Electric-bikes (E-bikes), Electric-scooters (E-scooters) and other Portable Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs)
Due to the increase in lithium-ion battery-based fire incidents, the fire safety industry has recognised the fire safety hazard presented by lithium-ion-based vehicles, once they experience thermal runaway.
London Fire Brigade attended 87 e-bikes and 29 e-scooter fires in 2022. By June in 2023, they were attending an average of one PLEV fire every two days.
Incorrectly used or maintained PLEVs have the potential to introduce a serious fire hazard resulting in a massive energy release into both living accommodation and the workplace. In particular, e-scooters and e-bike fires have increased (with tragic consequences in homes and are already banned on TfL public transport) and can often become unstable if batteries are damaged, modified and during the charging process.
A sensible approach is required to ensure that any risks are managed and mitigated as far as is reasonably practicable. Therefore, UCL has an obligation to control fire risks associated with PLEVs and other intense battery charging facilities, to reduce instances of fire, and to maintain a safe work, study and living environment.
For further information, please see TN066 (UCL login required)
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why are PLEV fire issues so dangerous?
- Unidentifiable fire inception period (no early warning period, for internal fire detection to sense and activate).
- Vapour production almost immediately – jets or explosion (Instant highly volatile toxic and flammable vapour release).
- Almost instant rise to peak battery heat output (very hot almost immediately with no fire growth & build-up to maximum heat release).
- Highly accelerated vehicle heat output (very rapid heat release and then radiated which is likely to cause significant collateral fire spread).
- Fire instantly beyond first aid firefighting intervention (e.g. extinguishers & sprinkler intervention very unlikely to have any effect).
- Strong re-ignition risk for up to several weeks later (if batteries are partially and not fully burnout).
- Are all E-bikes prohibited?
No, Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle (EAPC) bikes are permitted to be used, whereas fully electric e-bikes (classed as ‘throttle ‘types) are not permitted.
- What if I remove the battery from my e-bike and use it as a usual bike?
Removing the lithium-ion batteries off the vehicle and using it as a normal device (e.g. removing the battery from an e-bike and using it as a standard bike) is acceptable in principle, provided the lithium-ion battery is not stored or charged within UCL building or space.
- Can I bring PLEVs into my accommodation building?
PLEVs are not permitted to be used, stored or charged on UCL campus, within properties including student (sleeping) accommodation.
- Are E-bikes and E-scooters illegal?
E-scooters are not illegal in the UK and you can buy, sell and own one and use an e-scooter on private land with the permission of the land owner perfectly legally.
However, it is illegal to use an e-scooter in public unless it is rented as part of a recognised trial scheme (e.g. TfL)
Related fire safety information