NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City Council members are voting Thursday on new legislation aimed at regulating lithium-ion batteries and reducing fires caused by the batteries.
Lithium-ion battery fires have been increasing at an alarming rate across the city, going from 44 fires in 2020 to 216 fires in 2022 and resulting in exponential increases in injuries and deaths.
Officials say the fires have become more frequent with the proliferation of e-bikes and e-scooters.
While the devices are zippy, the batteries that power them can be dangerous. Batteries that have been reconditioned or reassembled can quickly overheat while charging.
"Fully formed fires can break out in a second which is why the FDNY has been working with the feds to do something about this," said Councilmember Gale Brewer.
In the absence of federal regulations that ban those reconditioned batteries, the City Council is voting on the package of bills.
The legislation includes a requirement that the batteries be certified in order to be sold in the city, prohibiting the sale of reconditioned or refurbished batteries.
It would also require public education on the dangers of safe handling of the batteries.
The bill would 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.
"When batteries are certified, they've gone through safety testing and have tools that prevent overcharging and defects that lead to fires," said Councilmember Oswald Feliz.
Delivery workers often opt for the uncertified batteries because they're less expensive. A separate package of bills is in the works that would create public charging stations and a battery exchange program so that recommissioned batteries could be exchanged for certified ones.
"We are setting the standard for lithium batteries because we want to protect the livelihood of all New Yorkers," said Councilmember Shaun Abreu.
The first violation of the law would be met with a warning, but subsequent violations would carry civil penalties of up to $1,000 per violating device.
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