NEW YORK (NewsNation) — Fire departments across the nation have issued warnings about devastating fires caused by electric bicycle and scooter batteries.
Lithium-ion battery fires are happening so frequently, some New York City City Council members believe the city may have a looming crisis on its hands.
One City Council proposal would create a program to provide new lithium-ion batteries for bikes and scooters at a reduced cost or no cost at all. The idea is to dry up demand for cheap, unsafe batteries, NewsNation affiliate WPIX reported. Another proposal would require businesses to provide workers who use e-bikes for commercial purposes with fireproof or fire-resistant containers to charge their batteries.
In 2022, the FDNY responded to nearly 200 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries in New York City, and this year the city is on track to surpass that number.
FDNY had 88 investigations linked to malfunctioning lithium-ion batteries, 30 people were injured and two died in 2022. Officials saw a spike in incidents with 92 investments, 64 people injured and nine people killed so far in 2023.
In 2021, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration banned uninstalled batteries from being in checked luggage due to them spontaneously combusting.
Now, the danger has moved from the skies to homes across the country. While officials have seen a spike, the problem isn’t unique to New York City. Recently, in St. Louis, firefighters said a faulty lithium-ion battery sparked a fire at a recycling center.
In nearly every part of the nation, lithium-ion battery fires are on the rise with the batteries in e-bikes and e-scooters exploding while they’re supposed to be safely charging.
Fire marshals said a lot of the batteries on the market are cheap, poorly made, unsafe and more likely to malfunction, causing a major fire.
“When there’s a fire started by a lithium-ion battery, it’s been compared to when an accelerant is used, for example, by gasoline,” said FDNY Chief John Esposito.
Officials said it’s not a slow burn when these fires happen; they burn and spread very quickly.
Lithium-ion batteries can be found in most electronic devices including laptops, cellphones, remote-control cars and many more.
During a hearing last month in New York City focused solely on the batteries, one firefighter described what it’s like when the batteries explode.
In May, at the annual National Firefighter Safety Stand Down Meeting, fire chiefs from around the country will discuss lithium-ion batteries. It’s A1 on their agenda due to the escalating number of battery-linked fires.