The UK Department for Transport’s proposal to double the maximum legal power of e-bikes has sparked warnings about potential safety risks, including an increased risk of severe battery fires and other injuries.

Currently consulting on the proposals, the government aims to allow e-bikes to travel much faster and without the need for pedalling, with the goal of making riding e-bikes more appealing. However, critics have raised concerns about the safety implications of the plan.

London Fire Brigade reported a surge in fires caused by e-bikes and e-scooters in 2023, making it the highest number of incidents recorded to date. Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, emphasised the significant concern over the risk of more severe battery fires associated with more powerful e-bike models.

Campaign group Electrical Safety First echoed these concerns, highlighting the prevalence of substandard e-bike batteries causing devastating fires across the country. They urged MPs to prioritise making current batteries safe rather than increasing the power of e-bikes.

The government’s proposal seeks to double the maximum power of e-bike motors from 250 watts to 500 watts in England, Scotland, and Wales, while also considering raising the top speed for throttle-assisted e-bikes. However, the consultation document acknowledges that higher speeds and power could heighten road risks and increase the severity of battery fires, particularly due to tampering.

Volt, a manufacturer of e-bikes, expressed apprehension that the plan could attract unsafe batteries and encourage users to tamper with them. They emphasised the need for investment in cycling infrastructure and incentives for sustainable transport rather than solely focusing on increasing e-bike power.

Cycling UK cautioned that the proposals present significant safety risks to pedestrians and cyclists, citing concerns about faster acceleration and heavier bikes. They advocated for investment in cycling infrastructure and financial assistance for bike purchases.

The Bicycle Association raised concerns about the potential consequences of legitimising tampering with e-bikes to increase power, including serious fire safety risks. They also warned against adopting moped-like regulations for e-bikes, which could deter people from using them.

The government assured that it would consider feedback from the consultation to address safety concerns and emphasised that safety is paramount in decisions regarding e-bikes. The consultation will conclude on 25 April 2024.