Whitechapel e-bike battery fire leads to new warning over dangers

Aftermath of an e-bike fire in Shepherd’s Bush. Pic: London Fire Brigade

Two people had to be rescued by ladders from a fire in a Whitechapel flat on Wednesday morning believed to have been caused by an e-bike battery. 

The fire prompted the London Fire Brigade to issue a fresh warning about the dangers of e-bikes batteries. The cause of the fire is believed to be a lithium battery failing in an e-bike stored in a hallway. According to the LFB, 40 firefighters attended the scene. 

Lutfur Rahman, The Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets said in a statement: “It is highly concerning to see another potential e-bike battery fire take place in Tower Hamlets. We must spread these crucial safety messages far and wide, never block your fire escape route with e-bikes or e-scooters and do not charge while you are asleep or not around. As always, the safety of our residents is our main priority and, alongside Peabody Housing, the responsible housing association, Council officers have been at the scene to assist with the incident.” 

This follows another e-battery fire that took place on January 26 at a hotel in Kensington, where a man had heard the hissing of a battery pack and found that it was unusually hot when he touched it. He placed the battery just outside his room, where it exploded about 20 minutes later and 25 firefighters were called to attend the scene. No injuries were reported, and around 80 people were safely evacuated. 

According to the LFB warning, e-bikes and e-scooters have become London’s fastest growing fire risk. They advise residents to check their e-bikes for exploding UPP batteries that were officially classed as a “dangerous product” by the Office for Product Safety and Standards  in January.  

OPSS has announced it is taking enforcement action against its manufacturer after the battery has been linked to a number of fires. Five online marketplaces had also been issued with a notice of withdrawal directing them to stop purchasing UPP batteries along with 20 sellers directly, and a China-based manufacturer. 

The Brigade’s assistant commissioner for fire safety, Charlie Pugsley, welcomed the move and called for legislation that would strictly regulate products like batteries, chargers and conversion kits in online marketplaces to prevent these fires from happening again.  

He said: “The lithium batteries that power these vehicles have failed catastrophically and caused devastating fires. We’re asking people to check whether they have a UPP battery at home. If you do, stop using it right away, and contact the seller.” 

Raham also said: “We will continue to work with London Fire to tackle this issue and our officers will remain focused on removing imported and unsafe lithium batteries from local shops and online providers.” 

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