New York City Launches Lithium-Ion Battery Charging Pilot to Provide Safe Charging Spaces for Delivery Workers

On December 5, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced plans to launch a new pilot program for lithium-ion battery charging early next year, providing safe charging spaces for delivery workers to enhance charging safety. The pilot program will test various technologies for charging electric bike batteries at multiple locations across the city to avoid fires caused by lithium-ion batteries and promote the safe use of electric micro-mobility. These technologies will include battery exchange networks, and safe parking spaces for charging delivery workers’ bikes will be established.

Electric bikes and electric scooters, as new modes of transportation, have brought significant convenience to residents’ lives but also pose serious fire risks. Battery-related fires have become a severe safety issue in New York City, increasing from 30 fires in 2019 to 253 fires in 2023. From 2019 to 2022, these fires caused an average of about 3 deaths and 66 injuries each year. As of 2023, these batteries have resulted in 18 deaths and 133 injuries.

The pilot program is responsible for promoting the “Safe Charging, Safe Riding” plan, testing different implementation paths, providing information for future citywide public electric bike charging work, and collecting feedback from delivery personnel.

The DOT developed this pilot program through its DOT Studio, a research and development partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the urban technology growth center Newlab. Over the past six months, the Department of Transportation (DOT), in close collaboration with its studio partners, FDNY, and delivery workers, identified several companies to produce unique, potentially safe, and convenient electronic battery charging options.

The pilot program is based on several other initiatives, developing more outdoor charging options for New Yorkers, including collaborating with Los Deliveristas Unidos and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to establish “Deliverista Centers” in vacant newsstands. It also won a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of State. The Department of Transportation allocated funds to install 173 outdoor micro-mobility vehicle charging and storage stations in 53 development projects of the New York City Housing Authority.

Additionally, the “Charging Safe, Riding Safe” plan focuses on four key areas: promoting and incentivizing safe battery use, enhancing education and promotion for users of electric micro-mobility, advocating for additional federal regulation of these devices, and expanding enforcement efforts for high-risk situations. Stemming from this plan, this year, the Mayor of New York signed several bills to further regulate the sale of lithium-ion batteries in New York City and strengthen firefighting safety related to battery fires. This includes legislation prohibiting the sale of unsafe, uncertified lithium-ion batteries, or dangerous refurbished batteries.

“New Yorkers rely heavily on delivery workers, and this innovative pilot program will test different technologies to make this technology safer, while we continue to do everything possible to help protect workers from the dangers of lithium-ion batteries,” said Mayor Adams. “By investing in battery exchange networks and fast-charging electric bike stations, we are building infrastructure suitable for electric bikes and preparing our city’s streets for the transformational potential of this next generation of users. Today’s announcement builds on the foundation of our overall strategy to ensure we harness the transformative potential of electric bikes safely in our city.”

“Delivery workers endure enormous economic pressures. When time is money, unsafe behavior becomes commonplace,” said Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi, responsible for operations. “Like all of us, delivery workers should earn a living in a safe and sustainable manner. This pilot program will not only protect them but also safeguard the families sharing our homes. It’s a crucial step in creating order and safety in the electric micro-mobility field.”

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