Electric bikes (also known as e-bikes) are rapidly transforming the urban transportation landscape in cities around the world. But the vision of car-free streets is being clouded by a rapid increase in fires directly related to the batteries that power e-bikes.
The Wall Street Journal reports that New York City is seeing a 100% year-over-year increase in the number of fires originating from e-bikes and other electrically-powered mobility devices. The fires typically begin during the e-bikes’ charging cycle when they are brought indoors. There, secondhand or modified lithium-ion batteries used to power the e-bikes can short-circuit as a result of poor design or construction or damage caused by sudden impact.
According to the New York City Fire Department, fires directly connected with e-bikes and similar devices have resulted in two deaths and at least 40 injuries in the past year. In 2023 alone, New York City has experienced two major e-bike-originated fires, one in January at a Queens daycare center that left 18 children injured, and a second in February at an apartment building in the Bronx that injured four people.
In the wake of this dramatic uptick in e-bike-related incidents, the Journal reports that the Fire Department has been working with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), encouraging them to increase regulatory oversight of e-bikes as well as stepping up border enforcement against non-compliant products.
Read the complete text of the Journal’s article on the rise of e-bike fires.
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