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April 24, 2023

New Battery Safety Bills Land in Congress

By: Noa Banayan, director of federal affairs, and Matt Moore, policy + general counsel

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The proposed legislation would direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission to regulate lithium ion batteries in mobility products.

In March, Congressman Ritchie Torres (NY-15) and Senators Chuck Schumer (NY) and Kirsten Gilibrand (NY) introduced the Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act (H.R. 1797/S. 1008), which would direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to regulate lithium ion batteries in products like electric bicycles, scooters, hoverboards, and other powered personal mobility devices. 

In a January meeting, PeopleForBikes asked the CPSC to consider undertaking a new regulation to require that all electric mobility batteries be tested to a consensus safety standard. With this new legislation, Rep. Torres and Senator Gilibrand have asked the CPSC to do just that, marking a pivotal moment for everyone concerned about e-bike battery safety. Should the bill become law, PeopleForBikes looks forward to participating in the regulatory process to ensure the CPSC finalizes the strongest, fairest, and safest possible regulation. 

Given that the bill would allow the CPSC to determine appropriate testing standards, below are the standards PeopleForBikes believes should be recognized in any local, state, or federal regulations:

PeopleForBikes supports responsible manufacturers and retailers of electric bicycles in testing and certifying the batteries and chargers for their products to the full range of accepted safety standards, including UL 2271 and other applicable standards included in UL 2849, a consensus standard for drive systems of electric bicycles.

Battery Standards:

  • UL 2580/ULC-S2580
  • UL/ULC 2271
  • CSA C22.2 No. 62133-1/iUL 62133-1 or CSA C22.2 No. 62133-2/UL 62133-2+ UL 2849 Clause 11.2 requirements
  • UL 2054 + UL 2849 Clause 11.2 requirements

Charger Standards:

  • UL 1012 and CSA C22.2 No. 107.2
  • UL 1310 and CSA C22.2 No. 223
  • UL 60335-2-29/CSA C22.2 No. 60335-2-29
  • UL 62368-1/CSA C22.2 No. 62368-1

Additionally, batteries and chargers should be regarded as safe if tested to the safety standards included in EN 15194, specifically: 

  • EN 50604 (battery standard) 
  • EN 60335-2-29 (charger standard)

“Each one of these applicable standards will provide assurance that the manufacturer has adequately addressed the product hazards associated with lithium ion batteries and chargers for electric bicycles,” says Matt Moore, PeopleForBikes’ policy and general counsel. “These standards are already commonly used for design and compliance testing by many brands. Requiring all such batteries to be tested and certified to one of these recognized standards will address the risks posed by substandard, untested batteries currently on the market from irresponsible sellers.” 

The bicycle industry takes the threat of lithium ion battery fires seriously. From the New York City Council to Congress, we’ve stood with policymakers seeking to limit the import and sale of unsafe and untested lithium ion batteries in personal mobility products. 

While a majority of recent battery fires in NYC were caused by the mishandling, tampering, and overcharging of batteries, including many fires clearly related to mobility products other than electric bicycles, the low-cost, low-quality batteries sold directly to consumers from mass online sellers or in some retail outlets are very much a part of the problem. For this reason, we support regulations that are inclusive of batteries for all powered mobility products, not just electric bicycles and scooters. 

To fight the growing number of devastating battery fires in the city, our team worked alongside advocates, the New York City Council, and the mayor’s office to draft legislation to limit the distribution and sale of electric mobility products and batteries that fail to meet specific testing standards. The resulting ordinance, Int. 0663A, will take effect in September 2023.

“PeopleForBikes’ supplier members already produce safe and tested electric bicycles and batteries,” says Moore, in response to Mayor Eric Adams signing the bill into law. “We support this groundbreaking legislation because it will ensure that all electric bicycles, scooters, and batteries available for sale in New York City have safe, tested batteries and that public authorities and consumers can easily determine that such testing has occurred.” You can read our full statement on the new NYC law here

We’re continuing the conversation with NYC on applicable testing standards for products sold in the city, and working with the New York state legislature on a similar, statewide proposal. Because e-bikes tested to the above standards generally cost more than those that aren’t, we support proposals like the discussed “battery buy-back” program in NYC to trade unsafe products for new, safe ones, ensuring that residents who rely on low-cost e-bikes for their work and livelihoods can continue to afford them.

PeopleForBikes is also advancing battery safety policy in our advocacy for electric bicycle incentive programs in cities, states, and federally. The recently reintroduced E-BIKE Act (H.R. 1685/S.881), which would create a federal tax credit for qualifying electric bicycle purchases, includes new language that limits eligibility to e-bikes with drive systems or batteries that have been tested to applicable safety standards. 

The E-BIKE Act’s sponsors, Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-19) and Senator Brian Schatz (HI), included this language to avoid providing subsidies that could be used to purchase potentially unsafe electric bicycles. PeopleForBikes drafted an electric bicycle battery safety FAQ to help in the process. 

Take Action to Support the E-BIKE Act

We’re advising our state and local partners that are leading the charge for e-bike incentives to include similar language in their programs. From Colorado’s proposed state level e-bike tax credit to Washington, D.C.’s proposed e-bike rebate program, our testimony points to the need to immediately utilize available battery safety standards for these programs while we await further action from the CPSC. 

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