Electric bikes (e-bikes) are an increasingly popular mode of transport across the UK.
But they can pose some safety risks if used, charged or sourced incorrectly. This section looks at the dangers, where to purchase your device and how to charge them safely.
E-bikes, like many other modern gadgets, are powered by lithium-ion batteries. These batteries store a large amount of energy in a small space. So it is essential that they are stored and charged safely to reduce the risk of fire. Fires could occur from poorly designed batteries, from charging them incorrectly or from damage to the battery. In the event that the battery is ignited, it could lead to an explosive fire.
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Purchasing an E-Bike and Charger:
Due to the risk of fire and explosion associated with lithium-ion batteries, it's important to source a product and charger that conforms to UK safety standards and has been tested. Electrical Safety First recommends looking out for the following when buying your e-bike and charger:
- Only purchase from a reputable retailer – don’t buy from market stalls, social media or online marketplaces.
- If the original charger is not available, obtain a replacement from the original manufacturer. Counterfeit and substandard chargers can be deadly. Overcharging, over-discharging and charging the battery too quickly are some of the main causes of fires from lithium-ion batteries.
- Ensure that the e-bike is of good quality – check for misspellings, bad translations and attempts to copy larger brands.
- Faulty electrical items will often be missing warranty cards and instructions.
- If there are no instructions on charging safely, do not buy it.
- If you suspect that you have a sub-standard or faulty e-bike, stop using it immediately and report the fault to the manufacturer or retailer. You can also contact the Citizens Advice helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
An investigation by Electrical Safety First into e-bike chargers for sale on online marketplaces found major risks with some of these products. A number of chargers didn’t contain a fuse, which means there would be no way for the charger to cut out in the event of a fault in the supply lead, leaving the consumer exposed to a serious risk of fire.
Other defects with the chargers included problems with the plug. An incorrect plug is a sign that the charger has not been adequately tested to the necessary safety standards and therefore there is an increased risk of further hidden dangers. UK plugs must meet minimum dimension requirements to prevent electric shock. The chargers found by Electrical Safety First had plugs that were visibly small in size, leaving the user exposed to electric shock if their fingers were to come into contact with the plug pins.
Using and Charging your E-Bike:
- Disconnect the battery and unplug your charger when the charge cycle is complete. Don’t leave items on charge continuously, e.g. overnight.
- Regularly check the condition of the battery and look for dents, deformation and signs of overheating. Stop using or charging the battery as soon as you notice any damage and replace it.
- Only use the charger supplied by the manufacturer.
- Charge your batteries in a safe place:
- Do not charge batteries where they may prevent you from escaping in the event of a fire.
- Do not charge batteries close to combustible materials or hazardous substances.
- Do not charge lithium-ion batteries where high temperatures or sunlight are to be expected.
- Do not cover lithium-ion batteries whilst charging.
- Monitor the charging of your e-bike and batteries.
- Always wear a sturdy, high-quality helmet when riding your e-bike.
- Ensure that you have adequate back up and early warning systems in place:
- Do you have smoke/heat alarms to alert you in case of a fire?
- Is your electrical installation up to date? Does it have RCDs (residual current devices) fitted that can switch off the power in the event of a fault?