Assembly Bans Sale Of E-Bikes With Old Lithium Batteries

Robert Slone, chief scientist and senior vice president of UL Solutions, stands by a bike lane as riders on e-bikes pass by on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan in New York. AP file photo

Those who want to resell an e-bike or e-scooter may have to replace the device’s battery before they do so.

The state Assembly earlier this week approved legislation (A.4389C) that would prohibit the manufacture, distribution, assembly, reconditioning or sale of a lithium-ion battery or second-use lithium-ion battery intended for use in a bicycle with electric assist, a moped, or other micro mobility device unless the lithium-ion battery is certified by an accredited testing laboratory.

“My colleague pointed out that this bill doesn’t apply prospectively to new bikes or new scooter or new micro mobility items that are being sold but it applies not only to new sales but prohibits the resale of any existing e-bike or scooter or mobility device that has an old battery that isn’t UL listed,” said Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, before voting against the legislation. “So what’s that really mean? In New York City there are over 65,000 existing e-bikes just on the deliveries, just with delivery people. Sixty-five thousand. And the day this bill goes into effect those ebikes cannot be sold in New York state unless they have a UL certified battery. And these batteries cost upwards of $1,000 apiece.”

Goodell said he would support requiring the testing laboratory seal on the sale of new e-bikes and scooters, but that the requirement to install a new battery if the device is being resold is too much to ask of those who have already purchased an e-bike or scooter.

The legislation comes with a civil penalty of $500 for the first violation and up to $1,000 for subsequent violations made within two years of the initial violation.

Jeffrey Dinowitz, D-Bronx, cited a New York Times report of 255 lithium-ion battery fires and 18 deaths in 2023. The New York Post reported earlier this week that lithium-ion batteries used in e-bikes and other electronic mobility devices are a leading cause of fires in New York City. FDNY Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn, told The Post that fires related to lithium-ion batteries have gone up nearly 900% since the pandemic, with more fires related to the batteries happening so far in 2024 than in all of 2019.

“As was said, people in the fire department, they understand that we have to do something,” Dinowitz said on the Assembly floor. “Will this be the perfect bill? I’d love to say it is, but maybe it’s not and we’ve got to do more, but we’ve got to do something and the first place to start is to pass this bill and the other bills that are going to come after this today.”

On Wednesday, Assembly members passed A.6811, which establishes the lithium-ion battery safety program and requires the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), in collaboration with the state DEC and other state agencies, to create a program to provide new lithium batteries at reduced cost or no cost to eligible individuals, which may include provision of new lithium batteries in exchange for used lithium-ion batteries.

Goodell voted against the bill, saying it will essentially create a new surcharge on the electric bills of those who don’t own an e-bike or lithium-ion battery to pay for the program. Goodell also criticized the bill’s lack of a cost estimate to replace the batteries.

“This is a problem that is looking for the wrong solution,” Goodell said. “We all acknowledge there is a problem with lithium-ion batteries catching fire. It’s not a new problem. It’s been around for 18 years. The first recall was 18 years ago. And of course in our blind rush to convert everything to all-electric we can anticipate that this issue is going to be even more difficult. So we recognize the issue. The problem is this is the wrong solution. For the last 18 years when it’s been a manufacturing defect the manufacturers have stepped up to the plate and issued a recall and they’re replaced the battery at the manufacturer’s expense, not at the taxpayers’ expense, not at the ratepayers’ expense.”

In addition to A.4389C and A.6811, the Assembly passed three other e-bike bills this week:

A.8102, which requires micro mobility devices, mopeds, and bicycles with electric assist to have a red tag attached to the charging cord which states to unplug when not in use;

A.9337, which incorporates training regarding lithium-ion battery emergency response into the Office of Fire Prevention and Control specialized hazardous materials emergency response training program; and

A. 9338, which requires the state Department of State to work with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and the New York State Energy Research and Development’Authority to develop safety resources and post on their website information and protocols designed to educate the public on how to respond and deal with emergencies involving lithium-ion batteries.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today