08 Mar 24

Despite several fires in rented properties, the government is proposing to double the maximum legal power of e-bikes.

A Department of Transport consultation has two proposals for e-bikes – officially called electrically assisted pedal cycles (EAPCs or e-cycles):

1. to amend the legal definition of EAPCs, so that the maximum continuous power output of the electric motor is 500 watts instead of 250 watts; and 

2. to allow ‘twist and go’ EAPCs to have throttle assistance up to 15.5mph (25km/h) without the need for type approval.

The BBC reports that safety groups are concerned. London Fire Brigade says it supports green transport but describes lithium battery fires as London’s fastest growing fire trend. “The risk of more severe battery fires – because of these more powerful models – which the consultation does highlight, is a significant concern” Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, tells the BBC.

And campaign group Electrical Safety First is quoted as saying: “Substandard e-bike batteries are already causing devastating fires across the country.”

In its consultation document, the government admits the proposal on energy capacity could make battery fires more severe.

But it suggests that having greater power might deter people tampering with their bikes – one of the issues behind some fires.

However, other groups say the problem with e-bikes is less to do with reduced power than with the lack of sufficient infrastructure in the form of cycle lanes and incentives to not use cars.

Three people died in London in 2023 in fires thought to have been caused by e-bike lithium batteries.

A government spokesperson says: “We’re launching this consultation to gather views on how we can increase power safely for certain users, including those with mobility issues and e-cargo bike operators. Safety is always at the heart of any decisions made around e-bikes and the results of the consultation will be published followings its closure.”

The consultation will end on April 25.

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