CPSC Commissioners at public forum on lithium-ion battery safety

CPSC Forum Focuses on Lithium-Ion Battery, E-Mobility Safety

Addressing the stark reality of hazards related to a rapidly growing e-mobility industry, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) hosted a forum yesterday to spotlight growing concerns surrounding lithium-ion battery safety, especially fires occurring in e-bikes and other micro-mobility devices.

In 2019, 13 injuries in New York City were caused by fires linked to e-mobility devices powered by lithium-ion batteries. By 2022, that number had risen to 147, a tally expected to be eclipsed this year with 87 injuries already logged in 2023.

Fire Department of New York (FDNY) Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, whose testimony kicked off the forum, said that “lithium-ion batteries are now a top cause of fatal fires in New York,” killing 13 residents this year so far.

Lorraine Carli, NFPA Vice President of Outreach and Advocacy, was a key voice at CPSC forum, along with elected leaders and representatives from manufacturer associations, voluntary standards organizations, and consumer groups.

In her comments to the Commission, Carli acknowledged the increasing challenges of fire and electrical hazards in our rapidly evolving, technology-reliant communities and urged a comprehensive approach to deal with this emerging fire threat.

She said the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem offers a framework to address this multi-dimensional challenge, specifically focusing on four crucial areas:

  • The regulatory environment
  • The use and enforcement of current codes and standards
  • Trained and equipped first responders, and
  • A well-informed public

There was broad agreement among panelists for more robust regulations to address the safety of e-mobility devices, including mandatory safety standards, enforcement of existing rules, and closing loopholes that allow dangerous, untested batteries and devices to be imported into the U.S.

Carli stressed that storage guidelines, requiring tested batteries and components, and restrictions on device quantities in buildings can all improve safety She noted that NFPA 1®, Fire Code, has been updated with criteria for protecting areas where such devices are stored, charged, or used.

Several panelists spoke strikingly about the explosive characteristics of lithium-ion battery fires, which one industry panelist said was analogous to a gasoline fire. FDNY Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn compared the fires to those started by incendiary devices. “These fires are large from the start,” he said.

Carli emphasized that first responder preparedness for lithium-ion battery fires is crucial for their safety and must be prioritized. She cited last fall's symposium titled "Lithium-Ion Batteries: Challenges for the Fire Service," co-sponsored by NFPA, FDNY Foundation, and U.L., as a significant resource to provide guidance for the fire service.

Several panelists promoted the role of the public in improving safety. While easily determining the safety of lithium-ion batteries can be difficult in e-mobility devices, individuals can prevent potentially catastrophic fires by educating themselves about the potential hazards of lithium-ion batteries and the correct usage and maintenance of related devices.

Carli commended the efforts of Commissioner Kavanaugh and FDNY for their proactive and aggressive approach to public safety education. She also highlighted NFPA's efforts and those of other safety organizations that have created resources providing essential safety information for consumers and emergency responders.

The CPSC forum provided a window on the complexity of this issue but also highlighted the sense of urgency to take action, which was best summed up by CPSC Commissioner Mary Boyle, who said in her closing statement: “Hearing from the stakeholders is an incredibly important part of the regulatory process and I think today’s hearing provided really useful and helpful information. I feel encouraged, like my colleagues, that there is broad consensus that we need to act and act quickly."

For more safety information and resources, visit our lithium-ion battery safety page.

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Tom Lyons
Director, Communications

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