Legislation to fast-track standards for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries has unanimous, bipartisan support. But standards that will have the power to change the industry are still months if not years away
To address the hazards posed by poorly manufactured batteries in e-bikes and e-scooters, New York City officials have implemented measures to curb the rising incidents of fires and injuries caused by these devices.
Within the first three weeks of 2024, there were nine fires linked to these batteries, resulting in eight injuries. FDNY reported that since 2019, injuries related to battery fires have surged by 1,053%, reaching 150 cases in 2023. Last year, 18 people died in battery-related fires, up from 6 deaths the year before.
To counter this alarming trend, officials have passed local legislation to prohibit the possession or sale of refurbished lithium-ion batteries. A City Council committee hearing is scheduled to discuss additional e-bike safety measures, and Governor Kathy Hochul plans to propose a bill banning their sale. Public housing leaders in the city have also moved to limit the number of e-bikes per household. Despite these efforts, safety experts argue that true mitigation requires regulation at the manufacturing source.
Achieving this goal necessitates federal legislation, a challenging prospect given the divided and unproductive state of Congress. Surprisingly, there is bipartisan support for regulating the batteries, as evidenced by a pending bill in Congress. This legislation aims to empower the Consumer Product Safety Commission to establish federal standards for the safe construction and import of these batteries.
New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with Representative Ritchie Torres, have been advocating for such legislation since last year. Without this authorization, the Consumer Product Safety Commission lacks the regulatory authority to impose mandatory standards. The absence of mandatory standards allows manufacturers to adhere to safety measures voluntarily, leading to an influx of poorly made products and subsequent battery malfunctions, explosions, and fires.
The bill has garnered significant support during its progression through the House of Representatives, receiving unanimous approval in both a subcommittee and the Energy and Commerce Committee. Though viewed as a positive development by consumer product safety experts, the journey ahead involves Senate consideration and, if successful, a significant delay before the mandatory standards take effect, potentially extending to at least another year.
Despite the extended timeline, consumer product safety experts view this legislation as a crucial step. However, the process involves Senate deliberations and, as of now, there is no immediate information on its status. Regardless of the legislative outcome, the implementation of mandatory standards would represent a pivotal move to address the widespread issue of e-bike and e-scooter battery fires and associated risks.