The City Council passed a bill regulating the lithium-ion batteries in e-bikes and scooters, in an action aimed at stopping the recent rash of fires related to the batteries which can spur explosive and fast spreading blazes.
The FDNY said last year there were 220 fires caused by lithium ion batteries that resulted in 147 injuries and six deaths including a mother and daughter killed in a fire in Harlem in August and one that required five firefighters to make a dramatic rope roof rescue of three individuals trapped inside a 20th floor apartment in a high rise on East 67th Street in November.
Another blaze erupted in the Bronx on March 5, burning down a supermarket and laundromat, displacing an unknown number of people from apartments and injuring seven people including five firefighters, one EMS worker and one civilian. “There is nothing left and it is all because of this one single bike,” FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said.
The bill that passed is one of several that passed while still others are under consideration. The new law makes it illegal for retail stories to sell batteries that are not certified by UL (Underwriters Laboratories).
So far this year, the FDNY has experienced more than 20 lithium ion batteries. “The toll that fires are increasingly having on families and communities is devastating and requires the urgent attention of all levels of government,” said City Council speaker Adrienne Adams.
Other bills are still pending that would require recharging stations used by commercial establishments to have fireproof containers and for education efforts. City Council Member Oswald Feliz has introduced legislation that would restrict the sale, lease or rental of e-bikes and electric scooters and storage batteries unless they meet strict safety standards.
“My legislation will require that batteries go through certification in order to be sold in NYC–to ensure they are safe for our communities to use,” said Feliz.
“I also look forward to working on additional bills, including majority leader Keith Powers bill, which would create a battery swap program,” said Feliz.
E-bikes experienced a boon in popularity during the pandemic with many businesses turning increasingly to delivering food and goods directly to homes. Pre-covid, in 2019 there were only 19 fires linked to lithium ion batteries. Powers bill would require businesses that use e-bikes for commercial purposes to provide their operators with fireproof or fire-resistant containers that are suitable for charging the batteries in a safe manner.
Another bill, would require the FDNY to submit annual reports for the next five years detailing fire risks associated with e-bikes, scooters and lithium batteries.
“With more and more families experiencing tragedy due to battery fires, New York City must implement immediate, practical solutions to save lives,” said Powers.
City Council member Gale Brewer whose district is on the upper West Side, said that the problems with e-bikes “disproportionately impacts immigrant, low income and black and brown New Yorkers, and I say these words too often.” She added, “e-bike battery fires are another example of new technology outpacing government regulation.”