Illegal lithium-ion batteries sold, manufactured out of Queens e-scooter shop: FDNY

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, February 8, 2024
Illegal lithium-ion batteries allegedly sold, manufactured out of Queens e-scooter shop
Sonia Rincon has the latest details.

FOREST HILLS, Queens (WABC) -- An e-scooter shop in Forest Hills, Queens, was discovered selling and even manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, the FDNY said Thursday.

Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh announced an inspection Tuesday led to the discovery of "Frankenstein batteries," or battery packs built from individual lithium-ion battery cells that are used to alter or replace old ones.

What they made at Wilson's E-Scooter Shop on Queens Boulevard was so dangerous, according to fire officials, that as the FDNY removed dozens of the batteries earlier this week, some of the batteries actually ignited and had to be extinguished.

"They kill people. They have killed people. And they will kill more people if businesses continue to operate in this manner," Kavanagh said.

Sixty battery packs and hundreds of individual lithium-ion cells were recovered. Approximately 25 e-scooters and 25 combination electric and gas mopeds were also recovered.

Five drums were packed for removal of cells and seven e-scooters were seized by the NYPD for exceeding the 20 mph limit rule.

Multiple fines and violations were issued at the business.

Kavanagh and others held a news conference outside the business to demonstrate the difficulties and dangers it poses for the FDNY and the public.

"They hold a tremendous amount of power effectively packed into a tiny space, once you damage them, they explode, the amount of power in them explodes," Kavanaugh said of the batteries. "So anyone who is doing this kind of work that is one not trained to do it, or two doing it in a residence or business like this that is not meant or built to handle what is effectively an industrial operation, there's a reason that other sorts of businesses that do industrial work are not on the bottom floor of someone's home or not in an apartment."

The owner of the shop said he plans to comply with the FDNY and right now only has gas-powered vehicles left while he's closed for business. He said that he's had a hard time getting certified to sell batteries that meet UL standards.

Earlier Thursday, a fire in a Brooklyn apartment building that injured two firefighters was caused by lithium-ion batteries.

Officials say the owner of the batteries had taken several risks.

"The person had bought that battery from somebody on the street. It was not the original battery that came with the product. So he did not know if that battery was certified or where it was manufactured," said FDNY Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn.

Two firefighters were treated for minor injuries in that fire, but all the residents got out safely.

The FDNY says both businesses and consumers at home have to do their part and make sure they're only using UL certified batteries, don't open them up and mess with them or combine them with other batteries, and make sure they are the right battery for the charger and the e-bike they are being used with.

The commissioner says her office is in talks with the mayor's office and the City Council to come up with legislation that would further restrict the illegal batteries.

ALSO READ | Exclusive: NYPD cracks down on illegal scooters amid investigation into officers attacked

Josh Einiger has the exclusive report.


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