New York State, City Lawmakers Look to Curb Lithium Battery Fires

Lawmakers in Albany and New York City are pushing measures they hope will curb incidents of lithium-ion battery fires, which have risen in the past few years.

They include measures requiring that all batteries and chargers being sold be certified by established safety standard organizations including Underwriters Laboratories, prohibiting the sale of reconditioned or used lithium batteries, and boosting public education and the reporting on battery risks and fires.

Lithium-ion batteries, commonly found in e-bikes, scooters and other devices, can malfunction and cause dangerous fires that are difficult to contain and extinguish.

According to the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), last year it investigated 220 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, fires that resulted in 147 injuries and six deaths. This year already, the city has experienced more than 20 lithium-ion battery fires that have caused injuries and deaths.

State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz are calling for new regulations on low-quality lithium-ion batteries.

One bill (A4938/S154A) would require all lithium-ion batteries and chargers to meet minimum industry safety standards in order to be legally sold in New York. The bill allows safety certifications to be determined by the Underwriters Laboratories, the International Electrotechnical Commission, the American National Standards Institute, or the Society of Automotive & Aerospace Engineering. Violations of the law would be subject to a $500 penalty for the first violation and a $1,000 penalty for subsequent violations.

“Lithium-ion batteries are increasingly ubiquitous in modern society, from rechargeable laptops and phones to e-bikes and electric cars. It is paramount that New Yorkers trust that these products are safe to use and have in their homes, and this legislation will bring our regulatory system into the 21st century,” Assemblyman Dinowitz said.

A second bill (S157) would prohibit the sale of second-use lithium-ion batteries intended for use in a bicycle with electric assist, an electric scooter, or a limited use motorcycle. Violations of the law would be subject to a $200 penalty for the first violation and a $1,000 penalty for subsequent violations within two years. Violations would be counted by each individual battery.

Senator Krueger said reconditioned and untested batteries are a threat to people in their homes and in their jobs, including delivery workers. “I am glad to see the City Council taking action on these issues, but they also must be addressed statewide,” Krueger said.

City Council

“The toll that fires are increasingly having on families and communities is devastating and requires the urgent attention of all levels of government,” said New York City Council 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.”

Last week, the City Council considered a legislative package that is also aimed at powered devices and batteries that lack recognized safety standard certifications.

A measure introduced by Council Member Oswald Feliz would restrict the sale, lease, or rental of powered mobility devices and storage batteries for the devices if they fail to meet recognized safety standard certification.

Council Member Robert Holden’s proposal; would require the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) to submit annual reports related to fire risks associated with powered mobility devices. These reports would include data on fires caused by the devices, actions taken by the city fire department to reduce the risks, and recommendations to further decrease risks.

Council Member Gale Brewer’s measure would restrict the assembly and reconditioning of lithium-ion batteries with cells removed from used batteries, and their commercial sale.

Another proposal by Brewer would require the FDNY to develop an information campaign to educate the public on the fire risks posed by powered mobility devices. The campaign would be required to include guidance on how to identify safe products, as well as best practices for maintenance, storage, and charging.

Feliz said he is working on additional bills, including one with Majority Leader Keith Powers, which would create a battery swap program.

Photo:- A delivery worker rides his electric bicycle past the New York Stock Exchange, March 16, 2020, in New York.Lithium ion batteries used to power electric bicycles and scooters have already sparked 22 fires that caused 36 injuries and two deaths in New York City this year, four times the number of fires linked to the batteries by this time last year, city officials said Friday, Feb. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

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