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NY City Council passes lithium-ion battery safety package

Published March 2, 2023
If signed by Mayor Eric Adams, e-bikes would need to meet UL 2849 or similar certification; batteries would have to meet UL 2271.

NEW YORK (BRAIN) — The City Council on Thursday passed its lithium-ion battery safety legislative package in reaction to the growing number of fires, including prohibiting the sale of e-bikes, other powered mobility devices like e-scooters, and batteries that don't meet recognized certification like UL.

The legislation must be signed by Mayor Eric Adams to take effect.

If Adams signs it, to be legally sold, rented, or leased in New York City, an e-bike would need to be certified to UL 2849, which is a standard that covers an e-bike's full electrical system, including the battery, charger and motor. Likewise, a powered mobility device would need to meet UL 2272 and all lithium-ion batteries sold separately would be required to meet UL 2271. The FDNY has indicated it will consider approving other similar safety standards.

The city regulation goes into effect 180 days after it's signed. Failure to comply would expose sellers to a one-time civil penalty of zero dollars and then fines up to $1,000 per violation. Councilman Oswald Feliz sponsored the bill, which passed 8-0, with one council member absent.

"The toll that fires are increasingly having on families and communities is devastating and requires the urgent attention of all levels of government," said Speaker Adrienne Adams. "We must reduce the avoidable fire tragedies caused by the wide proliferation of uncertified lithium-ion batteries. These bills are an initial step to increase public education and reduce the growing commercial circulation of uncertified batteries that pose the greatest danger. There is continued work to do with all stakeholders, particularly our deliveristas, to support livelihoods and safety. I thank the bill sponsors for their leadership on this issue and all of my colleagues for their support."

The legislative package consists of four other bills, including:

  • Restricting the assembly and reconditioning of lithium-ion batteries with cells removed from used batteries, and their commercial sale.
  • Developing a public education campaign on fire risks of e-bikes and e-scooters that would require the FDNY to work in consultation with the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP).
  • Requiring the FDNY to submit five reports (one per year for five years) related to fire risks associated with powered mobility devices. These reports would include data on fires caused by the devices, actions taken by FDNY to reduce the risks, and recommendations to further decrease risks.
  • Requiring the DCWP to develop and publish educational materials on e-bike safety risks and mitigation measures materials for delivery workers. It would also require third-party delivery apps, such as Seamless and UberEats, to distribute these materials to their delivery workers.

Last year, the FDNY investigated 220 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, resulting in 147 injuries and six deaths. In 2023 so far, FDNY responded to an average of three lithium-ion battery fires a week. A 67-year-old woman who was critically injured when a lithium-ion battery started a fire in her Brooklyn apartment building on Feb. 14, died later.

"PeopleForBikes' supplier members already produce safe and tested electric bicycles and batteries," said Matt Moore, PeopleForBikes' general and policy counsel. "We support this groundbreaking legislation because it will ensure that all electric bicycles, scooters, and batteries available for sale in New York City have safe, tested batteries and that public authorities and consumers can easily determine that such testing has occurred."

PeopleForBikes said it has advocated for a provision in the bill to allow sellers the option to place the name of the accredited testing laboratory on the product or its packaging. More formal use of a proprietary laboratory trademark or logo are also available options.

PeopleForBikes also asked that testing information be able to be disclosed on an e-bike, the battery, the packaging, or on documentation provided at the point of sale. Originally, the bill specifically required testing information be placed on an e-bike's packaging, which is often removed and recycled before sale.

By calling for UL 2849 certification, PeopleForBikes said the law will reduce the number of untested, low-quality e-bikes and batteries available to the 65,000 delivery workers in New York City.

"While the bill alone will reduce the potential of lithium-ion battery fires, we know this will limit the availability of low-cost, albeit unsafe, mobility products for workers who depend on the ability to deliver goods quickly across the city's five boroughs," according to a PeopleForBikes release. "PeopleForBikes urges the City of New York to consider additional policy solutions, such as a trade-in incentive program offering delivery workers and others a financial incentive for trading in their untested batteries and e-bikes for certified alternatives."

Topics associated with this article: Electric bike

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