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Monday, March 27, 2023

Mayor Adams Announces Plan to Combat Lithium-Ion Battery Fires, Promote Safe Electric Micromobility Usage

– New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Monday, March 20th, 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. Mayor Adams also signed five bills into law to further regulate lithium-ion batteries sold in New York City and strengthen fire safety related to battery fires.

“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.”

E-bikes and e-scooters are an affordable and convenient alternative to cars and are essential for delivery workers and other New Yorkers who rely on this mode of transportation for their livelihoods. However, these new transportation options have also brought serious challenges regarding fire risks. Fires caused by batteries that power e-micromobility devices are a significant problem in New York City, growing from 44 in 2020 to 220 in 2022. These fires are particularly severe and difficult to extinguish, spreading quickly and producing noxious fumes.  From 2021 to 2022, these fires resulted in 10 deaths and 226 injuries. In the first two months of 2023 alone, they resulted in two deaths and 40 injuries, posing a clear danger to New Yorkers when not properly used.

The “Charge Safe, Ride Safe” plan identifies four pillars to achieve the administration’s goals for safer e-micromobility and a safer city:

Supporting New Yorkers’ Transition to Safe and Legal E-Micromobility Use

Through innovative pilot programs and testing of new technologies to store and charge lithium-ion batteries, the city will support New Yorkers’ 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 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) properties in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, 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. This initiative will invite startup companies specializing in e-micromobility charging technology to deploy their products at locations supporting food delivery workers. 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;
  • Working to provide lithium-ion battery and e-micromobility safety training through New York City 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; and
  • Launching a series, in partnership with Los Deliveristas Unidos, to train communities on fire safety best practices regarding lithium-ion batteries and e-micromobility.

Bolstering Regulation and Enforcement Against Illegal Device Usage

In addition to the legislation Mayor Adams signed into law today, the city will 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 — both virtual and brick-and-mortar — 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

New York City is a leader in sustainable transportation, and electric micromobility is a key tool to help New Yorkers get around efficiently, safely, affordably, and sustainably. In addition to work to prevent battery fires, the city will also work 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. To boost these efforts, DOT recently won a Federal Highway Administration “Safe Streets and Roads for All” grant that will be used to further develop and test a new generation of street designs and policies.

In addition to the city’s new action plan, Mayor Adams signed five bills into law today, strengthening the city’s efforts to improve e-micromobility safety:

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.


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