Bills to help reduce fires caused by lithium-ion batteries were officially signed into law by Eric Adams on March 20th.
The bill basically bans non-UL approved batteries from being sold. The cheap knockoffs are suspected to be among the chief culprits in the fast spreading fires when the batteries erupt.
The batteries, which power e-bikes and electric scooters such as those used by delivery drivers, present a fire risk. In the first two months of 2023, they resulted in two deaths and 40 injuries in the city. It was also the scene of a dangerous rope roof rescue at a skyscraper on E. 56th Street in November in which a woman wearing only a sweatshirt and a thong was lowered from a 20th floor window by firefighters because they intense flames blocked firefighters from reaching her inside the building. Nobody was killed in that blaze, but others were not so lucky.
On March 18, there was a fatality in the Allerton section in the northeast Bronx. The other fatality came when a man in his 60s died in a fire Elmhurst, Queens in January.
Even when there are no fatalities, the fast spreading fires are notoriously dangerous. A lithium battery started a five-alarm fire earlier this month that destroyed a supermarket in the Bronx. Additionally, three children and an adult were injured in February in their apartment in Inwood, when a charging lithium battery started a fire.
“Today, we are supercharging safety for all of our e-bikes and e-scooter users,” said Mayor Adams. “These are convenient transportation options for New Yorkers, but faulty and illegal devices are making their way into our homes and streets, causing fires and putting lives at risk.”
“Through promoting safe devices, expanding education, increasing enforcement on high-risk situations, and pursuing additional regulation, I’m proud that New York City is leading that charge. E-bikes and e-scooters are here to stay, and with this plan and these five pieces of critical legislation I’m proud to sign, we are going to ensure that they are safe for all New Yorkers to use.”
“This is a huge start to pressing and novel safety work, and New York City must lead the way,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi.
“This is a broad responsibility, and our agency partners, delivery apps, and labor partners must work together to ensure that this equipment critical to delivery worker’s livelihood does not take lives instead.”
The five bills passed into law Monday are as follows:
Intro. 656—sponsored by New York City Councilmember Gale Brewer — will require the FDNY, in consultation with the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP), to develop an informational campaign educating the public on fire risks posed by powered mobility devices and how to mitigate those risks.
Intro. 663—sponsored by New York City Councilmember Oswald Feliz —will prohibit the sale, lease, or rental of powered mobility devices, such as e-bikes and electric scooters, and storage batteries for these devices, that fail to meet recognized safety standards.
Intro. 722—sponsored by New York City Councilmember Robert Holden—will require the FDNY to submit five reports relating to fire risks and powered mobility devices, such as e-bikes and electric scooters. Reports will include data on fires during the previous year caused by these devices and recommendations for changes to changes to the administrative code to further decrease fire risk.
Intro. 749—sponsored by New York City Councilmember Alexa Avilés — will require the DCWP, in consultation with the FDNY, to publish materials that provide guidance on safe use and storage of powered mobility devices.
Intro. 752—also sponsored by Councilmember Brewer—will prohibit the assembly or reconditioning of lithium-ion batteries using cells removed from used storage batteries and prohibit the sale of a lithium-ion batteries that use cells removed from used storage batteries.