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New York City Council approves city-funded e-bike and lithium-ion battery trade-in program

Published September 14, 2023

NEW YORK (BRAIN) — The City Council on Thursday approved a two-year city-funded trade-in program to get uncertified e-bikes and lithium-ion batteries off the streets in the latest legislative action to reduce the growing number of fires that have averaged four a week.

The program will provide a new certified e-bike and/or replacement battery and charger at reduced or no cost after trade-in. Beginning Saturday, the city will require all e-bikes, as well as other powered mobility devices, and lithium-ion batteries to meet certification requirements like UL to be sold in the city. The new city law does not prohibit use of non-certified bikes or batteries. 

The city's Department of Transportation and the Fire Department of New York will develop the program's eligibility criteria, said Councilman Keith Powers, who called the program a multi-million-dollar endeavor.

"This is an essential stop-gap measure to make sure that the equipment is out there as we take the effort to require certified equipment to be sold," said Powers, the bill's sponsor.

So far this year, there have been 175 lithium-ion battery fires, 96 injuries and 14 deaths. "There is no community across the five boroughs that's safe from this issue right, now," Powers said.

Councilman Oswald Feliz announced during the news conference that he's introducing a bill that would require third-party delivery app companies to provide their workers access to safe equipment. While all of the technical details need to be worked out, he said, it would include the apps providing certified e-bikes and batteries.

"These companies have their biggest market right here in the City of New York, and they should be helping us solve the fire safety challenges that we are seeing far too often," Feliz said. "So I'm looking forward to making that bill a reality."

The trade-in program is expected to help the city's 65,000 delivery workers gain access to certified e-bikes and batteries. Uber and e-bike brand Zoomo have a delivery worker trade-in program, but many consider the upgrade cost too prohibitive.

Grubhub and e-bike rental platform JOCO started a program in June to provide at least 500 city delivery partners access to e-bikes powered by lithium-ion batteries that are certified to IEC 62133, an international standard. JOCO's platform includes more than 55 hubs across Manhattan, with others in Queens, for e-bike storage. The hubs include fireproof battery safes, battery exchange, and delivery rider gear distribution.

Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer announced a new bill of her own, requiring the city's department of transportation to update the existing commercial bike safety course to include e-bikes and mopeds, with attention given to battery safety.

"Obviously there are a lot of new players in the issue of deliveristas," Brewer said. "They are not getting the kinds of education that they need. This bill would require the app companies to distribute safety course materials to the workers and require the app companies to give at their own expense safety equipment, including headlights, tail lights, reflectors, helmets, and a bell or other kind of audible signal."

Topics associated with this article: Electric bike

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