A new fire code regulating the charging and storage of lithium-ion batteries for powered mobility devices (PMDs) like e-bikes, e-scooters, and hoverboards went into effect this week. This comes after a well-documented rise in fires linked to these batteries, which are increasingly stored and charged inside residences.

The San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) reported a tripling of battery-related fires between 2013 and 2023. Last year alone, the department responded to 41 such fires (and a record-high 58 in 2022), with data suggesting these incidents are even more hazardous than typical fires due to the chemicals in lithium-ion batteries and the challenges firefighters face extinguishing them, as the Standard reported. Fires reportedly started by rechargeable devices caused more than $10.6 million of property damage, 13 injuries, and one death in the past 10 years

The new legislation mandates that all PMDs in the city be safety-certified according to specific standards established by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or the European Union, approved by SFFD, per KRON4. Additionally, residents are limited to storing and charging a maximum of four PMDs per dwelling unit. If a household has more than five PMDs, stricter fire safety measures are required, including sprinkler systems and designated charging areas with three feet of space between devices.

It also prohibits the use of extension cords and power strips for charging PMDs. Instead, all devices, batteries, and chargers must be plugged directly into wall outlets. (SF landlords have also reportedly started including new terms in lease agreements about how residents can charge their PMDs.)

Residents are also instructed to follow manufacturer guidelines for charging and only use original equipment. Damaged or tampered-with batteries are explicitly banned from use, and the legislation outlaws the disposal of lithium-ion batteries in landfills or recycling bins, requiring them to be recycled through designated programs.

Feature image via Unsplash/Lucian Alexe.