Mayor Signs Laws to Strengthen Fire Safety
The legislation responds to the risks related to e-bikes and lithium-ion batteries.
Although e-bikes and e-scooters are an affordable and convenient alternative to cars, the fires caused by the batteries that power such micromobility devices are a significant problem in New York City. The lithium-ion batteries commonly found in these devices can malfunction and cause extremely dangerous fires that are difficult to contain and extinguish.
Last year, the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) investigated 220 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, fires that tragically resulted in 147 injuries and six deaths. And this year already, the city has experienced more than 20 lithium-ion battery fires that have resulted in two deaths and 40 injuries.
In response to these dangers, Mayor Adams recently signed a legislative package into law that strengthens and regulates the fire safety of e-bikes and scooters, and the lithium-ion batteries that power such devices. The legislation is intended to address the fire dangers posed by powered devices and batteries that lack recognized safety standard certifications. Here’s an overview of the five bills recently signed into law.
FDNY Education Campaign
Intro. 656 requires the FDNY, in consultation with the NYC 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. The campaign is required to include guidance on how to identify safe products, as well as best practices for maintenance, storage, and charging.
Safety Standards Requirement
Intro. 663 prohibits 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 or recognized safety standard certification.
In order to be legally sold, these devices and their storage batteries are required to have been certified as meeting the applicable Underwriters Laboratories (UL) safety standards by an accredited testing laboratory. The testing laboratory logo or name must be displayed on the product packaging or documentation, or on the vehicle or battery itself, to aid in enforcement.
Intro. 722 requires 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
Intro. 749 requires DCWP, in consultation with the FDNY, to publish materials on how to identify safe e-bikes and other electric mobility devices, as well as best practices for maintenance, storage, and charging. The law also requires any food service establishment, third-party food delivery service, or third-party courier service that hires, retains, or engages as an independent contractor a worker who delivers food and beverage items as part of their employment to distribute these materials to their delivery workers.
Sale of Second-Use Batteries
Intro. 752 prohibits the assembly or reconditioning of lithium-ion batteries using cells removed from used storage batteries and prohibits the sale of lithium-ion batteries that use cells removed from used storage batteries.
Mayor Announces Electric Micromobility Action Plan
In addition to signing legislation, Mayor Eric Adams announced “Charge Safe, Ride Safe: New York City’s Electric Micromobility Action Plan” to protect New Yorkers from fires caused by lithium-ion batteries and promote safe electric micromobility usage. The plan focuses on four key areas: Promoting and incentivizing safe battery use, increasing education and outreach to electric micromobility users, advocating for additional federal regulation of these devices, and expanding enforcement against high-risk situations.
Supporting New Yorkers’ Transition to Safe and Legal E-Micromobility Use
Through pilot programs and testing of new technologies to store and charge lithium-ion batteries, the city intends to support a transition to safe and legal e-micromobility use by:
- Working with New York State to design and implement a program that incentivizes the purchase of safe and legal electric micromobility devices;
- Continuing to work on nation-leading deliverista hubs to provide delivery workers with safe places to rest and charge their devices throughout the city;
- Piloting safe, outdoor e-micromobility storage and charging solutions at NYCHA sites and applying for federal grant funding to support this work; and
- Identifying, testing, and evaluating the most promising public-facing battery-charging solutions through the 2023 DOT Studio Challenge. The city will also test and evaluate fire safety and prevention equipment for homes and commercial settings.
Increasing Education and Outreach About Safe Device Usage
The city will expand education and outreach efforts around safe e-micromobility usage, storage, and charging practices by:
- Expanding engagement to immigrant and worker communities, focusing on the communities most affected by these fires; and
- Working to provide lithium-ion battery and e-micromobility safety training through NYC Emergency Management’s (NYCEM) Ready NY platforms, as well as directly to NYCEM’s Community Emergency Response Teams to reach everyday New Yorkers, in addition to certified emergency responders.
Bolstering Regulation and Enforcement Against Illegal Device Usage
In addition to the legislation, the plan calls for the city to continue to advocate for additional regulation for these devices and bolster enforcement against illegal device usage by:
- Creating a fire marshal task force focused on identifying violators of the fire code. The task force will use data to identify potential violators and high-risk situations or “hot spots,” which will be targeted for both outreach and inspection for compliance with existing fire codes;
- Continuing to advocate to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and other federal partners to ensure that devices on New York City’s shelves meet applicable safety standards; and
- Seeking partnerships with local, state, and federal partners to further research the health impacts on first responders handling lithium-ion batteries, which can be extremely toxic when they burn.
Promoting the Growth of Safe E-Micromobility and Cycling
In addition to work to prevent battery fires, the city intends to make it easier and safer to use electric micromobility by:
- Launching a pilot program to allow e-bikes and other legal electric micromobility devices on park drives and greenways this summer; and
- Updating and piloting different street designs to accommodate the growth of e-micromobility devices on the roads.