Dangerous e-bike battery notice issued by government body, as charity renews call for swift legal changes

24 January 2024

  • A withdrawal notice has been issued relating to e-bike battery ‘UPP’
  • The risk level has been deemed ‘serious, risking fire’
  • Charity urges Government to adopt its recommendations to prevent dangerous batteries from entering peoples’ homes

An urgent withdrawal notice of an e-bike battery brand linked to fires across England has been issued by the Government, renewing calls for urgent changes to the law to protect the public.

The e-bike battery, manufactured by a company called UPP, has been found to present a serious risk of fire due to poor manufacturing.  

Withdrawal notices have been issued by the Office for Product Safety & Standards (OPSS) to the Chinese based manufacturer, as well as four online marketplaces and 20 sellers.

Consumers are being told to stop using the battery immediately and dispose of it safely.  

“We cannot fight e-bike battery fires solely through taking corrective action once dangerous batteries have been identified,” Luke Osborne, Deputy Technical Director of Electrical Safety First said. “Whilst we welcome the action by the Government, we need to prevent dangerous e-bike and e-scooter batteries entering homes in the first place, which is why we’re calling on the Government to introduce third party approval for all e-bikes, e-scooters and their batteries.”

If introduced, third party certification would see e-bikes, e-scooters and their batteries approved by an independent approved body before being sold to consumers, which is already the case for other high-risk products like fireworks.   At present, manufacturers can self-declare their batteries are safe.

“Poorly made batteries can kill and we are seeing the very real and tragic consequences of the current system of self-declaration allowing these products to enter people's homes, causing devastation when they catch fire.” Luke Osborne said.

The recommendation for third party approval was first published by Electrical Safety First in the charity’s report into e-bike and e-scooter fires, titled Battery Breakdown, last year.

“Sloppy manufacturers with little interest in safety are slipping through the net, putting the public at risk and giving good manufacturers in this space a bad name. We urge the Government to urgently adopt our proposals to tackle this problem before it gets worse,” Luke Osborne adds.

The OPSS has published a product safety report on the battery calling it “dangerous”.

The report describes the battery as being poorly built and lacking a heat sensor to prevent overheating. The battery management system has also been deemed not sufficient to prevent the battery from entering thermal runaway, a process that sees a battery fall into an irreversible process resulting in a ferocious fire.

Last year the charity published video footage as part of a controlled experiment, demonstrating the process of thermal runaway which sees cells in an e-bike battery overheat, reaching dangerously high temperatures resulting in neighboring cells collapsing into one other like dominoes. The process creates large and aggressive fires, releasing toxic gases in the process.

Consumers are told to stop using the battery immediately. The brand name, UPP, is a triangular shaped battery pack with model numbers U004 and U004-1 listed in the Government’s safety report.

E-bike battery fires have led to deaths across the country, including a pensioner last year who died as a result of severe burns and smoke inhalation of toxic gas when a coroner’s inquest heard that a converted bike was linked to the fatal fire in the home.

Electrical Safety First is also calling for a product standard to be introduced for conversion kits, as none exists currently , as well as an interim ban on ‘universal chargers’ that come with many different connectors for battery outlets that increase the risk of overcharging the battery with the wrong voltage. The charity wants e-bike and e-scooter batteries to develop into smarter devices much like phones where the battery and charger can communicate to reduce the risk posed by the supply of incorrect voltage.

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