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Brooklyn e-bike shop owner arrested and charged for lithium-ion battery violations

Published April 15, 2024
Updated with more details following an FDNY news conference Monday afternoon.

NEW YORK (BRAIN) — For the first time in its campaign to help the city address escalating lithium-ion battery fires, the Fire Department of New York filed criminal charges against a Brooklyn e-bike shop owner for illegal storage and charging on Friday.

Tian Liang Liu was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment, according to the FDNY. He owns Electric Bicycle Shop at 1239 Flatbush Avenue. An FDNY spokesperson told BRAIN in an email that the shop has been inspected several times with Liu continuing "to defy the fire code."

On Monday afternoon, the FDNY held a news conference providing more details. In addition to selling e-bikes without UL certification, Electric Bicycle Shop, which operates below residential apartments, was storing loose battery cells, propane cylinders, along with violating other fire codes. Inspectors found 15 lithium-ion batteries and multiple e-bikes without proper certification. It was the fourth time since September inspectors visited the shop.

"Bureau of Fire Prevention inspectors wrote many violations on our previous visits and they had little or no compliance upon this latest visit," said FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. "We spoke with the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office about this incident and felt that it met the charges of reckless endangerment."

Kavanagh said a summons was also issued for continuing to store and charge more than five lithium-ion batteries.

Last March, the City Council's lithium-ion battery safety package was signed into law prohibiting the sale of e-bikes and other powered mobility devices and their batteries that don't meet UL certification.

A month earlier, officials from the FDNY and the Sheriff's Office inspected five Manhattan bike shops and those in other locations and found improper storage and charging of hundreds of lithium-ion batteries and dozens of e-mobility devices that violated the fire code.

Until Friday, only financial penalties were issued to retailers not following the fire code. Shops can be fined up to $1,000 per SKU for selling e-bikes or batteries that are not certified.

The action against the Brooklyn retailer comes after the City Council in February passed a bill that would authorize the FDNY, along with the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, to, among other things, increase penalties for illegal device sales, leases, or rentals including closing the shop for repeated violators. It has yet to be signed into law by Mayor Eric Adams.

New York City experienced 240 fires and 17 deaths from lithium-ion battery incidents last year, according to FDNY. In 2022, there were 220 fires and six deaths. This year through Sunday, according to the FDNY, there have been 61 investigations, 30 injuries, and one death.

Kavanagh said this past weekend, there were five fires involving lithium-ion batteries and 10 in the past week.

"The problem isn't going away," she said.

RelatedWhat will New York's e-bike law mean to retailers?


Topics associated with this article: Electric bike

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