'Food delivery driver' suffers life-changing injuries from e-bike fire

A man believed to be a food delivery driver was left with life-changing injuries after he tried to put out an e-bike fire.

It comes as the London Fire Brigade warned that there have been 137 fires involving an e-bike or e-scooter this year alone, in which three people died and 50 more were injured.

The brigade said there have already been more battery fires in 2023 than all of 2022.

In the latest incident, the man sustained burns to several parts of his body after his e-bike caught fire inside his bedroom in a flat in Highgate, north London, on 12 September.

He tried to put out the fire with an extinguisher before firefighters arrived and put out the blaze.

An investigation by the London Fire Brigade found that the e-bike was charging when it caught fire and that the charger had been bought online the day before.

It is the latest in a spate of e-bike fires in London.

On 13 September, a shop was damaged in Bow, east London, when an e-bike battery failed.

Nobody was hurt but 40 firefighters were needed to put out the blaze.

Just a few days earlier, 80 firefighters responded to two separate fires - both were believed to have been caused by lithium batteries in e-bikes failing.

One of the fires happened in a third-floor flat in Holborn, central London, while an e-bike that was charging in a garden in Penge, southeast London, caught fire and spread to a block of flats.

The London Fire Brigade has warned the public about the dangers of lithium batteries, that are commonly used in e-bikes and e-scooters, as part of their Charge Safe campaign.

The brigade urged e-bike owners to always use the correct charger and to buy it from a reputable seller.

Read more:
E-bike battery exploded and fire ripped through home
E-bike owners urged to check if chargers are appropriate

Deputy Commissioner Dom Ellis said: "We strongly recommend calling us immediately if there is a fire, but particularly if it involves your e-bike or e-scooter.

"Fires involving lithium batteries, which power these vehicles, can be ferocious, producing jets of flame. The blaze is also hot enough to melt through metal," he said.

"This type of fire produces a highly flammable, explosive and toxic vapour cloud which should never be inhaled. The fire can also be extremely challenging to put out.

"This incident, and the severe injuries sustained by this e-bike owner, highlights why you should never tackle a lithium battery fire. Our advice is to get out and call 999."

The London Assembly's Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning Committee wrote to the government on Monday raising "serious concerns" over the regulation of these vehicles and called for the Department for Business and Trade to outline what action it is taking to address the issue.

Meanwhile, Lesley Rudd, chief executive of Electrical Safety First, warned: "Online marketplaces are a hotbed for substandard e-bike chargers.

"Incompatible chargers can supply an e-bike battery with too much voltage causing a catastrophic fire and we want to see a ban on universal chargers that risk doing exactly this.

"Until online marketplaces are regulated like our high street stores, fires will continue.

"Time is of the essence and our Battery Breakdown report offers the government extensive solutions to tackle this issue that is claiming lives across the country."

Private e-scooters cannot be legally used on roads or pavements in the UK but have become common, particularly in urban areas.

It is legal to ride an e-bike as long as it meets certain requirements.

They must be pedal-assisted and have an electric motor with a maximum power output of 250 watts and that does not propel the bike when it is travelling faster than 15.5mph.

E-bikes are often used by food delivery riders eager to make journeys as quickly as possible as they earn money based on the number of customers they serve.