Our personal injury law firm is concerned about the recent news regarding lithium-ion batteries causing deadly fires in New York City. According to reports, a 64-year-old man died in a Bronx apartment fire caused by a defective lithium-ion battery over the weekend, and the FDNY has reported 33 fires caused by these batteries this year, resulting in three deaths and 42 injuries.
To address this issue, Mayor Eric Adams signed five bills into law aimed at preventing fires caused by lithium-ion batteries in New York City (see our previous blog about these bills related to e-bike battery safety).
While the bills only address lithium battery safety in New York City, there is a need for federal legislation to ensure that batteries are safely manufactured and used. Currently, compliance with safety standards is voluntary, and the wide availability of uncertified or after-market tampered batteries is contributing to the problem. Additionally, a change in federal law in 2016 exempts imports below $800 from inspection and tariffs, which has made it easier for uncertified or unsafe batteries to enter the market.
Certified lithium-ion batteries often cost more than $1000 a piece and delivery workers use on average 3 batteries a day which practically makes it impossible for delivery workers to pay for them
The new legislation requires the certification of batteries used in e-bikes and other devices and will especially affect delivery workers who rely on e-mobility devices as a mode of transportation and often use uncertified or after-market tampered batteries to save money. With the new legislation, these workers will need to ensure that their e-bike batteries are certified and meet safety standards, which may be a struggle for those on a tight budget.
While other options, such as the creation of charging stations or an exchange of illegal batteries for free certified ones, have been proposed, these options are not part of the new legislation package that Mayor Adams will sign today. As such, the new requirements put most of the burden on the workers who rely on e-mobility devices to make a living, and there is obviously a risk that the new legislation could create a black market for cheap, uncertified batteries.