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  • Writer's pictureTim Spears

Navigating New Terrain: San Francisco Sets Precedents in Lithium-Ion Battery Safety for Micromobility

San Francisco is leading the charge in enhancing public safety through the implementation of new standards for lithium-ion batteries used in electric bikes, scooters, and other powered mobility / micromobility devices. With a notable increase in fires linked to these batteries, the city's proactive stance is a critical move toward safeguarding the community.


Key aspects of the new regulations include stringent guidelines on the charging and storage of lithium-ion batteries, the prohibition of refurbished batteries, and the mandate for UL (Underwriters Laboratories) certification. These measures address the growing concerns around the safety risks posed by the improper use of these power sources in micromobility devices.


Comparatively, New York City has also recognized the urgency of regulating lithium-ion batteries, having witnessed a significant surge in related fires. Both cities are at the forefront of implementing safety measures, although specific regulations may vary. The emphasis, however, remains consistent: enhancing safety and reducing fire hazards associated with these batteries. I have provided a more detailed analysis below.


The introduction of safety standards for electric bikes and micromobility devices is a pivotal step towards ensuring public safety and reducing the risk of fire incidents. Lithium-ion batteries possess inherent risks, including the potential to overheat, catch fire, or explode under certain conditions.


Detailed Analysis


The regulations from San Francisco and New York City on powered mobility devices highlight the cities' efforts to address the challenges and opportunities presented by electric scooters, e-bikes, and similar devices.


San Francisco's Approach: Fire Safety Emphasis


San Francisco's legislation, amends the Fire Code to address the specific risks associated with lithium-ion batteries in powered mobility devices. The ordinance focuses on fire protection standards for charging and storing these batteries, prohibiting the use of damaged lithium-ion batteries, and mandating that such batteries assembled or reconditioned from used cells are not to be utilized in powered mobility devices. The legislation aims to mitigate fire risks by enhancing regulations on battery usage and storage, while also launching an informational campaign to educate the public on the associated hazards.


New York City's Approach: Comprehensive Micromobility Action Plan


New York City's legislation, outlines the establishment of a trade-in program for powered mobility devices and lithium-ion batteries. This program seeks to incentivize the exchange of ineligible devices and batteries for those meeting the city's safety standards, at reduced or no cost to participants. Additionally, the city aims to enhance public education on fire safety concerning e-mobility devices.


NYC's efforts through the "Charge Safe, Ride Safe: NYC’s Electric Micromobility Action Plan" expands on their safety efforts. This comprehensive approach addresses fire safety, public education, regulation and enforcement, and the promotion of safe e-micromobility usage. Key initiatives include testing public electric micromobility charging technologies, advocating for state subsidies for safe and legal devices, and enhancing the enforcement against illegal and unsafe e-mobility practices.


Comparison and Analysis


Regulatory Focus: While both cities recognize the importance of addressing the safety concerns associated with powered mobility devices, San Francisco's approach is more narrowly focused on fire safety aspects related to lithium-ion batteries. In contrast, New York City adopts a broader, more comprehensive strategy that not only addresses fire safety but also encompasses regulation, enforcement, public education, and the promotion of safe e-mobility practices.


Programmatic Initiatives: NYC's establishment of a trade-in program for compliant devices and batteries illustrates a proactive strategy to phase out unsafe e-mobility products. This initiative is complemented by a broad range of educational and enforcement actions designed to foster a safer e-mobility environment. San Francisco, on the other hand, concentrates on amending fire codes and launching informational campaigns to mitigate fire risks.


Stakeholder Engagement: New York City's action plan emphasizes collaboration with various stakeholders, including delivery workers, e-mobility manufacturers, and community organizations, to ensure the effectiveness of its initiatives. San Francisco's legislation also implies stakeholder involvement but with a specific focus on compliance with the updated fire safety standards.


San Francisco and New York City's regulations on powered mobility devices reflect their commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of their residents in the face of the growing popularity of e-bikes, scooters, and similar devices. New York City's comprehensive and multifaceted approach, including the innovative trade-in program, sets a robust framework for other cities to consider. In contrast, San Francisco's focused amendment to the Fire Code underscores the critical importance of addressing fire safety concerns associated with the batteries powering these devices. Both strategies, though differing in scope and emphasis, contribute valuable insights into the regulation of electric mobility devices for improved urban safety and sustainability.


Let's embrace this opportunity to enhance safety, encourage responsible usage, and lead by example in the responsible management of lithium-ion battery technology.




References:


City and County of San Francisco. (2024, February 13). Fire Code - Lithium-Ion Batteries in Powered Mobility Devices. Ordinance No. 034-24. Retrieved from https://sfgov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=12710109&GUID=26F31ABE-4BC8-4AE0-8141-23294633342F


Koehn, J., & Baustin, N. (2024, January 9). San Francisco e-scooters are bursting into flames. Lawmakers want action. The San Francisco Standard. https://sfstandard.com/2024/01/09/san-francisco-e-scooter-bike-battery-fires-legislation/


New York City Office of the Mayor. (2023). Micromobility action plan. Retrieved from https://www.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/pdf/office-of-the-mayor/2023/micromobility-action-plan.pdf


New York City Council. (2024, February 28). New York City Council Votes to Pass New E-Bike Safety Rules in Continued Effort to Address the Dangers of Lithium-Ion Batteries. Retrieved from https://council.nyc.gov/press/2024/02/28/2564/


Sun, E. (2023, July 27). E-Scooter Batteries Are Bursting Into Flames. Feds Want Crackdown. The San Francisco Standard. https://sfstandard.com/2023/07/27/feds-cracking-down-on-e-scooters-san-francisco-battery-fires/

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