Are Electric Bikes Really “Burning Down Houses”?

House on fire

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Lots of people say e-bikes burn people’s houses down.

Yes, this has happened, but equally, some people win the lottery, and some get struck by lightning. It doesn’t mean necessarily mean it’s likely to happen.

Therefore, in this article, we want to analyze the real risk of it happening to you, what the actual odds are, and what you can do to minimize the chance of it happening. 

Are e-bike fires a real risk or just the media pedaling fear?

What Is An E-Bike Fire?

Let’s dive in and briefly explain why electric bike fires happen in the first place.

Electric bike fires are really bad news because the cause is a reaction called “Thermal Runaway.” This technical term means that one messed up cell in the lithium-ion battery starts a fire and then spreads to other cells. Since there are lots of cells in these batteries, the fire is made up of many smaller ‘fires’, which causes the overall blaze to be highly unpredictable.

But it gets worse. During an e-bike fire, dangerous stuff like hydrofluoric acid is also released. To ‘fuel to the fire’, the oxygen released during the fire makes it even harder to put out. It’s definitely not something you want to mess with.

This means that should (and that’s a big SHOULD) an electric bike fire break out, it can cause considerable damage.

e-bike on fire

How Likely Are E-Bike Fires?

So, yes, we all should be paying attention when it comes to discussing and preventing e-bike fires.

But is there a bigger risk of an e-bike fire happening than any other kind of fire? Using data from the London Fire Brigade, let’s decide. In 2023, the crews had to deal with e-bike fires once every two days, which equates to around 180 fires in total during the year. 

London firefighters attended over 16,000 fires in the capital during the year, meaning that e-bike fires accounted for just over 1% of the total. As the crew says themselves, cooking and smoking continue to be the most common cause of fires.

Right, so far, we’ve established that e-bike fires can be terrible and that the likelihood of electric bike fires is marginal compared to other household fires. Now for the most important question, ‘Will it happen to your electric bike?’

House on fire

We did some quick math, and by our sums, there’s a 1 in 15,000 chance that your electric bike might catch fire. We got this estimate by looking at how many e-bikes are owned in the UK and the 200+ fires that were caused by them in 2022. If you base the rest of your thinking on that, then electric bikes are no more dangerous than any other gadget that runs on lithium-ion batteries.

And just to back up our claims, one bike insurance firm claims e-bike fires are not that common to have any significant effect on their claims.

How does a 1 in 15,000 chance of an electric bike catching fire compare to other drastic events like being struck by lightning or winning the lottery? Funnily enough, the chance of your electric bike bursting into flames is nearly the same as being struck by lightning. Data suggests that, in the US, your chances of being struck by a bolt from above is 1 in 15,300!

And what about the lottery? Unfortunately, you’re far likelier to be struck by lightning or experience an e-bike fire than win the lottery jackpot. Chances of winning the big bucks range depending on which lottery you play, but most players are deemed to have a 1-in-a-million (at least) chance of winning. And yet, we still keep playing, don’t we?!

How to avoid e-bike fires infographic

Five Ways to Avoid E-Bike Fires

So, as our electric bike fire statistics have shown, not all electric bikes will combust before your eyes! But what steps can you take to ensure this doesn’t happen to you? Here are five simple things you can do.

1. Make Sure It’s Safety Accredited

Only buy an e-bike, battery, and charger that is safety accredited. If you’re a cyclist in the US, your electric bike has got to meet the UL2849 battery standard. And over in Europe, they’ve got the EN15194 certification for all e-bikes. Even after Brexit, the UK still sticks to that same standard. This sort of certification is not only for electric bikes but also for conversion kits that turn regular bikes into e-bikes.

2. Avoid Cheap Chargers

Always use the right charger to juice up your battery. While it may be tempting to buy a cheap replacement online, it can easily be of the wrong specification or not be manufactured to the same quality levels as the charger sold with your bike.

3. Always Unplug

Our third tip for preventing an e-bike fire? Always unplug the charger from the plug and the e-bike after it’s finished charging.

4. Check For Damage

Check your electric bike and charge over for damage fairly frequently. This simple step could help prevent a fire before it even occurs.

5. Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold

Our fifth and final tip? Store an electric bike at a regular temperature away from direct sunlight; this prevents the battery from heating.

In short, electric bikes shouldn’t be a fire hazard if they are used and stored correctly.

e-bike battery

Cheaper Isn’t Better

E-bikes are like any other electric gadget – they can be a fire hazard if you don’t use them properly. However, our e-bike stats show that most safety-certified electric bikes won’t catch fire if you use, charge, and store them correctly.

So, if you’re worried about dealing with an e-bike fire, your best bet is to snag a safety-certified electric bike that meets your country’s standards. And even if your mate down the road has, don’t even think about messing with the battery, charger, or system of an electric bike.

Finally? The real issue here is one we didn’t want to leave without mentioning. The rules and control of electric bike sales, especially in the UK, haven’t kept up with their popularity. This has let some sketchy companies sell dangerous products to unsuspecting customers. So have your wits about you and be careful out there when you’re buying an e-bike.

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