New York City is testing public e-bike charging stations for delivery workers

A delivery worker with a package on their back rides an e-bike in Manhattan in New York City.
Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images

New York City opened its first public e-bike charging station on Thursday, part of a six-month pilot program to “support safe e-bike use and prevent deadly lithium-ion battery fires.” E-bike-related fires in the city killed 18 people and injured 150 in 2023 alone, according to The New York Times.

The new charging station in Cooper Square in the East Village will be available to 100 delivery workers free of charge during the pilot program. The city plans to open four other stations across Brooklyn and Manhattan “in the coming weeks.”

“We count on delivery workers for so much, and they should be able to count on us, too — whether that means fighting for fair pay or making their jobs and livelihoods safer,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

Poorly made e-bike batteries have been implicated in numerous deadly fires caused by unsafe charging practices. A fire department spot-check of locations where multiple e-bikes were being charged found that 3 in 4 dangerous instances were in residential buildings.

New York City’s density, as well as expensive rents and the high cost of living, means that sometimes multiple delivery workers live in a single apartment. A blaze in February that killed one person was started by a lithium-ion battery being charged in a unit shared by six delivery workers.

Charging technologies used in the city’s pilot, produced by Swobbee, Swiftmile, and Popwheels.
Image: City of New York

There’s also the problem of cheap, low-quality e-bikes and batteries that are more likely to explode. There are ways to reduce this risk, like purchasing products with a UL safety certification. The public charging stations, equipped with swappable battery systems and locking charging racks, were reviewed by the New York City Fire Department during development and installation, the city said.

Delivery workers interested in participating in the program can fill out an expression of interest form or attend an onboarding event. Events will be held at Cooper Square on March 7th, 2024, from 2PM to 5PM and at the Brooklyn Army Terminal on March 8th, 2024, from 2PM to 5PM.