It has been nearly seven months since a fire ignited by a lithium-ion battery on an e-scooter that was charging inside a supermarket in Fordham Heights. While the store was destroyed, no one was killed, thankfully.
While this didn’t happen in greater Riverdale or Kingsbridge, those type of e-scooters powered by the same batteries are quite prolific here as delivery drivers rely on them. The most likely reason for a recent spate of lithium-related fires is due to the increase in e-bike and e-scooters by people and workers during and after Covid. Many of those people are delivery drivers providing takeout service for restaurants trying to survive after the 2020 lockdown.
In fact, lithium-ion batteries have been blamed for more than 200 fires in New York City in 2022, killing six people and injuring nearly 150. That’s double the amount of battery fires in 2021, according to the New York City Fire Department.
That’s why it is important government step in to regulate such undependable and inadequate batteries. One would think legislation that would protect consumers of such e-vehicles and their batteries would already be law by now. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
On the state level, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and fellow Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger are the lead sponsors of a pair of bills to implement regulations to curtail the proliferation of low-quality, lithium-ion batteries. One bill would require all lithium-ion batteries and chargers to meet minimum industry safety standards to be legally sold in New York. Another bill would prohibit the sale of second-use of such batteries intended for use in a bicycle with electric assist, an e-scooter or a limited use motorcycle.
Both bills would call for penalties ranging from $200 to $1,000. But those bills are stuck in the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee in the Assembly.
Federally, U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres’ bill that would require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to establish final mandatory safety standards for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in e-mobility devices was the subject of a recent hearing. The Innovation, Data and Commerce Subcommittee of the House Energy Committee held the hearing on the bill.
We call for the quick passage of this legislation. While it may only be a start toward thwarting such fires, it could save lives and make the streets and buildings where people live and work safer.
If these bills could be passed in the 2023-2024 sessions of Congress and the state legislature, that would be the start of regulating the e-scooter and e-vehicle industry in New York City. Since Covid the need to keep on top of these mostly unregistered and unsafe vehicles used by delivery drivers has become more than just a nuisance.
As seen by the dangers of the batteries that power them and the disregard of traffic rules by many of the drivers in the streets of the northwest Bronx, it is obvious action is long overdue.
And that all starts with new laws that would not only set standards for the batteries and e-vehicles, but also put in place fines for those who don’t abide by the new rules. Let’s make these bills law as soon as possible. Lives may depend on it.