E-bike and e-scooter fires

Incidences of fire caused by the lithium batteries which power e-bikes and e-scooters are on the rise, so much so that a Greater Manchester Housing Association has launched a campaign to encourage residents to charge their devices safely.

The rate of fires has increased over the last few years, as the popularity of electric bikes and scooters has grown. In fact, the incidence of fire has rocketed by 150% in the last year, with firefighters in London called to 88 fires caused by lithium batteries and conversion kits, which can be used to convert a standard bike to an electric bike.

Salford Housing Association has launched a campaign to encourage residents to charge their lithium battery-powered devices more safely, for example by never charging them overnight or overcharging them. It’s hoped that the campaign will cut the risk of fire, improve safety, and save lives.

However, the risk of such a fire – and blazes caused by lithium batteries can be ferocious, releasing toxic smoke – grows exponentially in a crowded tower-block, and the risk to life becomes that much greater too. The potential cost to housing associations is also a concern: the urgent rehoming of potentially hundreds of tenants, as well as the refurbishment of all the homes affected in the building, must be factored in when assessing the approach to these devices.

Landlords cannot simply rely on public safety campaigns when it comes to such risky items – rather, complete prevention of these fires must be the goal. Not only that, but we must find a large-scale and scalable solution to the widespread and growing risk that lithium batteries represent. Human detection, such as a waking watch service, is prohibitively expensive and all too fallible.

Chameleon Detect is an artificial intelligence system, fully autonomous and in detect mode 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The system can be trained to detect any object, including dangerous gas and oxygen canisters, and e-bikes and e-scooters; when an object of interest is detected, the building manager is quickly alerted and can ensure the object is taken out of the building before a tragic incident can occur.

With eight UK deaths since 2020, and usage of battery-powered travel increasing year-on-year, housing associations are coming under pressure to put tenant safety measures into place. Social housing tenants already face an elevated risk of fire in the home; combined with the cost of dealing with a fire in a high-rise building, it becomes clear that prevention is the way forward.