Electric scooters - fire risk and policy

Fire risk from Li-ion powered devices

The University recognises that development of electric powered personal modes of transport such as e-scooters presents a potentially useful alternative means of transport to cars and public transport. However, we are concerned by reports of significant and increasing numbers of fires occurring during storage and charging of e-scooters and other Li-ion battery powered micro-devices.  These fires have been reported by many of our UK fire authorities, including the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.  Fires involving such devices involve sudden ignition and intense burning of the lithium-ion battery and can result in very fast development of a substantial fire with no prior warning.  The nature of a fire involving a lithium-ion battery, involving a thermal runaway reaction, is such that it cannot be readily extinguished by any fire-fighting equipment commonly in use within most UK buildings.  The risk from such a fire is high and, as a precautionary measure, e-scooters and other micro-devices are currently banned by many transport network operators across the UK, including ScotRail and First Bus.

E-bikes are manufactured to recognised design standards and although the potential risk from Li-ion batteries is also present, they do not seem to be suffering from the same high fire rate that is currently affecting e-scooters and smaller devices.

Legal position on use of e-scooters, mobility micro-devices and e-bikes

The use of privately owned e-scooters and other powered micro-devices in a public place, including on roads and footpaths, is currently illegal in the UK. Although our campuses are private land, the public have unrestricted access and so our campuses are classed as public places.  The University therefore does not permit the use of e-scooters or other powered micro-devices such as e-hoverboards, e-skateboards, e-unicycles or similar devices on campus.

Use of e-bikes is legal within the UK and is allowed on the external areas of the campus provided they conform to legal standards regarding maximum speed and pedal assistance.

University Policy

  • Due to the potential for fire and for the protection of our staff and students the University prohibits the storage or charging of privately owned e-scooters, e-hoverboards e-skateboards, e-unicycles and similar Li-ion battery powered mobility micro-devices with attached batteries or the storage and charging of detached batteries for such devices within any University managed building and applies to all University of Glasgow-issued accommodation contracts. We note that use of such devices on our campus is currently illegal and so is not permitted by the University.
  • E-bikes may be used on campus but should not be stored within any University operated building other than within an external Estates-designated bike storage area.
  • Where Li-ion mobility micro-devices are University owned and are legitimately required for work purposes, specific safety arrangements must be discussed and agreed with the fire safety team within SEPS.
  • Devices used by a disabled person such as mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs are not affected by this policy.

Policy review

We recognise that Li-ion batteries have been in safe use for many years, in many other types of devices and that the current fire safety issues are likely to be due to factors associated with mobility devices.  This may include poor-quality design and manufacture, poor battery and charger quality, user modifications and physical damage during use.  We would hope that the current safety and legal issues can be resolved in the future. We take a positive view of the potential benefits of these mobility devices and will keep the development and safety of these products and our policy on their use within the University under review.

We recognise that staff and students may choose to use such devices away from the University or in private residential accommodation and draw attention to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service advice which is linked below.

Further advice

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service advice on e-scooter and e-bike safety