It’s a terrifying sight: an electric bike battery spewing toxic white smoke and bursting into flame with such ferocity it could prove fatal.
That’s the warning from electrical safety experts, who say that if such a fire breaks out, it can destroy a room in minutes.
To make matters worse, a new survey by the charity Electrical Safety First has found that hundreds of electric bike and electric scooter owners risk inadvertently starting such a fire by using incompatible chargers.
Nearly half (43 per cent) of those surveyed said they used a charger that was not supplied with their bike or scooter when it was sold, raising fears that such a device might not be compatible with their battery voltage.
Of the 430 people who admitted to doing so, 1 in 3 knew the charger they were using was not compatible with their e-scooter battery, while 1 in 5 didn’t.
Worrying: It’s a terrifying sight: an electric bike battery spewing toxic white smoke and bursting into flame with such ferocity it could prove fatal
A new survey by the charity Electrical Safety First has found that hundreds of electric bike and electric scooter owners risk inadvertently starting such a fire by using incompatible chargers.
The danger with incompatible chargers, safety experts warn, is that they risk supplying too much voltage to a battery, which can trigger a catastrophic process called thermal runaway.
This is where the the battery enters an uncontrollable self-heating chemical reaction that leads to a fire that can destroy a room in minutes.
It is for this reason that Electrical Safety First calls for a ban on universal chargers for electric bike and electric scooter batteries, whereby one charger comes with multiple sockets to connect to multiple batteries.
The charity has shared a video of what such a fire might look like to coincide with the release of its new report, battery failurewhich is looking at ways to crack down on a series of deadly e-bike fires in Britain.
In the images, a toxic smoke that can be incredibly harmful if inhaled is first shown coming out of the battery.
Then it’s only a matter of seconds before sparks fly and the battery goes up in flames.
Such is the ferocity of thermal runaway that the battery is thrown across the room as the massive amount of energy is expelled.
“Charging your e-bike or e-scooter battery incorrectly comes at a dangerous cost,” said Giuseppe Capanna of Electrical Safety First.
‘Due to the large amount of energy stored in these batteries, the risk of fire is significantly higher if the battery becomes unstable.
“It is essential that you use a compatible charger, ideally the one that came with the device, and never block the outlets while charging, the results could be fatal.”
Experts have warned against buying replacement chargers for devices that are not compatible
London firefighters have put out fires involving faulty electric bikes and scooters every other day since the start of this year.
What can often exacerbate the problem, campaigners say, is that many electric bike and scooter owners charge their devices in areas that risk blocking escape routes, such as a hallway or communal stairwell in a block of flats.
More than half of those surveyed (52 percent) also admitted to charging their device overnight while they sleep, increasing the danger because they have less time to respond if a fire breaks out.
Just over a quarter (28 percent) said they charge their device in a hallway inside their home, while more than 1 in 10 (14 percent) do so in their bedroom.
Electrical safety first recommends charging electric bikes or electric scooters away from vital escape routes, ideally in an outhouse where possible.
Scott Angus, 32, from London, has revealed how he got lucky after a neighbor’s electric bike caught fire in a communal hallway of a converted Victorian house last year.
He and his partner had to jump out of a second-story window with their dog after their escape route was blocked.
‘I was woken up around 1am by the strong smell of coal. I opened the door and all I could see was a wall of thick black smoke. If that smoke had gotten into our apartment earlier, it probably wouldn’t be here,” Angus said.
Scott Angus, 32, from London, has revealed how he got lucky after a neighbor’s electric bike caught fire in a communal hallway of a converted Victorian house last year. He saw burnt battery cells in the driveway outside (pictured) after fleeing the fire.
Tragic: Eight people have died in Britain so far this year as a result of electric bike battery fires
Sofia Duarte, 21, died in a flat fire caused by a converted electric bike battery that burst into flames
“The battery of an electric bike was charging on the ground floor of the common corridor of the building and it caught fire, blocking our escape route and we had no way out but the windows.”
Mr Angus revealed that he and his neighbors had to be rescued by firefighters using ladders.
‘When we got down, all I could see was chaos. The main door of the building had been blown off. The firemen were trying to put out the fire and I could see a lot of loose batteries all over the floor. They looked like shotgun shells,” he added.
“My partner hurt his back when he jumped and since then he has had problems, it has affected his quality of life.
“We feel lucky to have escaped with our lives.”
However, others have not been so lucky.
Eight people have died in Britain so far this year as a result of electric bike battery fires.
On New Year’s Day, Sofia Duarte was killed when an electric bike in her home caught fire, while a mother and two children lost their lives in Cambridge this year in a fire believed to be caused by a charging electric bike.