Gov. Hochul plans to propose a ban on the sale of dangerous, uncertified lithium-ion battery-powered mobility devices, including e-bikes and e-scooters, as part of her third State of the State address Tuesday, according to her office.
The proposal comes after a year in which battery-driven devices caused an alarming number of ferocious fires in New York City that have led to fatalities.
One raging e-bike inferno at a repair shop in Manhattan’s Chinatown killed four people in June. In November, three people perished when an e-bike blaze ripped through a brownstone in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
“My top priority is to keep New Yorkers safe,” Hochul, who is due to outline a range of priorities in Tuesday’s speech, said in a statement. “We’ve all seen the stories of lives lost to dangerous fires, and I’m committed to doing everything in my power to prevent future tragedies.”
Last year, the city logged more than 240 fires and at least 17 deaths related to lithium-ion batteries through November, according to the Fire Department. Officials at the city, state and federal level have scrambled to address the largely unregulated e-bike sphere.
Hochul’s proposed statewide ban would be layered upon a New York City rule that already bars the sale of uncertified lithium-ion batteries in e-bikes in the five boroughs. That ban took effect in September. It requires e-bike batteries to be certified by the Underwriters Laboratory, a safety group.
Lithium-ion batteries power e-bikes, e-scooters and other devices that have surged in popularity since the start of the COVID pandemic, and as more and more New Yorkers order meals and groceries delivered directly to their homes. New York City lifted its e-bike ban in 2018.
Lithium-ion batteries can spark fast-moving infernos.
Hochul’s statewide blueprint also would compel delivery companies to make sure their workers ride safer devices. And it would put added muscle behind efforts to alert New Yorkers to the dangers of lithium-ion batteries through public service announcements.
Hochul’s plan joins a legislative push in the New York City Council to force delivery apps to cover the costs of safe, certified e-bikes or other electric transport devices for their city workers. The sponsor of the Council bill, Oswald Feliz, a Bronx Democrat, said Monday he hopes to pass it in the “next few months.”
In Washington last year, Rep. Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, an Albany Democrat, introduced bipartisan legislation to stiffen product safety standards for lithium-ion batteries used in e-bikes and e-scooters. The bill passed a committee vote in the House in December.
State Sen. Iwen Chu, a Brooklyn Democrat, has also introduced a raft of legislative proposals in Albany to enhance safety around e-bikes. Her package, like Hochul’s proposal, would mandate the certification of batteries used in e-bikes and e-scooters in New York.
Chu’s package would also force retailers to plaster notices on e-bikes reminding their users that they cannot ride on sidewalks, and would mandate automatic fire monitoring and Class B extinguishers in e-bike shops.