At least 30 fires have been caused by e-mobility devices since 2020, the government has revealed – but officials also admit they don’t know how many such devices have been imported into Hong Kong.
Lawmaker Stanley Li, for New Territories South East, asked the government about incidents involving e-mobility batteries, how many devices had been imported to Hong Kong and whether the government had plans to regulate such devices from a product safety point of view.
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Transport and Logistics, Lam Sai-hung, answered that e-mobility devices such as e-scooters, e-monowheels and e-bikes were not counted when imported and, as such, the government had no figures on the number of devices in use.
But Lam revealed there were 11 fires in 2020, 10 in 2021 and nine in 2022 to date.
A young boy was killed in 2020 when an e-scooter short-circuit started a fire in Sha Tin, while the last few years have seen many other reports of “made in China” hoverboards and devices bursting into flames.
According to users at several e-mobility trials held in 2020 and 2021, many devices in Hong Kong have been purchased from Taobao or other online platforms in the mainland. One user of a fake Tern e-bike said he had the e-bike delivered from Shenzhen “no questions asked” for HK$5,000, around a tenth of the price of a genuine safety-tested CE-marked Tern e-cargo bike.
In London, fire safety concerns have seen all e-mobility devices banned from the London Underground and even major supermarket chains. In November 2021, a dramatic fire at Parsons Green tube station led to an urgent review by Transport for London, with a transport ban announced just a month later. London’s firefighters said they’d attended more than 50 e-scooter and e-bike fires in 2021, double the number in 2020.
Transport Department maintains its stance that e-mobility devices are “motor vehicles” and refuses to license or regulate them, despite mounting product safety concerns.
The government says it will await the results of its six-month e-mobility trial at Hong Kong Science Park before making a commitment to regulations. But the trial has reportedly drawn a paltry number of users willing to be restricted to a stretch of cycle track – under the rules of the trial, riding the machine to or from that short section of track would be illegal.