BA and ACT release industry guidance on lithium fires and road legal e-bikes

November 2, 2023

The two UK cycle industry trade associations, the Bicycle Association and the Association of Cycle Traders, have teamed up to release industry guidance on lithium battery fires and road legal e-bikes

Everyone in the cycle industry will be aware of recent reports and headlines about e-bikes fires, some of which have, sadly, had tragic and even fatal consequences.

Additionally, in recent months a number of fatal collisions have occurred on electric motorcycles which were generally referred to in the media as “e-bikes”.

These reports risk giving the impression to the public, incorrectly in our view, that all such vehicles are unsafe. This could have serious repercussions, potentially putting at risk the growth potential of e-bikes as a transport and climate solution, and deterring e-bike customers at a time when market conditions are already challenging.

Now, the two cycle industry trade bodies in the UK, the Bicycle Association and the Association of Cycle Traders, have issued guidance sheets for the industry, aiming to counter the often misleading media headlines.

The first guidance note summarises statements from fire services and industry experts to clarify the distinction between e-bikes from the reputable industry (which are generally very safe) as opposed to e-bikes, conversion kits, batteries and chargers which may pose significant fire hazard if certain risk factors are present, for example being sourced from overseas via online marketplaces.

The second guidance note clarifies exactly what is road legal as an e-bike – and makes clear the actual legal status of vehicles which are often incorrectly reported as e-bikes but which are in fact unregistered motorbikes.

These documents are also available to download from the ACT at:

The BA and ACT hope this guidance will provide authoritative resources for the industry:

  • Retailers, and others, can use the document on fire risk to reassure customers and potential customers that by buying through reputable industry channels they will maximise safety
  • The fire risk document may also be a useful aid in responding to media enquiries, although companies may prefer to refer these to the national trade associations
  • The document about road legal e-bikes will, the BA and ACT hope, provide useful clarity for industry, customers and media, to dispel public confusion about road-legal e-bikes vs other vehicle types.

Any company in the cycle industry is welcome to use, print out or distribute these documents freely – but the BA and ACT request that they are not amended.

Peter Eland, Technical and Policy Director at the Bicycle Association, said:

“We hope these resources will set the record straight on the very safe products which our industry provides. Being clear and consistent about battery fire risk factors, and the law around e-bikes, is essential to get the message across.” 

Jonathan Harrison from the Association of Cycle Traders said:

“There is a perception that has been allowed to develop that e-bikes are dangerous and it is simply not true. Let’s help educate owners to avoid e-bikes, batteries and chargers that do not meet UK safety standards, and boost awareness of the real safety benefits of buying from a specialist retailer.

This joint initiative with the ACT is the latest development in the Bicycle Association’s work on these issues. To date this has included:

  • Instigating a cross-Government roundtable in March, bringing together Department for Transport, DEFRA, ROSPA, the Association for British Insurers and Active Travel England.
  • Assisting the Department for Transport in developing guidance, which should be published shortly, for users, for premises managers and for public transport operators.
  • Working closely with the Office for Product Safety and Standards and their researchers, ahead of recommendations being made for future regulation. Representatives from OPSS and their researchers have attended a number of Bicycle Association technical meetings, to take industry input.
  • The BA has also engaged with the charity Electrical Safety First, which has been raising awareness of the fires issue and advocating urgent Government action.  
  • The BA has also worked extensively in conjunction with the DfT-backed Cycle Rail Working Group on continued e-bike access to trains and stations.
  • The BA has made publicly available resources for the industry to assist with safe sourcing of batteries, their correct transport and storage. Also available on that link are press releases and statements making clear the industry position.
  • The BA is piloting a battery collection and recycling scheme which will take waste batteries from retailers at no cost for safe and proper disposal.
  • Finally, the BA has engaged regularly with the mainstream media in an effort to add the industry voice on the fire issue, and also to clarify what is a road legal e-bike and what is not.

Further joint industry initiatives are under development and will be announced shortly, say the two trade associations.