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Should NH regulate the batteries in electric scooters and E-bikes?

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If you lived in an American city around 2021, you’ll likely remember how, all of a sudden, electric scooters seemed to be everywhere. Companies like Bird and Lime unleashed a fleet of scooters available for rent using a smartphone app, and many cities hosted shared e-bikes to help cut down on automotive traffic. Since then, the popularity of scooters and e-bikes for commuting has continued to grow. Some worry about the safety of these mobility devices however, since their rechargeable lithium-ion batteries can catch fire if improperly built or cared for. Now, the New Hampshire Legislature is considering SB 365, a bill that prohibits sales of electric bicycles, scooters, and lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, that have not been safety certified.

Lithium-ion batteries and safety

Lithium-ion batteries power much of our modern lives, from our smartphones and laptops to electric vehicles. While these batteries are generally very safe, they can be dangerous under certain circumstances. With the rising popularity of electric mobility devices like scooters and e-bikes, there is a growing market for cheap replacement batteries, including “second-use” reconditioned batteries. There are also counterfeit batteries on the market that have not undergone proper certification.

The results of storing a scooter with a faulty battery indoors can be particularly dangerous. If the mechanism that stops the battery from charging once it is full is damaged or defective, the battery can overheat and burst into flame. This can also occur if batteries are exposed to extreme heat or are damaged or punctured. Countless videos online show how these fires can envelop an indoor space in a matter of seconds.

Certification protects consumers

SB 365 cites the Underwriters Laboratories standards used to certify batteries. Underwriters Laboratories famously certifies all sorts of consumer products—many of the gadgets in your home likely already bear the “UL” logo. The bill cites Underwriters Laboratories Standards 2271, 2272, and 2849, all of which specifically address electric mobility devices like scooters and e-bikes. The bill also provides room for the New Hampshire Fire Marshal to choose a “similar standard.”

Last year, New York City Mayor Eric Adams enacted rules requiring battery packs to be third-party certified using the same three Underwriters Laboratories standards mentioned in SB 365.

SB 365 also includes a fine for those who counterfeit Underwriters Laboratories certification. 

The penalty for selling an uncertified battery or e-bike would be $250 for the first offense and $1,000 for the second or further offenses.

Keeping citizens safe

Proponents argue SB 365 is a commonsense approach to protecting New Hampshire residents. Battery fires are especially dangerous in high-density urban environments, where these products are most popular. At the hearing, bill sponsor Sen. David Watters (D-Dover) explained that the bill is based on guidance from federal consumer protection agencies and would help consumers know the battery they’re buying is safe.

New Hampshire Fire Marshal Sean Toomey also testified in favor of the bill at the Senate hearing, saying the bill would put New Hampshire ahead of the curve by establishing fire safety standards that protect Granite Staters. In fact, New Hampshire is one of the first states to consider a law of this kind.

Is the bill necessary?

While no one spoke at the Senate committee’s public hearing in opposition to this bill, two people signed in against it. Since lithium-ion batteries are found in a huge variety of electronics, some may feel the bill unfairly targets micromobility devices, which studies show reduce users’ carbon footprint.

Others argue certification requirements at the state level won’t have much impact because consumers will still be able to find cheap, uncertified e-bikes through online retailers (often based in China). Federal action may be necessary.

Other possible interventions include public education campaigns and safety regulations about how to safely charge and store e-bikes.

Have an opinion about this bill?

SB 365 will have a public hearing before the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee on April 24. Find out how you can make your voice heard at this hearing by visiting our Advocacy Toolkit.


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