As increasing numbers of islanders embrace e-bikes and e-scooters as a way of commuting in a more eco-friendly way, firefighters are warning them to be aware of the potentially deadly consequences.
With a spate of blazes being reported in the UK, as well as some in Jersey, the Fire and Rescue Service is encouraging islanders to be careful when it comes to overnight charging and other risky practices in response to the growing number of incidents in which lithium-ion batteries have been responsible for starting fires.
More than 100 fires sparked by faulty e-bikes and e-scooters were reported in the UK across the first four months of this year, with at least eight deaths and almost 200 injuries reported since 2020, while Jersey has seen an average of one such fire per year over the same period.
A charging e-bike was the "most probable cause" of a fire that killed a mother and two children in a Cambridge flat last month, according to local fire services.
Watch Commander Toby Aubert said the Fire Service wanted to highlight the importance of responsible charging habits to protect both users and their surroundings, particularly in relation to cheaper imported batteries and usage of the wrong chargers.
He said: “Fortunately, we haven’t experienced many fires [of this type] in Jersey, but we do know that this is one of the fastest-growing fire risks in the UK.
“E-bikes are a fantastic, environmentally-friendly and low-cost way of getting round, but we’d ask owners to follow some key safety advice, particularly in relation to where and how they charge their device.”
With specialist retailer Halfords indicating that a typical e-bike can be fully charged in three-and-a-half to four hours, Mr Aubert said overnight charging was an unnecessary risk.
“People are most vulnerable while they're asleep, so the best thing for a commuter is that they put their device on charge when they get home from work and then disconnect it before going to bed,” he said.
The warning covers e-scooters – these may be legally bought or sold in Jersey, but may not be ridden legally on public roads, pavements or cycle lanes.
From 2020 to 2022, the number of fires sparked by faulty e-bikes or scooters in the UK annually rose from 77 to 159 to 227.
A total of 102 fires were reported in the UK this year up to 20 April, leading to a full-year projection of 338.
Since the start of 2020, 190 injuries and eight fatalities have been reported in the UK.
Four incidents have been reported in Jersey since February 2019, two involving e-bikes and the others stemming from mobility scooters. One person suffered slight burns.
Anyone who has an e-bike or e-scooter is being urged by Jersey Fire and Rescue to:
always use a charger provided by the manufacturer or an authorised distributor;
disconnect the charger once the battery is fully charged, to avoid overcharging;
charge devices on a stable, non-flammable surface, away from combustible materials;
avoid charging e-bikes and e-scooters overnight or for extended periods;
regularly inspect chargers and cables for any signs of damage or wear, replacing if necessary; and
avoid charging indoors where possible.
Using escape routes or communal areas in multiple occupancy buildings to store or charge e-bikes should also be avoided, while all householders are reminded to have smoke detectors fitted.
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