Adams announces plan to combat lithium-ion battery fires, promote safe electric micro-mobility usage
New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Monday announced “Charge Safe, Ride Safe: New York City’s Electric Micro-mobility Action Plan” to protect New Yorkers from fires caused by lithium-ion batteries and promote safe electric micro-mobility usage.
The plan focuses on four key areas: Promoting and incentivizing safe battery use, increasing education and outreach to electric micro-mobility users, advocating for additional federal regulation of these devices, and expanding enforcement against high-risk situations.
Mayor Adams also signed five bills into law to further regulate lithium-ion batteries sold in New York City and strengthen fire safety related to battery fires.
“Today, we are supercharging safety for all of our e-bikes and e-scooter users,” Adams said. “These are convenient transportation options for New Yorkers, but faulty and illegal devices are making their way into our homes and streets, causing fires and putting lives at risk.
“Through promoting safe devices, expanding education, increasing enforcement on high-risk situations, and pursuing additional regulation, I’m proud that New York City is leading that charge. E-bikes and e-scooters are here to stay, and with this plan and these five pieces of critical legislation I’m proud to sign, we are going to ensure that they are safe for all New Yorkers to use,” he added.
“I am proud that this administration brought expertise from all corners of government to produce a comprehensive plan that meets the urgent need to address battery fires while ensuring we’ve met the needs of delivery workers and the broader public to use this sustainable transportation mode,” said Chief of Staff Camille Joseph Varlack.
“So many of the risks associated with these devices are preventable, but education and awareness are key,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks III. “Even with our enforcement efforts, the goal is not punishment; the goal is safety. Safety is the priority here, and this legislation will no doubt help save lives.”
“This is a huge start to pressing and novel safety work, and New York City must lead the way,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. “This is a broad responsibility, and our agency partners, delivery apps, and labor partners must work together to ensure that this equipment critical to delivery worker’s livelihood does not take lives instead.”
“Fires caused by e-bikes and the lithium-ion batteries they rely on have increased dramatically in our city, with deadly consequences for citizens and first responders,” said Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. “It is a problem we are tackling aggressively with our partners in city, state, and federal government. We are grateful to the mayor for signing these bills into law and to the City Council for passing legislation that supports the FDNY in addressing this critical safety matter.”
“Legal electric micro-mobility is a critical part of a safe, equitable, and sustainable transportation landscape. These devices can make moving around the city easier for New Yorkers and are critical tools used by thousands of delivery workers to support our economy,” said New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “Through this plan, DOT is working closely with its sister agencies to develop the street infrastructure, safety education campaigns, and public charging options to support their growth and safe use.”
Adams said E-bikes and e-scooters are an affordable and convenient alternative to cars and are essential for delivery workers and other New Yorkers who rely on this mode of transportation for their livelihoods.
However, he said these new transportation options have also brought serious challenges regarding fire risks.
The mayor said fires caused by batteries that power e-micro-mobility devices are a significant problem in New York City, growing from 44 in 2020 to 220 in 2022.
“These fires are particularly severe and difficult to extinguish, spreading quickly and producing noxious fumes,” he said.
From 2021 to 2022, Adams said these fires resulted in 10 deaths and 226 injuries. In the first two months of 2023 alone, they resulted in two deaths and 40 injuries, “posing a clear danger to New Yorkers when not properly used,” he said.
The “Charge Safe, Ride Safe” plan identifies four pillars to achieve the administration’s goals for safer e-micro-mobility and a safer city:
Supporting New Yorkers’ Transition to Safe and Legal E-Micromobility Use
Through innovative pilot programs and testing of new technologies to store and charge lithium-ion batteries, the city will support New Yorkers’ transition to safe and legal e-micro-mobility use by: Working with New York State to design and implement a program that incentivizes the purchase of safe and legal electric micro-mobility devices; continuing to work on nation-leading deliverista hubs to provide delivery workers with safe places to rest and charge their devices throughout the city; piloting safe, outdoor e-micro-mobility storage and charging solutions at New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) properties in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, and applying for federal grant funding to support this work; and identifying, testing, and evaluating the most promising public-facing battery-charging solutions through the 2023 DOT Studio Challenge.
The latter initiative will invite startup companies specializing in e-micro-mobility charging technology to deploy their products at locations supporting food delivery workers.
The city will also test and evaluate fire safety and prevention equipment for homes and commercial settings.
Increasing Education and Outreach About Safe Device Usage
The city will expand education and outreach efforts around safe e-micro-mobility usage, storage, and charging practices by: Expanding engagement to immigrant and worker communities, focusing on the communities most affected by these fires; working to provide lithium-ion battery and e-micro-mobility safety training through New York City Emergency Management’s (NYCEM) Ready NY platforms, as well as directly to NYCEM’s Community Emergency Response Teams to reach everyday New Yorkers, in addition to certified emergency responders; and launching a series, in partnership with Los Deliveristas Unidos, to train communities on fire safety best practices regarding lithium-ion batteries and e-micromobility.
Bolstering Regulation and Enforcement Against Illegal Device Usage
In addition to the legislation Mayor Adams signed into law on Monday, the city will continue to advocate for additional regulation for these devices and bolster enforcement against illegal device usage by: Creating a fire marshal task force focused on identifying violators of the fire code. The task force will use data to identify potential violators and high-risk situations or “hot spots,” which will be targeted for both outreach and inspection for compliance with existing fire codes; continuing to advocate to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and other federal partners to ensure that devices on New York City’s shelves — both virtual and brick-and-mortar — meet applicable safety standards; and seeking partnerships with local, state, and federal partners to further research the health impacts on first responders handling lithium-ion batteries, which can be extremely toxic when they burn.
Promoting the Growth of Safe E-Micromobility and Cycling
New York City is a leader in sustainable transportation, and electric micro-mobility is a key tool to help New Yorkers get around efficiently, safely, affordably, and sustainably.
In addition to work to prevent battery fires, the city will also work to make it easier and safer to use electric micro-mobility by: Launching a pilot program to allow e-bikes and other legal electric micro-mobility devices on park drives and greenways this summer and updating and piloting different street designs to accommodate the growth of e-micromobility devices on the roads.
To boost these efforts, DOT recently won a Federal Highway Administration “Safe Streets and Roads for All” grant that will be used to further develop and test a new generation of street designs and policies.
In addition to the city’s new action plan, Mayor Adams signed five bills into law today, strengthening the city’s efforts to improve e-micro-mobility safety.
Intro. 656 — sponsored by New York City Councilmember Gale Brewer — will require the FDNY, in consultation with the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP), to develop an informational campaign educating the public on fire risks posed by powered mobility devices and how to mitigate those risks.
Intro. 663 — sponsored by New York City Councilmember Oswald Feliz — will prohibit the sale, lease, or rental of powered mobility devices, such as e-bikes and electric scooters, and storage batteries for these devices, that fail to meet recognized safety standards.
Intro. 722 — sponsored by New York City Councilmember Robert Holden — will require the FDNY to submit five reports relating to fire risks and powered mobility devices, such as e-bikes and electric scooters. Reports will include data on fires during the previous year caused by these devices and recommendations for changes to changes to the administrative code to further decrease fire risk.
Intro. 749 — sponsored by New York City Councilmember Alexa Avilés — will require the DCWP, in consultation with the FDNY, to publish materials that provide guidance on safe use and storage of powered mobility devices.
Intro. 752 — also sponsored by Councilmember Brewer — will prohibit the assembly or reconditioning of lithium-ion batteries using cells removed from used storage batteries and prohibit the sale of a lithium-ion batteries that use cells removed from used storage batteries.
“As e-bikes and e-scooters become increasingly essential to our city’s residents and workforce, it is vital that we take every step to ensure that they are safe,” said New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell. “These hazards are preventable, so it is imperative that we work together to educate the public, reduce risk, and improve the quality and reliability of these vehicles. The NYPD is proud to join the mayor’s office and dozens of other city agencies in this collective effort.”
“We’ve seen the growth in electric micro-mobility use, and in coordination with our sister agencies, we are working on a pilot plan to safely introduce these devices into our parks,” said New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “Our parks and greenways are critical parts of the city’s cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. We are committed to supporting delivery workers and community members who use e-micro-mobility and want all park users — pedestrians, children, families, cyclists, and more — to feel safe and welcome in city parks.”
“Delivery workers use e-bikes more than any other form of transportation in our city, and we must ensure that they are safe and protected from preventable fires caused by faulty batteries,” said DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga. “Thank you to Mayor Adams and our fellow agencies, the Department of Transportation and the Fire Department, for investing in these life-saving safety measures. DCWP is committed to helping spread the word to delivery workers about the risks of lithium-ion batteries.”
“The ‘Charge Safe, Ride Safe’ plan will protect New Yorkers from fires caused by lithium-ion batteries,” said NYCEM Commissioner Zach Iscol. “With the growing problem of fires caused by batteries that power e-bikes and e-scooters, New York City is taking the necessary steps to prevent these emergencies and provide New Yorkers with the tools, resources, and information to live and work safely.”
“The safety of NYCHA residents is our chief priority and central to the work we do every day,” said NYCHA Interim CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt. “We are pleased to partner with Con Edison on this pilot program, which will provide NYCHA residents with a safe, outdoor charging and storage alternative, while supporting the growth of this sustainable mode of transportation.”
“As we promote sustainable modes of transportation, such as e-micro-mobility, it’s imperative that we ensure the safety of our residents by preventing battery fires and traffic crashes,” said Mayor’s Office of Operations Director Dan Steinberg. “By breaking down silos between agencies and offices, this task force has developed a robust plan that offers solutions toward a safe and more equitable environment for e-micro-mobility. It’s an honor to work with our leaders in City Hall and across government to ‘Get Stuff Done’ for all New Yorkers.”
“Tragic fires can and have happened when lithium-ion batteries are stored or used unsafely. HPD has been working more closely than ever with the FDNY to keep homes fire-safe, and we want all New Yorkers to know about the precautions they can take to keep themselves, their neighbors, and first responders safe,” said New York City Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Adolfo Carrión, Jr.
“New York City is dedicated to leading the way on electric micro-mobility and ensuring that equitable, affordable, and sustainable transportation is available to all New Yorkers — as described in ‘Making New York Work for Everyone.’ We applaud Mayor Adams’ leadership to ensure e-micro-mobility’s safe use and expansion,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Andrew Kimball. “We look forward to continuing to work with the mayor, our partners in city government, and the private sector, on spurring new and safe innovation in this space, and we are excited to work with DOT and Newlab to test new solutions for safer e-micro-mobility charging.”
“Lithium-ion batteries appear in more and more devices, but they’re also appearing more and more in the back of our trucks and at our transfer stations, where they cause fires and put ‘New York’s Strongest’ at risk,” said New York City Department of Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch. “We need a meaningful, permanent strategy on micro-mobility safety that addresses this problem once and for all, and today, the Adams administration is taking the steps to get us there.”
“DEP’s Division of Emergency Response and Technical Assessment has been instrumental in guiding the development of the ‘Charge Safe, Ride Safe’ plan, specifically as it pertains to the storage, charging, and disposal of lithium-ion batteries — an issue of environmental and worker protection,” said Chief Climate Officer and New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala. “Collaborating with our sister agencies, we can educate riders on how to use and enjoy e-micro-mobility in ways that keep them and their surroundings safe.”
“Fires sparked by lithium-ion batteries have harmed hundreds of New Yorkers, and demand our urgent attention and action,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “To reduce these avoidable fires, it is critical to remove uncertified lithium-ion batteries from commercial circulation and increase public awareness about the dangers posed by them. The Council has taken important first steps to strengthen fire safety in New York City, and we will continue to work with all stakeholders, including our delivery workers, to ensure their safety and livelihoods are protected. I thank my colleagues for prioritizing solutions and Mayor Adams’ administration for working together with the Council on this important issue.”
“When we know better, we do better. I’m proud that my bill Intro 749-A, which will require DCWP to develop and publish educational materials on e-bike safety risks and mitigation measures in the city’s top 10 languages, will be signed into law today,” said Councilmember Avilés. “My bill will also require third-party delivery apps and employers to provide these materials to their delivery workers. Our shared goal to prevent fires involving lithium-ion batteries is a tough one. But we must do everything we can to implement solutions that are informed by community and delivery workers themselves. Today’s bill signings are a step in the right direction, and I look forward to continuing this work with colleagues at all levels of government to develop smart, comprehensive policy to address the fire risks from battery-powered devices.”
“E-bikes are here to stay and have become an important part of city life. Government’s responsibility is to protect public safety,” said Councilmember Brewer. “We must educate consumers, write new rules and enforce existing ones, and demand accountability from battery manufacturers, sellers, and delivery apps. Deliveristas need safe batteries that they can afford. The city needs public infrastructure for safe and speedy battery charging. The battery problem is urgent, and I’m glad the City Council and Mayor Adams have started taking steps to address it.”
“Lithium-ion batteries have become a real danger, causing massive fires and fatalities, displacing people, and threatening public safety,” said Councilmember Holden. “Our city must take action, and this package of bills is a step in the right direction. I’m proud to have recently introduced a bill requiring registration, licensing, and insurance for e-bikes and scooters. I thank the speaker and mayor for their leadership in addressing this pressing issue.”