Explainer: Why e-scooters are London’s biggest fire threat
What’s the biggest fire threat in London? You would think it’s kitchen electricals, cigarette butts still burning, or millennials leaving scented candles on. But you’d be wrong: it’s actually e-scooters and e-bikes’ batteries.
The London Fire Brigade has warned the risk of these batteries exploding is the most pressing issue they’re facing in the capital. Only this year, there have already been 37 fires caused by a battery exploding.
E-scooters are technically illegal in this country. They can be used on private property or as part of a government’s trial – the white and green Lime scooters are part of this scheme. Yet this rule is not really enforced, and many ignore it. It is easy to buy them online, or even in Argos, so people disregard the “illegality warning” on websites and use them anyway.
The number of e-scooters circulating on our streets is estimated to be between a million and 750,000 – and most of them are illegal.
But what’s really worrying the firemen is that many e-bikes users buy the lithium batteries separately, online – and these often have very poor safety standards. Some also modify their e-bikes to make them go faster.
E-scooters and e-bikes are banned on public transport precisely for the fire risk they pose. TfL is fining people up to £1,000 if they’re found out carrying those on the network. If you look online, there’s shocking footage of the fire that a battery exploding can actually cause. They’re particularly dangerous because they release toxic smoke.
The e-scooters trend has swept across European capitals in recent years, and in many cities they’re increasingly becoming a common mode of transport. They might be illegal in the UK, but the fact that so many people use them regardless clearly signals there is an appetite for alternative ways of moving around – especially after a long season of train and tube strikes.