A local elected is pushing to curb the import of dangerous unbranded lithium-ion batteries commonly used in e-bikes that have contributed to a rash of recent fires.
Congress Member Nydia Velázquez, who represents swaths of northern Brooklyn penned a letter the U.S Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agency looking for better enforcement of those batteries, which are often of poor quality and serious safety risks.
The pol noted that more than 65,0000 deliveristas (or delivery gig-economy workers) operate in New York City, and often are forced to purchase cheaper, imported e-vehicles in order to do their jobs.
“This past month, on February 14th, an inferno caused by the ignition and explosion of close to fifty lithium-ion batteries injured two of my constituents, one critically so,” Congress Member Velázquez said in her March 2 letter. “It was the twenty-fourth such fire in New York City in just the last two months.”
The batteries, when poorly manufactured, can be extremely dangerous and volatile. In just the last year, lithium-ion batteries caused 200 fires which resulted in six deaths.
Most recently, a several-alarm fire broke out in the Bronx, which officials are blaming on an e-bike.
“Some of them are lethal, some of them are extremely dangerous,” Eric Adams said of those vehicles.
I'm relieved to report that no one has been seriously injured in today’s 5-alarm fire in the Bronx. @FDNY Commissioner Kavanagh has been sounding the alarm on the danger of lithium batteries on e-bikes and today we again saw why.
Safety must come first. pic.twitter.com/1yhN7vSgWP
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) March 6, 2023
In the letter, the Congress Member called on CBP to seize sub quality lithium-ion batteries as well as incentivize and compel manufacturers to ensure their products meet higher safety standards.
“The U.S. Consumer Protection and Safety Commission and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are both well-positioned, under 15 U.S.C. § 2064(a), to help staunch the flow of unsafe lithium-ion batteries and prevent the devastating fires they can cause,” said Rep. Velázquez.
Additionally, Velázquez asked CBP to provide her office with more information and updates concerning how the U.S Consumer Protection and Safety Commission (CPSC) as well as CBP determine the safety of imported lithium-ion batteries.
Velázquez also requested information concerning recent CPSC and CBP efforts to seize the substandard batteries, how many resources CPSC and CBP have utilized to respond to the uptick in sales and importations of lithium-ion batteries.
The Congress Member emphasized the importance and urgency of the issue caused by the faulty or poorly manufactured batteries, saying that the safety of many of her constituents was at risk.
“As public officials, it is our duty to represent the public interest and protect American consumers, especially our deliveristas, from the extreme and tragic hardships caused by lithium-ion battery fires,” Rep. Velázquez said.“The livelihoods and well-being of many American workers rely upon the safety of their vehicles, and they are still waiting on the federal government to act.”
Read Congress Member Velázquez’s letter in full here, with a response requested by March 16.