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Mayor Adams Launches Lithium-ion Battery-Charging Pilot for Delivery Workers to Safely Charge in Public

December 5, 2023

Pilot Will Allow Select Group of Delivery Workers to Safely Charge Lithium-Ion Batteries Outside of Residences

Effort Part of Administration’s “Charge Safe, Ride Safe” Plan to Support Safe E-Bike Use, Prevent Deadly Lithium-Ion Battery Fires

NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced plans to launch a new, lithium-ion battery-charging pilot program early next year that will allow an initial group of delivery workers to safely charge their bikes in public. The pilot will test a variety of technologies to charge e-bike batteries at multiple locations across the city, developed as part of the administration’s “Charge Safe, Ride Safe” plan to protect New Yorkers from fires caused by lithium-ion batteries and promote safe electric-micromobility usage. Those technologies will include battery-swapping networks, as well as secure bike parking docks that supply fast charging to delivery workers’ e-bikes.

“New Yorkers rely on delivery workers for so much, and this innovative pilot program will test different technologies to make this technology safer as we continue to do all we can to help protect workers from the dangers that lithium-ion batteries can pose,” said Mayor Adams. “By investing in battery-swapping networks and fast-charging e-bike docks, we’re building e-bike-friendly infrastructure and preparing our city’s streets for a new generation of users. Today’s announcement builds on our holistic strategy to ensure that we safely harness the transformative potential of e-bikes in our city.”

“Delivery workers are under enormous economic pressure. When time is money, it's no wonder when unsafe practices become the norm,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. “Delivery workers deserve a safe and sustainable way to make a living, as we all do. This pilot will not only protect them, but the families who share their homes. It is a crucial step in helping to create order and safety in the e-micromobility space."

“The tremendous growth in electric bikes and other legal, two-wheeled devices provides an exciting glimpse into a future where New Yorkers are less dependent on large, more dangerous vehicles to get around,” said New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “Supporting this ridership boom with safe, public infrastructure can help make our city safer and more sustainable — while providing vital infrastructure for our delivery workers, who have one of the toughest jobs in New York City. We thank Mayor Adams for his support through the ‘Charge Safe, Ride Safe’ action plan to develop this pilot.” 

“Spreading education about safe practices for lithium-ion batteries is one of the FDNY’s top priorities,” said Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. “We know these fires can cause serious injury, and even death. We are grateful to our partners in city government for their out-of-the-box thinking on how we can embrace this new technology while also protecting lives.”

charging equipments, from left to right, Swobbee, Swiftmile, and Popwheels

Charging technologies participating in the city’s pilot, produced by (from left to right) Swobbee, Swiftmile, and Popwheels.

Developed as part of “Charge Safe, Ride Safe,” the pilot being announced today will test out different implementation paths to inform future citywide efforts for public e-bike charging, as well as collect feedback from delivery workers. The DOT developed the pilot through the agency’s DOT Studio, a research and development partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and Newlab, the urban tech growth hub. Over the last six months, DOT has worked closely with its Studio partners, as well as with the FDNY and delivery workers, to identify several companies to produce unique potential safe and convenient e-battery charging options.

This pilot builds upon several other initiatives to develop more outside-of-home charging options for New Yorkers, including establishing “deliverista hubs” in vacant newsstands in partnership with Los Deliveristas Unidos and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and winning a $25 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to install 173 outdoor electric-micromobility charging and storage stations at 53 New York City Housing Authority developments.

“Charge Safe, Ride Safe” focuses on four key areas: promoting and incentivizing safe battery use, increasing education and outreach to electric micromobility users, advocating for additional federal regulation of these devices, and expanding enforcement against high-risk situations. Additionally, this year, Mayor Adams has also signed several bills to further regulate lithium-ion batteries sold in New York City and strengthen fire safety related to battery fires, including bills that prohibit the sale of unsafe, uncertified lithium-ion batteries or dangerously refurbished batteries.

In June, Mayor Adams, FDNY Commissioner Kavanagh, and New York City Small Business Services Commissioner Kevin Kim launched a new action plan to expedite investigations into potentially hazardous conditions involving lithium-ion batteries, as well as launch a comprehensive outreach and education campaign to educate bike shop and bike repair shop owners about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries and best practices to avoid fires. As part of the plan, 311 calls regarding questionable activity at bike repair shops or any other location where batteries are being charged will get a response from the local fire station within 12 hours. 

E-bikes and e-scooters are an affordable and convenient alternative to cars and are essential for delivery workers and other New Yorkers who rely on this mode of transportation for their livelihoods. However, these new transportation options have also brought serious fire risks. Fires caused by batteries that power electric micromobility devices are a significant problem in New York City, growing from 30 in 2019 to 253 in 2023. These fires are particularly severe and difficult to extinguish, spreading quickly and producing noxious fumes. From 2019 to 2022, these fires resulted in an average of approximately three deaths and 66 injuries per year. So far in 2023, these batteries have already resulted in 18 deaths and 133 injuries.

“The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection is committed to supporting our city’s delivery workers and we’re proud that the administration is leading the way to provide safe charging options for them,” said New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga. “We strive to build a culture of compliance with our city’s laws, but we won’t hesitate to take action to protect the safety of our neighbors. So far, we’ve issued nearly 100 violations to businesses for selling uncertified devices and batteries and we continue to work with local brick-and-mortar and online retailers to make sure they understand and follow the law.”

“Delivery workers play a critical role in New York City’s economy, and it is important they have access to safe charging conditions,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President and CEO Andrew Kimball. “This new program amplifies NYCEDC's vision to shaping policy and expanding climate tech solutions throughout New York City.”

“As the author of several bills in the state legislature that encourage safe battery charging and storage, as well as fire prevention, I wholeheartedly support the mayor's pilot program,” said New York State Senator Cordell Cleare. “I hope it is successful, replicable, and ready to be implemented across the city to ensure our collective safety.”

“Today Mayor Adams takes an important and innovative step to address the challenges we face with the growth of e-bikes,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “In 2023, at least 18 people have died in fires caused by dangerous aftermarket e-bike batteries charging indoors. The Mayor’s battery-charging pilot provides safe spaces for delivery workers to charge e-bikes outside, with access to certified batteries. Delivery workers are there for us 24/7, whether rain or snow or pandemic. Many are immigrants in pursuit of the American Dream. Mayor Adams’ pilot ensures delivery workers can safely perform their essential service. They deserve this for all they do to make our city run.”

“Uncertified lithium-ion batteries pose a risk to all New Yorkers. Just this past Sunday, a lithium-ion battery sparked a fire - one of over 200 this year alone - that killed a young man and injured six others,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers. “As we work diligently to ban the sale of uncertified batteries and establish a first of its kind battery swap program, providing a public place for safe charging is an immediate step forward that gets these batteries out of our apartments and buildings.”

“I am a huge proponent of battery swapping kiosks,” said New York City Councilmember Gale A. Brewer. “A robust, accessible, and affordable swapping network will make e-bikes and e-scooters safer for everyone. A network of battery swapping kiosks is the best idea I've seen to stop lithium-ion battery fires. It completely eliminates the need to charge at home and takes unsafe batteries out of circulation.”

“As e-bike and other gadgets that use lithium-ion batteries become more prominent, it’s essential to pass legislation and create programs to protect consumers and residents of New York City,” said New York City Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez. “As chair of the Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection, and having worked on legislation addressing some of these key issues, I applaud Mayor Adams’ plan to launch a lithium-ion battery-charging program. Proper usage and maintenance of the lithium-ion batteries is vital in order to prevent the next potential tragedy, and the mayor’s plan will enable our delivery workers to safely charge their e-bikes as well as replace their batteries in a manner that is safe for our community.”

“Newlab is excited to continue working with DOT, this time on the immediate and urgent crisis of providing safe outdoor e-micromobility charging for the city's delivery workers,” said Meera Kumar, program manager, Newlab. “Deploying these novel climate technologies in the public realm, gathering critical user feedback, and ultimately helping to make charging safer will bring solutions to the real world faster.”

“We thank Mayor Adams and DOT Commissioner Rodriguez for their commitment to investing in infrastructure that would enable New York City’s hard-working deliveristas to safely charge their bikes,” said Ligia Guallpa, executive director, Worker’s Justice Project. “This program signifies a crucial step towards e-bike and e-battery safety across New York City, empowering delivery workers with the tools they need to charge safely, while simultaneously recognizing and valuing the dignity of all those who navigate our streets. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the mayor and his administration, which has delivered major wins for delivery workers, such as the minimum pay rate for workers, and this expansion of much-needed infrastructure.”

“We want to express our deepest gratitude to the New York City Department of Transportation for involving our group and other fellow delivery workers in the development of this timely pilot program,” said Sergio Solano, representative, NYC Food Delivery Movement. “This e-bike charging program is the result of an extensive community engagement process to ensure it serves the needs of New York City food delivery workers.”

"This pilot could be a great step forward in addressing the risk of fires from charging unregulated batteries," said Corey Hannigan, active transportation program manager, Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "We need to encourage mobility options that are cheaper, pollute less, and take up less space and energy than cars. But without safely accommodating e-bike charging, delivery workers may switch to noisy, polluting, gas-powered mopeds. Combining these new public charging stations with secure bike storage seems like a win-win as well. Many New Yorkers lack the space to store bikes in their apartments in the first place."

“As we see more e-bikes and e-scooters on the streets–which is great news for the environment–we need to ensure that the batteries that power these and other micro-mobility vehicles are regulated and safe to operate,” said Julie Tighe, president, New York League of Conservation Voters. “Mayor Adams’ battery-charging pilot program is a great next step on our way to creating a safer experience for the city’s micro-mobility riders and encouraging more people to utilize this climate-friendly mode of transportation.”

"E-micromobility has the potential to shift a lot of rides away from polluting, gas-powered vehicles, but only if charging a battery is safe, quick, and convenient,” said Sara Lind, co-executive director, Open Plans. “The food industry relies on these devices and our city must encourage their use as part of an overarching strategy to reduce congestion, traffic violence, and pollution. We’re glad to see the city investing in the infrastructure necessary to do just that."

“Safe, secure, and accessible charging stations are critical for protecting New Yorkers from preventable fires,” said Danny Harris, executive director, Transportation Alternatives. “We know that charging stations paired with battery swaps are key to keeping dangerous batteries off our streets and ensuring safety. Thank you to Mayor Adams for taking these steps to save lives and keep New Yorkers moving.”

“We’re very pleased to see the Adams administration’s announcement that the city will soon kick off a lithium-ion battery-charging pilot effort,” said Eric McClure, executive director, StreetsPAC. “Safe charging solutions are essential given the real dangers of faulty batteries, and this pilot will allow for evaluation of technologies for both rapid charging and secure bike parking for the city’s essential delivery workforce. We look forward to a successful effort that can be rapidly scaled up across the city.” 


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