Electric bicycles have fundamentally changed the bicycle business in America. Europe has a mature e-bike business and country markets, compared to the embryonic business and market in the U.S.

Everything continues to change rapidly in America as the market matures, including e-bike design and micromobility electric propulsion systems, consumer preferences, regulations and standards, options for safe storage and use of micromobility lithium-ion batteries, techniques for sales staff and service technicians, as well as consumer education and awareness.

And fire departments are changing the way they fight micromobility lithium-ion battery fires, and their hazmat protocols for clean-up and disposal.

New York City has a unique critical mass of delivery gig workers on e-bikes and other micromobility devices powered by lithium-ion batteries. In 2022, the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) reported 191 fires attributed to micromobility devices, including e-bikes, resulting in 140 injuries and, sadly, six deaths.

In the first two months of this year, lithium-ion batteries for micromobility devices, including e-bikes, were believed to be responsible for 22 fires, leading to 36 injuries and two deaths.

On February 27, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRAIN) published an article about 25 FDNY fire protection inspectors, fire marshals and sheriff’s deputies inspecting bike shops, and finding “hundreds of battery charging, storage violations at shops.”

This was followed on March 1 by publication in BRAIN of an interview with Consumer Product Safety Commission Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric with the headline: CPSC: The industry’s 3-class e-bike framework is not part of our statutes.” HPS has offered the same opinion for months, but the industry has paid little attention until this interview.

The BRAIN article goes on to state: “When asked about regulating Class 3 e-bikes and e-MTBs, and “out-of-category” e-bikes, Hoehn-Saric said in a February e-mail exchange with BRAIN that, “I know there have been questions and confusion around jurisdiction of these products, so I want to take this opportunity to provide some clarity about where CPSC stands. First of all, the Class 1, Class 2, Class 3 framework is not part of CPSC’s statutes, so any assertion about our jurisdiction over an entire category is not accurate.Decisions about agency jurisdiction over e-bikes are made on a case-by-case analysis of the products.”

On March 2 BRAIN announced: “NY City Council passes lithium-ion battery safety package.” The subhead states that: “E-bikes now need to meet UL 2849 or similar certification: batteries UL 2271.”

The city lithium-ion battery regulation is part of a package of five bills, and goes into effect six months after being signed into law by the mayor. Included is a requirement to develop a public education campaign on fire risks of e-bikes and e-scooters, and specific educational materials for delivery workers to be distributed by third-party delivery apps.

March 4 BRAIN published an article titled: “What New York’s e-bike law will mean to retailers,” quoting an interview and letter sent by Heather Mason, president of the NBDA, to members about the NY city lithium-ion battery safety package.

This is an insightful article that, among many other things, quotes Chris Nolte, a NY City bike shop owner, who has sold UL certified e-bikes exclusively for the last two years as stating: “… the new regulations will have a huge impact on the sellers of thousands of low-cost e-bikes used by food delivery workers in the city.”

Charlie McCorkell, owner of three Bicycle Habitat bike shops in NY City, is quoted as saying (among other things), “…to improve fire safety in the city, the federal government will need to enforce safety regulations at the import level.”

What is generally agreed on is that New York City is a trend setter, and the FDNY and City Council will be followed by other fire departments and municipalities, closely watched by the federal government, while changing the game.

Contact Jay Townley: jay@humanpoweredsolutions.com.