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First outdoor battery charging station opens in New York City

Published February 29, 2024

NEW YORK (BRAIN) — The first of five public outdoor lithium-ion battery charging stations opened Thursday, part of a six-month pilot program aimed at preventing residential battery fires.

The first charging station is located in Cooper Square in Manhattan's East Village and part of the city's Charge Safe, Ride Safe: New York City's Electric Micromobility Action Plan to support safe e-bike use and battery charging. New York City is among the first major U.S. cities to launch a public e-bike charging pilot program.

Only participating delivery workers will take part in the free six-month pilot program. In the coming days, the New York Department of Transportation will sign up as many as 100 delivery workers to participate. The workers will be urged to provide feedback.

New York City experienced 240 fires and 17 deaths from lithium-ion battery incidents in 2023, according to FDNY. There have been no deaths reported this year from lithium-ion battery fires. In 2022, there were 220 fires and six deaths.

Last year, the FDNY answered 267 calls sparked by lithium-ion batteries, roughly 20% more than the year before. Deaths from lithium-ion battery fires increased from six in 2022 to 18 in 2023.

"We count on delivery workers for so much, and they should be able to count on us, too — whether that means fighting for fair pay or making their jobs and livelihoods safer," said Mayor Eric Adams. "This pilot program we're kicking off today will give delivery workers the ability to access safe, accessible, outdoor battery-charging that will undoubtedly save lives, and we're eager to expand this pilot even further. We know the incredible potential of e-bikes in our city and it's on us to make e-bike use even safer."

Adams announced four additional outdoor charging sites across Manhattan and Brooklyn, selected for their high concentrations of e-bike delivery activity and delivery workers. The locations will be at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, Essex Market in the Lower East Side, Plaza De Las Americas in Washington Heights, and Willoughby and Jay streets in downtown Brooklyn. They will be installed and activated in the coming weeks.

The DOT developed the program through the agency's DOT Studio, a research and development partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and the urban tech growth hub Newlab, which also previously partnered with e-bike startup company Bloom.

Swobbee, Popwheels, and Swiftmile provide charging infrastructure. Swobbee and Popwheels are providing swappable battery systems, enabling participating e-bike users to sub a depleted UL-certified e-bike battery for a fully-charged battery at the battery cabinets. Swiftmile provides a charging bike rack, where participating users can lock up their bikes to charge.

The three companies offer fire safety features, ranging from automatic shutoff if a battery is overheating to fire suppression systems. The FDNY reviewed product development and will also inspect each location during installation and throughout the duration of the program.

The city urges interested workers to fill out an Expression of Interest form or attend an onboarding event at Cooper Square on March 7 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and at the Brooklyn Army Terminal on March 8 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Charging technologies participating are, from left, Swobbee, Swiftmile, and Popwheels.
Topics associated with this article: Electric bike

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