NYC putting $25 million into electric bike charging stations

Over the weekend New York city and state officials announced that US $25 million in federal funding had been allotted for electric bike charging stations. The charging stations are part of a plan to help combat a rising number of lithium-ion battery fires in the city.

The plans calls for charging locations for e-bikes and e-bike batteries to be installed outside of NYCHA complexes.

The New York City Housing Authority provides public housing in the city and its apartments have been the scene of several lithium battery fires over the past few years.

Electric bicycles are the most common form of transportation used by delivery workers in the city. But because delivery work is a low-paying job, the electric bikes used for the work are usually lower quality, which often results in skimping on safety measures resulting in poor quality battery production.

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Unlike electric cars that generally make use of public chargers in parking lots or home chargers in garages, electric bike batteries are usually charged inside of homes and apartments similarly to consumer electronics like cell phones and laptops.

When cheap and poorly-made batteries fail during charging, it can lead to fast spreading fires that are difficult to extinguish. These types of fires are occurring more frequently in NYC. Just last week a fire reportedly started by a lithium-ion battery from an e-bike resulted in four fatalities in Chinatown.

According to CBS News, there have been 110 e-bike battery-related fires in New York City this year, resulting in the deaths of 13 people.

NYC has already passed a ban on selling non UL-certified e-bikes in the city, though it will be several months before it comes into effect. And that still doesn’t address the likely tens of thousands of e-bikes already in the city that use non-certified batteries.

To provide a safer location for charging, which is when most past battery fires have occurred, electric bicycle charging stations are an increasingly common solution.

This weekend senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand joined NYC Mayor Eric Adams to announce that the city has been granted $25 million in federal funding to build safe charging stations for e-bikes outside NYCHA buildings.

“I am announcing right now that we have procured a grant that NYCHA will get $25 million dollars in emergency money,” Schumer said. “It will enable the city to install 173 charging and storage stations at 53 outdoor NYCHA sites, which will help prevent these catastrophic fires from starting,” Gillibrand added.

According to the city, the NYCHA charging stations will commence installation early next year. The city is hoping for additional funding as part of its intentions to install a total of 327 charging stations expected to be built in partnership with Con Edison.

While lithium-ion battery fires from electric bicycles are exceeding rare compared to the millions of e-bikes in the US, the number of battery fires has risen in the last few years. More e-bike companies are beginning to offer UL-listed batteries, and policies like NYC’s ban on non-certified batteries are expected to spread further around the country.

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