E-Bike Battery Fires Are Soaring in NYC When People Charge Their E-Bicycles Overnight
Have you or a loved one suffered an injury, substantial property damage, or lost a loved one in an E-bike battery explosion?
Parker Waichman LLP is an award-winning product liability law firm based in New York City who is offering free consultations concerning battery fire claims. If a wheelchair battery fire has harmed you or a member of your family, an E-bike fire, tablet, cellphone, electric vehicle, laptop, or any other fire caused by a defective lithium-ion battery, call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529). You or your loved one may be able to file a battery fire lawsuit to recover substantial monetary compensation for your injuries and losses.
How to Pursue financial Compensation After an E-bike Battery Fire
If you or someone close to you has suffered harm due to a faulty battery, it is crucial to seek legal assistance immediately. Parker Waichman LLP can help you determine whether you have grounds for a product defect lawsuit and potentially secure compensation for your damages. Our team will review your case at no cost to you and provide guidance on taking legal action against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer responsible for the defective battery. Call Parker Waichman LLP today at 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) for your free consultation.
There is an Outbreak of E-bike Fires in New York City
According to The Wall Street Journal, the outbreak of E-bicycle building fires appears to be concentrated in New York City. In fact, the number of E-bike battery fires in New York City doubled in 2022. The New York City Fire Department has reported that electric micromobility vehicles such as E-bikes and E-scooters have injured more than 40 people and tragically killed two people last year. New York Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh stated to reporters that these electronic vehicles are incredibly dangerous if they are used improperly or when they are unregulated.
The Wall Street Journal article also stated that the United States imported over 1.1 million e-bikes last year, which is up 20% over 2021 and double the number that was imported in 2020, according to the Light Electric Vehicle Association, or LEVA. The sharp rise in fuel costs appears to be the number one reason why so many people are choosing to buy electric bikes and electric scooters.
E-bike Ownership Surge Causes Rise in Lithium-Ion Battery Explosions
NEW YORK (AP) — An explosion in a New York City shop filled with motorized bicycles propelled by combustible lithium-ion batteries led to a destructive fire that claimed four lives in a residential building above in the early hours of a June morning.
As electronic bicycles (e-bikes) become more common, there’s a correlating increase in deadly fires and fatalities attributable to their batteries. This is driving efforts to create regulations surrounding the production, sale, reconditioning, charging, and storage of these batteries.
Consumer rights advocates and fire departments, especially in New York City, are pressuring the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to implement obligatory safety standards and seize non-compliant imported products at borders and shipping ports. This would prevent unsafe e-bikes and substandard batteries from being sold and becoming a public safety threat.
In a recent e-bike and lithium-ion battery forum held in Bethesda, Maryland, the commission’s chair, Alexander D. Hoehn-Saric, called it a “pressing issue” needing attention.
“Voluntary standards are inadequate,” he asserted, agreeing with fire officials and safety advocates who strongly favor compulsory standards for batteries and electric systems in micro-mobility devices, including battery-powered scooters, bicycles, and hoverboards.
New York City Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh described these incidents as beyond regular fires since batteries explode rather than smolder.
“The rate of fire incidents has dramatically risen. Other American cities are also starting to face similar challenges, and municipalities not yet affected might soon experience similar situations,” Kavanagh warned the commission. “In New York City, we’re dealing with a crisis; lithium-ion batteries are now one of the top causes of deadly fires.”
With around 65,000 e-bikes speeding through the city — the highest number anywhere in the U.S. — New York City is a hotspot for battery-related fires. There have been 100 such incidents this year, leading to 13 fatalities, already more than double last year’s six deaths.
Over the past two years, more than 200 battery-related fires were reported to the commission across 39 states, an evident underestimation, resulting in 19 deaths from micro-mobility devices.
Hoehn-Saric urged Congress to enhance the commission’s authority so it can “quickly move toward establishing mandatory standards” that could curb the lethal and destructive fires caused by faulty lithium-ion batteries. The initiative is being led by Democratic members of New York’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres.
In Schumer’s view, the lack of mandatory standards has led to an influx of poorly manufactured batteries in the U.S., elevating the fire risk.
Authorities often struggle to trace the origins of batteries made abroad, many of which are purchased online or from secondary market dealers.
Earlier this year, New York City passed a series of local laws to restrict faulty batteries, including prohibiting the sale or rent of e-bikes and batteries that aren’t independently certified as meeting safety standards.
In response to the fire hazard, some apartment buildings have banned e-bikes. Last summer, the New York City Housing Authority attempted to prohibit tenants in all 335 of its developments from owning or charging e-vehicles in their units but had to retract a few months later after protests from delivery workers.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of motorized bicycles surged in the city as people increasingly relied on food delivery workers for meals and groceries.
With the increase in fires, delivery workers like Lizandro Lopez have become more vigilant about safety measures.
“Immediately after the battery is fully charged, I unplug it. It’s not safe to keep it charging for an extended period,” Lopez mentioned, “because if you leave it charging for too long, it can result in a fire.”
Los Deliveristas Unidos, a group representing app-based delivery workers in New York, estimates that less than 10% of e-bikes sold in the city have been certified as safe by a third-party evaluator.
Robert Slone, senior vice president, and chief scientist for UL Solutions, assures that e-bike batteries could also be made safe like other devices powered by lithium-ion batteries through compliance with established safety standards.
“We just need to ensure their safety, and there is a way to do it through testing and certification,” Slone said, considering the increasing incidents of fires, injuries, and even deaths not only in New York but across the country and globally.
Last year, approximately 1.1 million e-bikes were imported to the U.S., according to the Light Electric Vehicle Association, an industry group. In 2021, over 880,000 e-bikes arrived in the country, about twice the amount from the year before and triple the number in 2019.
Many of the batteries currently in use are substandard or aftermarket products, popular with delivery workers for their affordability but known for their fire risk.
PeopleForBikes Coalition, an industry trade group, appealed to the government to block the entry of unsafe lithium-ion batteries.
“Even if the agency enacts these regulations, the regulations alone won’t be sufficient,” Matt Moore, the group’s general and policy counsel, told the commission.
Despite new rules and standards, Moore warned that overseas sellers and manufacturers could still ship potentially hazardous products to the U.S.
“Our research has shown there are over 400 online sellers of e-bikes who are not our members, companies that are not present in the United States except to sell their products to consumers,” he added, mentioning generic products and accessories that falsely claim to be certified.
How Do E-Bikes and E-Scooter Catch on Fire?
According to the New York City Fire Department, most e-bike fires happen when people put their electric vehicles on the charger and charge the vehicles overnight. The malfunctioning batteries then overheat, and since they are left unattended near doorways or in hallways, the batteries catch on fire, and those fires move quickly through buildings. These battery fires often trap people inside their homes. The most dangerous batteries are “secondhand” batteries and batteries that have been modified. Fire officials also explained that these battery fires are really dangerous chemical fires that burn so hot and quickly that they are extremely hard to put out.
As the number of fires caused by lithium batteries continues to increase throughout the United States, firefighters and other experts argue that the training required to combat them effectively is inadequate in many locations.
Ofodike Ezekoye, a fire scientist and mechanical engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin, explained that the flames are generated by the gases that are contained within the cell battery, which is impenetrable to water. “When responding to these types of incidents,” Ezekoye stated, “firefighters require a lot more water to control the fire, and it takes longer to contain it as a result.”
In April of last year, Mauricio Orozco connected an e-bike fitted with a reconditioned battery to a power source at his bike store in Cutler Bay, Florida. Unfortunately, after an hour and a half, the bike caught fire, causing extensive damage to the shop. Mr. Orozco reported that the flames spread so rapidly that his security cameras were rendered useless in just 20 seconds. Fortunately, no one was harmed. According to a survey conducted by an industry association for bike shops, 10% of shop owners have encountered battery overheating or fire incidents. Mr. Orozco stated that E-bikes are a fire hazard that can burn down people’s homes and cause life-threatening burn injuries.
According to the fire department, a lithium-ion battery sparked a fire in late February in the Bronx that resulted in four people being injured, including a firefighter. In January, a fire caused by an e-bike battery injured 18 children at a daycare center in Queens, with one child requiring hospitalization. Due to incidents of lithium-ion battery fires, London’s transportation regulator prohibited e-scooters but not e-bikes from its network in 2021.
Battery fires continue to be a persistent issue for electronic devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets. As the popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) grows, these fires are also becoming a concern in that industry. In the U.S., EV sales increased by 65% last year, accounting for 5.8% of new car sales, according to Kelley Blue Book’s parent company, Cox Automotive. In February, Ford Motor Co. suspended production and delivery of its F-150 Lightning electric truck after a battery ignited during a quality inspection.
Battery fires can be attributed to a variety of factors, including shoddy construction, inferior materials, and impact-related damage. One common cause of battery fires is the development of cracks between the cathode and anode electrodes, leading to a dangerous chain reaction called thermal runaway, where the battery short-circuits and rapidly heats up.
According to George Kerchner, the executive director of the Portable Rechargeable Battery Association, another reason for battery fires is bike users attempting to repair or manipulate the battery. Kerchner cautions that modifying or refurbishing the battery, or altering any of its safety features, can result in a new battery design that may short-circuit and cause a fire.
The New York Fire Department has been collaborating with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to determine the root causes of these fires. On February 10, Ms. Kavanagh wrote to CPSC Chairman Alexander Hoehn-Saric, urging the commission to take more action in regulating these devices, including confiscating imported products that do not meet industry standards.
A spokeswoman for the CPSC stated that the commission is working alongside New York City and has already recalled faulty products.
E-bicycle Batteries Are Exploding and Setting Buildings on Fire in New York City
March 6, 2023 – A news report published on morningbrew.com states that there is a serious outbreak of exploding E-bike batteries in New York City. So far, there have been more than 30 E-bike battery fires this year in New York City. Tragically, the fires have set apartment buildings on fire and have caused severe property losses, burn injuries, smoke inhalation injuries, and at least two deaths this year in New York City.
Last Sunday, an E-bike burst into flames at a Bronx grocery store, injuring seven people. The rapid spread of the fire, which reached five alarms and required over 50 units and more than 200 firefighters to extinguish, was attributed to a lithium-ion battery in a scooter. A firefighter stated that the entire building behind was destroyed, with the roof caved in and nothing left, all because of a single e-bike.
The New York Fire Department issued a report stating that Lithium-ion batteries were the fourth leading cause of fire deaths in NYC in 2022. In just the first two months of 2023, lithium-ion batteries in electric scooters and bikes have caused at least 30 fires, injured at least 40 people, and tragically killed two people in NYC. Last year, lithium-ion batteries started 216 fires resulting in 147 injuries and six fatalities.
Why Are E-bike Batteries So Dangerous?
The issue at hand concerns the batteries used in e-bikes and e-scooters. Lithium-ion batteries, a Nobel Prize-winning invention, power a wide range of devices, from phones and computers to electric vehicles. These batteries are typically safe unless they are faulty or damaged. However, e-bikes and e-scooters are frequently subjected to intense use as they transport commuters and delivery workers across NYC’s bridges. Since these batteries are also costly (at around $300 each), low-quality and used alternatives have flooded the market. Unfortunately, these alternatives are more likely to be defective and pose a serious fire risk.
While it is doubtful for an e-bike to spontaneously combust while in use, it can become a danger while in storage or left unattended while charging (where it may overheat). The fires that result from these incidents can be catastrophic, with lithium-ion battery fires capable of engulfing an entire room in approximately 15 seconds, according to the UL Fire Safety Research Institute. Moreover, the toxic gases released during these fires make them particularly challenging to extinguish and expose people to toxic substances.
Firefighters Are Facing Life-Threatening E-Bike Fires
Hunter Clare and Justin Lopez, both members of the Peoria, Arizona fire department, have direct experience with the dangers posed by lithium-ion batteries. In April 2019, the two fire captains responded to an emergency call at a facility storing thousands of lithium-ion batteries used to store solar energy. These batteries are critical components in solar energy storage facilities.
Upon arriving at the scene, Clare, Lopez, and other first responders encountered a white vapor cloud seeping out of the building and spreading across the desert. The vapor was staying low to the ground and undulating like seawater, leading the firefighters to suspect that it was some kind of chemical cocktail. They secured the area and used specialized equipment to test the air, which revealed high levels of hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide.
The firefighters waited until the vapors stopped flowing out of the building and the levels of flammable gas dropped before attempting to enter the facility. However, as they opened the front door, a massive cloud of vapor escaped, triggering a violent explosion. According to a report by the Fire Safety Research Institute, Lopez was hurled 30 feet, while Clare was thrown approximately 70 feet away and set on fire.
Both men sustained severe injuries, including brain trauma. Lopez experienced a collapsed lung, broken ribs, a broken leg, a separated shoulder, a lacerated liver, and multiple thermal and chemical burns. Meanwhile, Clare suffered an eye injury, spine damage, broken ribs, broken ankles, a broken scapula, internal bleeding, and thermal and chemical burns. Despite their injuries, both firefighters feel fortunate to have survived the incident.
These dangerous situations make firefighter training so vital and necessary.
What is New York City Council Doing to Prevent These Battery Fires?
Last week, the New York City Council passed a set of bills aimed at improving the safety of micromobility vehicles. These bills include the implementation of new safety and certification standards, the launch of educational campaigns focused on safe usage, and the restriction of the sale and use of secondhand batteries. These measures aim to enhance the overall safety of micromobility vehicles and to reduce the risks of accidents and injuries caused by faulty or substandard equipment. With these new regulations, the city hopes to encourage the adoption of micromobility vehicles while prioritizing the safety and well-being of its residents.
According to a news report published on bicycleretailer.com, New York’s E-bike Law is taking effect and is designed to reduce the number of E-bike and E-scooter fires in New York City. Bike and scooter retailers in the city are advised to get rid of any e-bikes that have not been certified to UL standards.
The president of the National Bicycle Dealers Association highlights that the recently passed legislation by the New York City Council is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Eric Adams. The law allows a grace period of 180 days after its enactment before it becomes enforceable. After this period, retailers can be fined up to $1,000 per SKU for selling e-bikes or batteries that do not adhere to the relevant UL standard. Furthermore, the legislation prohibits the sale of used or rebuilt batteries. These measures aim to promote the safety of e-bikes and their components, ensuring that consumers have access to high-quality and safe equipment.
PeopleForBikes also supports the new law passed by the city, although it initially advocated for a narrower UL standard than the UL 2849 required by the legislation. In a press release on Thursday, PeopleForBikes Counsel Matt Moore stated that the adoption of the UL 2849 standard will be the testing standard regulators and other parties will look to for the drive systems powering electric bicycles in the U.S. market. Moore also pledged PeopleForBikes’ continued support for members during the transition to the new safety standard, advocating for measured approaches to minimize the impacts of this change.
If Mayor Adams chooses not to sign the legislation, it will become a local law after 30 days. In the unlikely event of a veto, the Council can override it with a two-thirds vote. The bill passed the Council with a vote of 45 in favor and one opposed.
The NBDA maintains a database that certifies Bosch, Brose, and Promovec systems to the UL standard. However, Promovec products currently sold in the U.S. are not UL certified, though the company plans to certify all future products. The NBDA database lists only four certified bike brands so far: OKAI, Alta’s Diamondback and iZip brands, and Revi Bikes. The database is now accessible to non-NBDA members on nbda.com/connects.
Although the legislation prohibits retailers from selling non-certified e-bikes and batteries, it does not prohibit individuals from owning or using them. As a result, while some retailers may be forced to close down, consumers seeking low-priced, non-certified e-bikes can still purchase them out-of-state. Moreover, it remains unclear how the city will regulate online direct-to-consumer sales of these products.
Prior to the passage of the law, the FDNY had already started taking action against certain retailers.
Filing Your E-Bike Fire Damage, Injury, or Loved One’s Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If you or a loved one have been harmed by a defective battery, you or your loved one may be able to get compensation by filing a product defect lawsuit. When you call our national product liability law firm, one of our experienced attorneys will examine your case for free and help you determine whether you should take legal action against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of your defective battery.
E-Bikes and Other Devices’ Batteries Ignite San Francisco Fires
San Francisco witnessed its 24th battery-linked fire this year, leading to a life-threatening escape of two residents from an apartment window.
July 31, 2023 – A fire spreading rapidly through a unit at an apartment building in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco forced two inhabitants to flee through the window on Monday. One sustained serious burns and was rushed to a specialized burn treatment center, authorities stated.
This alarming incident was likely initiated by an overheating e-scooter battery, which firefighters found plugged into a charger close to the apartment’s entrance, reported Captain Jonathan Baxter, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Fire Department. He informed me that this event was the city’s 24th battery-related fire this year.
San Francisco is not the only city dealing with this issue. Fires attributable to rechargeable batteries have wreaked havoc in New York City, tearing through various structures, from public housing to luxury high rises, resulting in over 20 deaths since 2021.
The occurrence of fires connected to batteries has seen a consistent rise in San Francisco with the booming popularity of e-bikes and e-scooters. The Fire Department reports a total of 202 such fires since 2017, causing one death and injuring eight. There were 58 incidents in the previous year, a significant leap from 13 in 2017, and this year looks set to meet or surpass 2022.
These statistics encompass fires related to rechargeable batteries in e-scooters and e-bikes (the usual suspects), as well as electric cars, motorcycles, and skateboards.
While many buildings have been affected, a large portion of these fires have started in homeless camps, where, Baxter informed me, people might be tampering with electric scooters and similar vehicles, increasing their potential to catch fire.
As reported by my New York colleagues, lithium-ion batteries that are off-market, refurbished, damaged, or improperly charged can explode, leading to swift and challenging-to-control fires. Such batteries are used in computers and cell phones too, but batteries used in micro-mobility vehicles are typically larger and subject to heavy wear and tear, as per experts.
“All it takes is for one small battery cell to be defective, overcharged or damaged, and a tremendous amount of energy is released in the form of heat and toxic flammable gases all at once,” Daniel Murray, the New York Fire Department’s chief of hazmat operations, told The New York Times.
E-bikes and e-scooters, being less regulated than electric cars, which require much more energy yet cause fewer fires, pose a unique problem. As a preemptive measure against such fires, New York is slated to prohibit the sale of e-bikes and similar devices not adhering to recognized safety standards starting September, the first U.S. city to implement such a ban.
San Francisco officials are urging locals not to charge their e-bikes or e-scooters while sleeping and to use only manufacturer-provided charging devices. Additionally, they advise that in case of a battery fire at home, don’t attempt to extinguish it yourself since these fires are challenging to put out. Instead, it is advisable to evacuate immediately, warn other residents, sound the fire alarm, and dial 911.
CONTACT PARKER WAICHMAN’S E-BIKE BATTERY ATTORNEYS TODAY
Our experienced New York City E-bike fire attorneys are well-equipped to handle cases related to lithium battery accidents. Whether you were injured by an exploding battery in an E-bike, cellphone, tablet, scooter, wheelchair, contact us today: We’ll help you determine who is responsible for the damages you’ve suffered and hold them accountable. Call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) today for your free case evaluation.
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