PAB, PMD fires down to 68 last year but concerns remain

SCDF says most incidents involved modified or non-compliant devices

When the battery of his power-assisted bicycle (PAB) exploded in his bedroom on July 22 last year, Mr Adam (not his real name) had fortunately gone to the toilet.

"I was very lucky that day... If God did not help me, I would have died inside (the room)," he said.

The ensuing damage, including to the floor tiles, cost him more than $3,000 to repair.

Mr Adam, who is in his 50s, said he had charged the battery earlier that day, after not doing so for about four months.

His incident was among 68 fires involving PABs and personal mobility devices (PMDs) last year, according to statistics released by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) last month. More than two-thirds of the fires occurred in residential premises.

While this is an overall decrease from 115 fires in 2019, such incidents still remain a concern for the SCDF.

"The majority of PMD and PAB fires that SCDF had responded to were found to have resulted from the use of non-compliant devices such as non-UL2272-certified PMDs, modified devices or incompatible power adaptors," SCDF said.

Modifications included the replacement of batteries with those not from original equipment manufacturers, the addition of extra batteries, and changes to the electrical circuitry.


"It was also observed that the condition of disused batteries may deteriorate and become unstable over time, leading to fire outbreaks," SCDF said.

In Mr Adam's case, he was using a non-original battery purchased second-hand for $200 through online marketplace Carousell.

He had used it to replace the previous battery of the PAB which was also bought second-hand for about $180.

Mr Adam, who works in the construction sector, said he bought the second-hand bicycle as it was cheap.

New Land Transport Authority-approved PABs can cost more than $1,000.

SCDF has urged the public not to modify their PMD devices and, if required, to replace components with only the ones from original equipment manufacturers.

"Devices and batteries, especially the non-UL2272-certified ones, which are faulty or have not been used for an extended period of time, should be disposed of properly at any of the e-waste recyclers listed by the Land Transport Authority," it said.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor said earlier this month that new import controls for PMDs and PABs, aimed at preventing the import of non-compliant devices, will be introduced in the first half of this year.

The authorities will continue to inspect devices regularly to deter illegal modifications, she said.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.