NYC Launches Lithium-Ion Battery Charging Pilot for Delivery Workers

By Hamodia Staff

Charging technologies participating in the city’s pilot, produced by (from left to right) Swobbee, Swiftmile, and Popwheels. (City Hall)

NEW YORK – New York City is launching a lithium-ion battery-charging pilot program early next year that will allow an initial group of delivery workers to safely charge their bikes in public, Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday.

The pilot will test a variety of technologies to charge e-bike batteries at locations across the city, developed as part of the administration’s “Charge Safe, Ride Safe” plan to protect New Yorkers from fires caused by lithium-ion batteries. Those technologies will include battery-swapping networks, as well as secure bike parking docks that supply fast charging to delivery workers’ e-bikes.

E-bikes and e-scooters have become essential for the livelihoods of delivery workers, but cheaply made lithium-ion batteries have also brought serious fire risks. The number of lithium-ion battery fires has grown from 30 in 2019 to 253 in 2023. These fires are particularly severe and difficult to extinguish, spreading quickly and producing noxious fumes. From 2019 to 2022, these fires resulted in an average of approximately three deaths and 66 injuries per year. So far in 2023, these batteries have already resulted in 18 deaths and 133 injuries.

“This innovative pilot program will test different technologies to make this technology safer as we continue to do all we can to help protect workers from the dangers that lithium-ion batteries can pose,” Adams said. “By investing in battery-swapping networks and fast-charging e-bike docks, we’re building e-bike-friendly infrastructure and preparing our city’s streets for a new generation of users.”

“Charge Safe, Ride Safe” focuses on promoting and incentivizing safe battery use, increasing education and outreach to electric micromobility users, advocating for additional federal regulation of these devices, and expanding enforcement against high-risk situations. Additionally, this year, Adams signed several bills to further regulate lithium-ion batteries sold in New York City and strengthen fire safety related to battery fires, including bills that prohibit the sale of unsafe, uncertified lithium-ion batteries or dangerously refurbished batteries.

Last summer, the city announced a plan to expedite investigations into potentially hazardous conditions involving lithium-ion batteries, and to launch an outreach campaign to educate bik-s-hop owners about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries and best practices to avoid fires. As part of the plan, 311 calls regarding questionable activity at bike repair shops or any other location where batteries are being charged will get a response from the local fire station within 12 hours. 

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