NEW YORK (AP) — After a series of fires involving faulty e-bike batteries including a recent blaze that claimed four lives, New York City officials announced Sunday that they are receiving a $25 million emergency grant from the federal government to fund scores of charging stations citywide.
Mayor Eric Adams hopes the stations will provide a safer way for delivery workers, who rely on e-bikes to efficiently do their jobs, to recharge lithium batteries used to power their bicycles.
"This means that residents will no longer need to charge the e-bikes in their apartments — what we find to be extremely dangerous, particularly when you charge them overnight," Adams said at a news conference Sunday. He was flanked by the state's two U.S. senators who helped secure the funding from the US. Department of Transportation.
The announcement comes after a lithium ion battery caught fire and engulfed an e-bike shop in Manhattan's Chinatown. The fire and thick smoke spread to apartments above the shop, killing four people and injuring three others, including a responding firefighter.
In the days since, New York City officials sought the public's help in cracking down on unsafe e-bike shops and fire officials issued at least 10 citations to shops for improper handling of the batteries.
City officials said they'd previously fined the shop for its e-bike charging practices, though inspectors reportedly did not check to see if the store was selling reconditioned batteries on a recent visit.
Under new guidelines, fire officials will be directed to respond to complaints about e-bike batteries within 12 hours, rather than the previous policy of three days.
New York City has seen over 100 fires and 13 deaths this year linked to e-bikes, more than double the total number of fatalities from last year, officials said.
The city has issued nearly 500 summonses related to e-bikes, which can result in fines between $1,000 and $5,000.
The batteries can overheat if defective or improperly charged.
Adams had announced in March that the city was working to establish charging stations. The grant would fund an initial 170 charging units in about 50 locations.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, said the charging stations proved "new hope" to prevent "these fires that start from shoddy China-made lithium ion batteries and chargers," he said during the press conference.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said she and Schumer were working on legislation to establish safety standards for batteries.
"If passed," she said, "it would take improperly manufactured batteries off the market."