Lithium-ion batteries and e-mobility safety receive spotlight at CPSC forum

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The hazards related to the quickly developing e-mobility industry were the focus of a forum hosted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), as reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

The forum discussed the rising concerns over lithium-ion battery safety, particularly fires in e-bikes and other micro-mobility devices.

Rapid increase in lithium-ion battery-related injuries

In New York City alone, there were 13 injuries in 2019 caused by fires linked to e-mobility devices powered by lithium-ion batteries. By 2022, the number had risen to 147, with a further increase anticipated as 87 injuries have already been recorded this year.

Fire Department of New York (FDNY) Commissioner Laura Kavanagh commenced the forum by stating: “Lithium-ion batteries are now a top cause of fatal fires in New York,” with 13 fatalities already reported this year.

The need for a comprehensive approach to lithium-ion battery safety

The NFPA Vice President of Outreach and Advocacy, Lorraine Carli, was among key contributors to the CPSC forum, which also included representatives from manufacturer associations, consumer groups, and voluntary standards organisations.

Addressing the commission, Carli recognised the increasing challenges of fire and electrical hazards in our fast-paced, tech-reliant communities and advocated for a comprehensive strategy to tackle this emerging fire threat.

Carli said: “The Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem provides a framework to address this multi-dimensional challenge,” focusing on four critical 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 a wide agreement among the panellists on the need for stronger regulations for e-mobility device safety.

This includes mandatory safety standards, enforcing existing rules, and closing gaps that permit the import of untested, potentially hazardous batteries and devices into the U.S.

The explosive nature of lithium-ion battery fires

The panelists highlighted the explosive traits of lithium-ion battery fires. FDNY Fire Marshal Daniel Flynn likened these fires to those initiated by incendiary devices, stating: “These fires are large from the start.”

Carli stressed that preparing first responders for lithium-ion battery fires is crucial for their safety and should be prioritised.

She pointed to the symposium titled “Lithium-Ion Batteries: Challenges for the Fire Service,” co-sponsored by NFPA, FDNY Foundation, and U.L., as a substantial resource providing guidance for the fire service.

The panellists also emphasised the role of the public in enhancing safety.

While it can be hard for individuals to determine the safety of lithium-ion batteries in e-mobility devices, consumer education on the potential hazards and proper usage and maintenance of these devices can prevent potentially catastrophic fires.

In conclusion, CPSC Commissioner Mary Boyle stated: “Hearing from the stakeholders is an incredibly important part of the regulatory process… there is broad consensus that we need to act and act quickly.”

IFSJ Comment

This development underlines the urgency for a comprehensive understanding of lithium-ion battery safety, particularly in e-mobility devices.

As our dependence on technology grows, so do the risks, and it is crucial to keep abreast of these developments and preventative strategies.

About CPSC

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is a US government agency that protects the public from risks of injury or death from consumer products.

They achieve this through developing voluntary standards, conducting research into product-related illness and injury, and educating consumers about product safety.

Their commitment to addressing safety concerns surrounding lithium-ion batteries in e-mobility devices is instrumental in shaping regulations and encouraging safe practices.

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