FDNY, elected officials say e-bike batteries are a 'danger to the public'
Rep. Ritchie Torres and other elected officials gathered Tuesday to call for a crackdown on e-bike batteries, calling them a danger to the public.
This comes as FDNY officials say a lithium-ion battery exploded Sunday, caught fire and burned down the Concourse Food Plaza supermarket in the Bronx. City leaders are calling for more regulations on the batteries.
Torres shared his plans Tuesday for a new law that would require the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to create safety standards for the batteries.
Torres adds that safety standards that are optional for companies would make be made a requirement with his bill.
The commission called the issue a crisis and said it would punish companies that don’t warn about the dangers concerning the batteries. However, part of the problem is that the batteries are being resold and reused on the internet, sometimes even for bikes and scooters that the batteries don’t go with. This can lead to the kinds of fires seen over the weekend.
FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh has called on the federal government to step up on an issue they say could mean life or death.
“It literally explodes,” said Kavanaugh. “It’s a tremendous volume of fire as soon as it happens. It’s very hard to extinguish, it’s particularly dangerous for first responders and dangers for the amount of damage it can cause.”
In 2022, 216 fires started in New York City because of these batteries.
Officials say this is probably because drivers use e-bikes and scooters to get around as delivery apps like Uber and Grubhub become more popular.
One of the things the commissioner has asked the CPSC to do is to ban the sale of universal batteries that can be used in any device because of the chance they could malfunction.
Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz emphasized the importance of these new bills and the safety standards they will bring.
"The problem arises when these lithium-ion batteries are poorly designed, poorly manufactured, and poorly handled," said Dinowitz. "“Overwhelmingly we see the devices that catch fire being either non-certified devices or devices that have been tampered with... in almost all cases we are seeing either that they're not certified or that there was some aftermarket tampering with the devices.”
The complicated issue involves many groups from the companies who make the batteries, to the retailers like Amazon who sell them, to everyday people who buy them secondhand.
Torres’ law would operate at the federal level, but the City Council also recently passed a similar law. They say it’s just awaiting Mayor Eric Adams’ signature.