Climate Change /

Electric Vehicle Fires Wreak Havoc Across 'Climate-Friendly' New York City

EVs are now the leading cause of fires in the Big Apple

New York has been at the forefront of the “green” movement, being one of the first areas of the U.S. to enact sweeping changes aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

Last year, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a “climate-friendly” initiative, while also signing legislation to speed up the city’s transition to zero-emission transportation.

“We are sparking New York’s transition to clean transportation by removing barriers to owning and charging an electric vehicle,” Hochul said in a statement about the bill. “It is not enough to encourage New Yorkers to buy electric — we must build green infrastructure that will drive New Yorkers to choose cleaner and greener modes of transportation. My administration will continue to advance our zero-emission transportation goals, and this legislation will benefit our climate and the health of our communities for generations to come.”

Officials have now proposed a rule change that would make New York City the first in the nation to mandate that by the year 2030 all ride-share vehicles would be electric.

Yet, even as lawmakers race toward carbon reduction goals, the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) is issuing strong warnings about the growing number of fires caused by electric vehicles.

FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanaugh recently testified before the Consumer Product Safety Commission about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries, which are commonly used in electric motor vehicles.

She explained that lithium-ion batteries are now a leading cause of fatal fires in New York, surpassing those started by cooking and smoking, which were previously the top causes.

“When one of these bursts into flames, we often don’t know where it came from, and there’s no one that we can hold accountable, and so I think that makes these sorts of standards from your agency and from the federal perspective much more important,” she said.

According to the FDNY, there have been 108 lithium-ion battery fires in New York City, which resulted in the injuries of 66 people, and the deaths of 13 others.

“There is not a small amount of fire, it [the vehicle] literally explodes,” Kavanaugh said. The resulting fire is “very difficult to extinguish and so it is particularly dangerous.”

A report from the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) shows that one-third of fire departments across the U.S. are unprepared to fight electric vehicle fires.

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