Following a deadly fire that killed four people at an e-bike repair shop in Manhattan’s Chinatown earlier this week, New York Attorney General Letitia James is warning New Yorkers of the dangers caused by electrical bike (e-bike) batteries and provided tips on how to safely handle them. Most e-bikes, as well as e-scooters and hoverboards, use powerful lithium-ion batteries that store more energy and are more likely to catch fire than a typical battery. In 2022, there were at least 220 fires and six deaths as a result of lithium-ion batteries from e-bikes and other devices in New York City. This year, these batteries have caused at least 108 fires and resulted in 13 deaths.
“E-Bikes can be great tools, but also can pose significant risks to New Yorkers and their families,” said Attorney General James. “The best way to protect our loved ones from the risks associated with e-bikes is to handle these devices and their batteries carefully and follow all safety precautions. As we continue to mourn the lives of those we lost in this week’s fire, I urge everyone to take all necessary steps to avoid future e-bike-related tragedies.”
In September 2022, Attorney General James issued a consumer alert about the dangers posed by e-bike batteries, and noted that when proper precautions are taken when buying, storing, charging, and disposing of these batteries, accidents can be avoided. In March, New York City enacted laws banning the sale or lease of e-bikes and e-scooters that fail to meet safety standards and prohibiting the refurbishment of used lithium-ion batteries. There are currently measures being considered in the New York City Council that would establish a program to buy back old batteries and equip workers with fireproof containers for charging batteries. Additionally, the New York City Fire Department also shut down illegal battery charging stations in bike shops and bodegas, where multiple batteries have been charging at once.
As part of her ongoing efforts to keep communities safe, Attorney General James recommends consumers take the following steps when using e-bikes:
- Buy your e-bike and battery from a trusted manufacturer.
- Maintain your battery by carefully checking it from time to time. If you notice any strange smells or changes in shape or color, stop using the battery immediately and contact your local fire station or call 911.
- Store your battery in a safe place.
- Charge your battery using only the cord and power adapter provided by the manufacturer.
- Dispose of your battery at a battery-recycling location. Do not reuse or refurbish used lithium-ion batteries or their parts.
- Note: Putting batteries in the trash or recycling them is both dangerous and illegal, and can lead to fires on sanitation trucks and in recycling facilities. Visit the New York City Department of Sanitation’s batteries page to find places that can safely dispose of them.