When the New York City Council passed a package of bills last month designed to halt the wave of deadly fires caused by faulty lithium-ion batteries — which power e-bikes and scooters and other mobile devices— co-op and condo boards had reason to rejoice. But council member Gale Brewer, a sponsor of one of the five bills in the package, insisted at the time that local laws were not enough.
"There is more to do," said Brewer, a Democrat who represents the Upper West Side of Manhattan. "E-bike battery fires are another example of new technology outpacing government regulation. Federal lawmakers need to create strict rules that stop companies from selling dangerous batteries. In New York City, drivers need opportunities to exchange dangerous batteries for safe ones, free battery disposal, and safe places to charge.”
On Sunday, Brewer's prayers were answered. U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand came up from Washington to unveil federal legislation they're calling the Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act. It would work to take faulty lithium-ion batteries off the market and set nationwide consumer guidelines for these batteries to protect people and responders from deadly explosions.
“The fires and the injuries caused by the batteries are climbing across New York, and federal action is desperately needed,” Schumer said at the unveiling, as reported by ny1.
Gillibrand added: “Let me be clear: most lithium-ion batteries are safe. Those that are certified have a safety tool built in to prevent overheating and malfunctions like all of our iPhones have. We must encourage the use of more sustainable transportation alternatives, but we can’t allow for faulty or improperly manufactured batteries that keep causing these dangerous deadly fires.”
Last year, the Fire Department of New York investigated 220 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, which resulted in 147 injuries and six deaths. So far this year there have already been 63 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries in the city, resulting in injuries to 52 people and five deaths.
The city bills would restrict the sale, lease, or rental of powered mobility devices and storage batteries that fail to meet the applicable Underwriters Laboratories (UL) safety standards. Another measure would would restrict the assembly, reconditioning and resale of lithium-ion batteries with cells removed from used batteries.
Some co-op and condo boards have already taken steps to ban e-bikes and scooters from the buildings. Others are considering constructing fireproof bike storage rooms, while others are mulling restrictions on how the devices are recharged.
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