Battery Fire Crisis Leading Towards Federal Legislation in USA
On Sunday 3rd December another person died in New York City due to a lithium-ion battery fire. This was the 18th fatality in New York City so far in 2023 alone plus 145 injuries. Although not confirmed as the cause, from initial reports an e-bike was found at the latest fire scene. In the most recent incident prior to this, three people died from a fire that the FDNY (Fire Department of New York) blamed on a e-scooter battery.
StreetsBlog NYC reported that on Wednesday 6th December members of the U.S. House of Representative’s Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously advanced the so-called Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act, which requires the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to create safety standards for micromobility batteries “to protect against the risk of fires.”
“A strong federal standard for lithium-ion batteries is required to ensure public safety,” said FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. “We have seen that this technology moves very quickly, and it is incredibly important that regulations are forward-looking to keep pace.”
The USA has an international recognised battery safety standard developed by UL Solutions (Underwriters Laboratory) but as recently as November 2023 online retailers including Amazon were still allowing the sale of non-standards compliant batteries via their sites. Apparently they have finally discontinued this practice.
Meanwhile, delivery giants such as Uber and DoorDash had been fighting hard to still have delivery workers continue as grossly underpaid “independent contractors” and not supplying them with the safe batteries and chargers that they need to avoid fires.
But Uber and DoorDash lost at least one critical step of the battle in on 8th December being awarded a minimum wage in NYC of US$17.96 per hour (A$26.80 per hour). Prior to this, delivery workers were averaging just US$7.09 (A$10.58) per hour excluding tips.
There are more than 65,000 app-based delivery workers in New York City.
Most of the information in this article was first reported at StreetsBlog.org
Amsterdam Implements 30kph Speed Limit City-Wide
Three years after national legislation paved the way, in December 2023 Amsterdam is finally rolling out a city-wide 30kph default speed limit.
Ironically for the city most renowned for its massive cycling culture and infrastructure, Amsterdam is far from the first to actually implement 30kph with Paris, Edinburgh, Brussels and others beating it to the chase.
By the end of December 2023, 80% of all Amsterdam roads will have a traffic limit of no more than 30 kph. Like Brussels, the city is introducing the measure throughout the city in a single stage.
“This way the message is clear to everyone and the chance of behavioural change is greatest,” said Melanie van der Horst, the Traffic Councillor of the Amsterdam. “Fortunately, we have noticed quite a lot of support and understanding: two-thirds of Amsterdam residents are in favour of this measure. Of course, it will take some getting used to at first. But that 30 kph will also bring us a lot.
“People now feel unsafe in traffic, such as school children and even people in their fifties who no longer dare to cycle. I find that intense, because it is a major restriction of your freedom. In addition to fewer accidents, our mission is for more people to dare to participate in traffic. In addition, 30 kph also has the pleasant side effect that it ensures less traffic noise in the city.”
Amsterdam will also implement traffic calming measures such as narrowing streets, adjusting traffic signals and more, so that drivers are naturally inclined to reduce speeds rather than solely relying on compliance with a 30kph sign.
Paris Set to Triple Parking Charges for Large SUV’s and 4×4’s
Paris intends to triple parking charges for large sports utility vehicles (SUVs) in order to push them out of the city and limit emissions and air pollution, the mayor has said.
“It is a form of social justice,” Anne Hidalgo announced on Friday 8th December 2023 of the plan to deliberately target the richest drivers to tackle the climate breakdown and air pollution. “This is about very expensive cars, driven by people who today have not yet made the changes to their behaviour that have to be made [for the climate].”
Paris will hold a referendum on 4th February 2024 asking residents to vote for or against a specific parking tariff for heavy, large and polluting SUVs.
If Paris votes yes on parking tariffs, the cost of on-street parking for an SUV or 4×4 car will rise to €18 (A$29.52) an hour in the centre of Paris and €12 (A$17.71) an hour in the rest of the city, officials said on Friday. The prices will apply to vehicles weighing more than 1.6 tonnes with a combustion engine or hybrid vehicles, and more than 2 tonnes for electric vehicles.
If Paris residents vote in favour of the plan, the new parking fees will begin next spring. The city of Lyon will also introduce higher parking costs for larger vehicles next year.
Under Hidalgo, Paris has for years raised pressure on drivers by increasing parking costs and gradually banning diesel vehicles, while expanding the bicycle lane network in the congested capital. The city has reduced the number of on-street parking spaces in order to make drivers use underground parking.
The French motorists’ association, “40 millions d’automobilistes”, denounced what it called an “unjustified” clampdown and restriction on liberties.
Editor’s Note: I was hesitant to publish this article because nothing will actually change unless the referendum is passed, but then double checked car ownership statistics.
Although 86% of French households own a car and 95% in rural areas the stark exception is the densely populated City of Paris itself which is only the inner city containing 2.161 million inhabitants, not the greater urban area of 11,208,000.
It is only the city residents who get to vote, and within this group only 34% own a car. I suspect that the vast majority of this 34% own small cars, not the SUV’s to be targeted with triple parking fees. Therefore, I suspect that the referendum will vote in favour of the SUV levy. I’ve made a diary note to report the result in February.
Why Electrification of Mopeds is a Big Deal
One of our many areas that we could improve at the Micromobility Report is that our international reporting tends to be too North American and Euro centric. We don’t run enough stories from Asia and certainly hardly any from Africa and South America.
If you’ve visited countries in those continents, you’ll know first-hand that there are vast numbers of noisy, smelly, small motorcycles of various designs. In some countries they’re called motor scooters, in others Boda Boda’s or other names. Many of these have two stroke engines which are even more polluting and noisy than four stroke. For the purposes of this and other articles in Micromobility Report, we refer to small, powered e-scooters as ‘e-mopeds’.
The total global fleet of these small petrol powered motor scooters of all descriptions is estimated at 600 million, which although just under half the number of cars, is still a vast number that makes a significant contribution to global emissions.
Rather than have these owners convert to electric cars (which quite apart from resource and pollution considerations, most could never afford and will not easily fit into their already crowded cities) a far better solution is for everyone to migrate to electric mopeds.
Progress has been slow. Two large issues have been holding things up.
Firstly, purchase cost. E-mopeds are still more expensive than petrol versions. The highest petrol motor scooter ownership countries, in descending order, are: India, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, Malasia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Brazil.
Most of these countries are well down the national rankings table in terms of per capita incomes and purchasing capacity. So they’re very price sensitive to the higher initial cost of buying an e-moped.
The second stumbling block issue is range anxiety and lack of recharging infrastructure. One key reason why all forms of motorcycles, even in the wealthiest countries have been slower than bicycles and even cars to convert to electrification is that there’s physically limited space on board for enough battery capacity to give a long range.
Cars, being much larger, have plenty of space for large batteries. Meanwhile ebikes, being lighter and more energy efficient and most importantly having pedal powered input or back-up, need far smaller batteries, even than small e-mopeds require.
In relation to the first issue, here are a few recent developments.
In Kenya, President William Rutto recently announced a plan to replace Kenya’s two million boda boda’s with e-mopeds.
In India e-moped sales are growing, despite a reduction in government subsidies. But at 91,000 e-moped sales in November 2023, there is still a long way to go to replace their total fleet of 221 million.
In Malaysia, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim announced rebate program of up to RM2,400 (A$800) to buy an e-moped.
In relation to range anxiety, we have previously written here about Gogoro. Starting in their home country, this Taiwanese based company has developed a network of GoStation battery swap stations on many street corners and other convenient locations. Gogoro’s system has been very popular with over a billion swaps so far, and growing fast.
The company just announced that it’s launching in the Philippines. It’s already operating at various scales, some still at pilot stage, in China, India, Indonesia, Singapore and Israel.
Gogoro, which floated on the NASDAQ stock exchange last year, has a market capitalisation of $US586 billion (A$874 billion). Like many tech start-ups, Gogoro is focused on rapid growth and market share rather the short term profitability and has been trading at a loss.
Links to these articles were originally published by The Micromobility Newsletter