February 16, 2023: New York City fire commissioner Laura Kavanagh has called on US consumer safety chiefs to do more to keep substandard lithium ion batteries out of the country and regulate chargers and e-bikes, after hundreds of battery fires and six deaths in the city during the past year.
Kavanagh said in a February 10 letter to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission the city experienced 219 fires caused by lithium ion powered e-bikes, e-scooters and other electric micro mobility devices in 2022 leading to 147 injuries and the fatalities.
Last month alone there were “scores of injuries” and at least one fatality as a result of fires caused by e-bikes, Kavanagh said.
Kavanagh praised the safety commission for issuing recalls of e-bikes due to fire hazards and for highlighting the “trafficking” of uncertified products, but she urged the body to go further — including the seizure at ports of devices arriving in the country that fail minimum industry standards.
She also asked the commission to consider regulations that make it more difficult for people to open batteries, which she said seemed to be a source of safety problems.
Meanwhile, Kavanagh said fire chiefs had supported draft laws being developed by New York City Council to ban the sale of refurbished batteries and require batteries and electric micro mobility devices sold in the city to be certified by a national testing lab.
Kavanagh’s calls follow figures released last November showing firefighters had been called out to lithium battery fires almost five days a week since the start of 2022. The fires included one in a 20th-floor Manhattan apartment.