A report from the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) reveals that lithium-ion batteries, particularly from e-bikes, have instigated 92 fires, causing 64 injuries, and nine fatalities in the city so far this year. These figures are nearing the combined total of 10 deaths from 2022 and 2021.
A fire that engulfed an apartment building in Upper Manhattan in May claimed the lives of four people. Tragedies in April included the death of a 7-year-old and a teenager from an e-bike battery fire in a Queen’s residence. This incident led to individuals jumping out windows to escape the rapidly spreading fire.
Last month, in response to the growing number of e-bike fire-related incidents, FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said, “It is quickly becoming one of the leading causes of fire deaths this year.” She added, “These fires are extremely dangerous. They create a large volume of fire very quickly and present significant threats to New Yorkers who try to get out of their homes and to our members as they respond to these calls.”
The year began with the death of 63-year-old Modesto Collado in an East Elmhurst home fire fueled by an e-bike battery in the process of charging. This incident also resulted in injuries to ten other individuals. Lithium-ion battery fires have also claimed one life each in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
In comparison, 2021 saw four deaths and 79 injuries from 104 similar fires. These figures rose dramatically in 2022, with six fatalities and 142 injuries from 220 such incidents.
Reacting to the alarming trend, Councilman Robert Holden of Queens proposed legislation to temporarily ban e-bikes and electric scooters until adequate safety measures are implemented. He said, “The reckless rush to legalize e-mobility devices without regulation has unleashed a terrifying wave of fires, injuries, and tragic deaths. It’s heartbreaking to witness the consequences of the previous City Council’s ill-advised actions as these incidents become more and more common.”
Holden urged regulation of these electric vehicles, including registration, licensing, inspections, and insurance requirements similar to cars and other vehicles. He said, “If we fail to take action, we’ll continue to witness the loss of precious lives.”
E-bikes and other lithium-ion battery-powered mobility devices have become popular but fire officials said owners usually store and charge e-bike batteries in their apartments often overnight, which “present serious fire safety hazards.”
The FDNY has mandated city landlords to display a safety guide on e-bike battery fires. It advises against charging e-bikes overnight or in the absence of residents and storing them near windows or exits. Furthermore, the FDNY says the e-bikes should bear approved certification markings.
The owners of a 44-story luxury building on West 57th Street have banned the storage of lithium-ion battery-operated devices in bike rooms in response to the growing number of fire-related incidents.