NYC Council approves e-bike trade-in program

Thursday, September 14, 2023
NYC Council approves e-bike trade-in program
New York City is taking steps to prevent dangerous and deadly e-bike battery fires. Darla Miles has the latest.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City is taking steps to prevent dangerous and deadly e-bike battery fires.

The New York City Council voted Thursday to establish a first-of-its-kind trade-in program to provide new lithium-ion batteries and devices like r-bikes and scooters.

Such devices would be provided at reduced cost or no cost in exchange for used batteries and mobility devices that do not meet fire safety standards or are otherwise illegal.

The program will swap out the e-bikes made with aftermarket parts for ones that are certified and approved by the city.

"Today, the Council took decisive action to protect our communities by establishing an unprecedented trade-in program for uncertified lithium-ion batteries to reduce dangerous fires caused by those that don't meet safety standards," said Speaker Adrienne Adams. "This program will support the workers, who power our economy and rely on electric bikes and scooters, to exchange the batteries for their devices."

So far, there have been 175 fires related to lithium-ion batteries this year, killing 14 people. In June, a fire in an e-bike repair shop in Chinatown killed four people when the flames spread to the apartments upstairs.

Unlike another program announced earlier this year, where delivery workers had to come up with hundreds of dollars to pay for the replacement, this one will be largely subsidized by the city, offering replacement bikes for little or no cost.

"This is going to be huge help and support for delivery workers around New York City," said Gustavo Ajche with Los Deliveristas Unidos.

In June, FDNY commissioner Laura Kavanagh explained just how deadly these fires can be.

"It really is an explosion more so than it is a smoldering fire as you would often think. So, you see the volume of fire that occurs immediately upon explosion. It can make it impossible in that moment. You often hear us say that early warning is the best way to save yourselves from a fire. That is not the case with e-bikes. There is so much fire created that it can often be too late as soon as the fire has begun," Kavanagh said.

In addition to the trade-in program, starting Saturday the city is also outright banning the sale and lease of uncertified e-bikes, cracking down on retailers in physical stores and even on Amazon.

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