A Queens business was cited this week for manufacturing and repairing “extremely dangerous and deadly” illegal lithium-ion batteries, FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said Thursday.
Wilson Scooters, on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, was building battery packs from individual lithium-ion batteries and replacing old ones in violation of the fire code, Kavanagh said during a news conference outside the business.
“These are what we call Frankenstein batteries and we have been warning people not to build these for months,” she said, adding that some of the noncertified batteries ignited during the removal process and had to be extinguished.
During the inspection on Tuesday, officials from the FDNY and the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, found approximately 60 battery packs; hundreds of individual lithium-ion cells used to alter, create, and repair batteries; about 25 e-scooters; and two dozen combination electric and gas mopeds, Kavanagh said.
The business was issued violations by the FDNY, Consumer and Worker Protection and the Department of Buildings for illegal occupancy and conversion. The Department of Environmental Protection, meanwhile, issued an order to remove the hazardous waste and additional batteries within 72 hours, Kavanagh said.
“This is a life or death problem,” said Vilda Mayuga, commissioner of the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection. “We really want to make sure that individuals are only purchasing or renting the products that use lithium-ion batteries or the batteries themselves that are certified properly under the right standard.”
Wilson Chang, the manager Wilson Scooters, said the Chinese immigrants who work at the business were unaware of the regulations.
“We need a teacher,” Chang said. “We need the fire department to teach me how to do it.”
The bust comes months after a massive blaze in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, sparked by a lithium-ion battery used to power an e-scooter, killed three people and injured more than a dozen others, including a city firefighter.
And on Thursday, a fire inside a two-story home in Sunset Park, Brooklyn was caused by a fraudulent lithium-ion battery, officials said. There were no injuries but five families, including 12 adults and three children, were displaced.
Last year, lithium-ion batteries caused 268 fires in New York City, injured 150 people, and killed 18 more, officials said.