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Electric vehicles, bikes and scooters under spotlight

Electric vehicles, bikes and scooters under spotlight

Emergency services, auto groups, insurers and battery experts will weigh in on the safety of electric and hybrid vehicles at a parliamentary inquiry.

But the NSW inquiry sitting on Tuesday could spend much of its time discussing regulations for electric bikes and scooters rather than cars, as experts warn of inadequate safety measures and inferior imported products being sold to consumers.

The inquiry comes after a spate of devastating fires involving the two-wheeled devices, with Fire and Rescue NSW reporting blazes involving personal mobility vehicles almost tripled in 2023.

The NSW Joint Standing Committee's Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Batteries Inquiry has drawn more than 30 submissions since it was called in October 2023.

Committee chair Greg Warren said the inquiry would probe whether "enhanced training, safety equipment and support" would be required to deal with the growing number of electrified vehicles on the state's roads.

EV FireSafe chief executive Emma Sutcliffe, who is due to appear before the inquiry, said in her submission that Australia had experienced just six electric car fires and the vehicles currently represented a "very low risk".

Light delivery electric vehicles presented a "moderate risk", however, and vehicles such as e-scooters and e-bikes were classified as "high risk" by the agency.

Emergency workers were yet to receive "standardised training" in how to deal battery fires, said Ms Sutcliffe, and as a result were "increasingly unable to protect people and property" when lithium-ion batteries exploded.

The Insurance Council of Australia also called for greater regulation of battery-powered bikes and scooters as current laws were allowing the importation of "cheap, non-compliant products" that were putting households at risk.

"Stronger regulatory enforcement activity around the importation and sale of this type of product will help to reduce rising incidence of unsafe products," the group's submission said.

Calls for new laws around the technology were also mirrored in submissions from Bicycle NSW, which called for rules around modified vehicles and non-compatible chargers. Bicycle Industries Australia said Australians needed guidelines about their safe use.

New rules should include details about how to safely store and charge e-bikes and e-scooters, the group said, as well as outlining what modifications were legally allowed and recording "the number and cause of all lithium-ion battery fires".

In its submission, Lithium Batteries Australia and LifeTech Energy said companies proved to be importing "inferior, potentially hazardous lithium batteries" and making false claims about them should be legally prosecuted.

Fire and Rescue NSW reported 61 e-bike and e-scooter fires across the state in 2023, up from just 22 the year before.

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