shebley, Pexels)

CHARGING e-scooters and e-bikes inside student accommodation is a “concern”, a senior fire service officer said.

David Morgans, of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said e-scooter and e-bike battery fires could take hold very quickly and that the smoke was highly toxic.

Mr Morgans, head of operational equipment and assurance, said Swansea in particular had a lot of student accommodation and houses of multiple occupation. Meanwhile e-bikes and e-scooters are growing in number. “It is a concern,” he said.

He said there were 167 e-scooter and e-bike fires in the UK in 2021, mainly linked to the way they were charged and the way conventional pedal cycles had been converted into e-bikes.

Mr Morgans was giving a presentation about electric vehicle fires to members of the Mid and West Wales Fire Authority when he spoke about e-scooters and e-bikes, but there was no suggestion that they were dangerous as such.

Councillors on the fire authority shared his concern about charging these machines in properties with little space. “This is an accident waiting to happen,” said Cllr Lyndon Jones.

Mr Morgans, when asked, said the risk could also apply to mobility scooters being charged inside a property.

It is against the law to use a privately-owned e-scooter on public roads, pavements or cycle lanes in the UK, but they are on sale widely and many people own one. E-scooter trials are taking place in several areas of England via rental schemes.

Mr Morgans’s presentation included videos of an e-bike rapidly catching fire inside a home while charging, and batteries in the roof of an electric bus suddenly bursting into flames.

He said there were 239 electric vehicle fires in the UK between June 2022 and June 2023 – an 83% increase on the previous year – but this came at a time when electric vehicle sales were rising fast. Mr Morgans said there were around 950,000 electric vehicles on the road currently – compared to 100,000 four years ago – plus 570,000 plug-in hybrid ones.

He said electric vehicle batteries which caught alight were hard to put out, and that batteries became unstable after an accident, leading to them igniting in some instances – a process known as “thermal runaway”.  Some fire services were, he said, starting to use special electric vehicle “blankets” costing around £1,000 each which prevented battery fires spreading to nearby vehicles. Mid and West Fire and Rescue Service now has an electric vehicle working group exploring this subject.

“I think it’s something we can expect to be seeing in the next few years,” said Mr Morgans. “Everyone seems to be a bit behind the curve.”

A study reported in the press last month concluded that electric vehicles were considerably less prone to catching fire than petrol and diesel ones.

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