Take action on the upcoming e-battery ordinance!

Late last year, Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin introduced an ordinance to change the city’s fire code limiting the storage, use, and charging of lithium-ion batteries used in e-bikes and other mobility devices. 

Before we get into the details of this ordinance – if you own an e-bike or other battery-assisted mobility device like an e-scooter, this proposed ordinance may affect you, so please sign up to get notified when it’s time to take action!

Sign me up!


What are the proposed changes?

The ordinance proposes to, “provide fire protection standards for the charging and storage of lithium-ion batteries used in powered mobility devices (such as electric bikes, scooters, skateboards, and hoverboards), prohibit use of damaged lithium-ion batteries in such devices, prohibit use of lithium-ion batteries assembled or reconditioned using cells removed from used batteries in such devices, and require the Fire Department to conduct an informational campaign.” 

Why this matters

The SF Bicycle Coalition completely agrees with the purpose of the ordinance and the importance of increasing fire safety, and have incorporated fire safety recommendations into our e-bike education and messaging for over a year. But, as written, we believe this legislation may pose unintentional consequences for our most vulnerable community members – and we’ll need your help making that clear to the City. 

Much of the ordinance is concerned with whether devices are certified for safety. Many of the powered mobility devices on our streets are UL certified, but others, especially the lowest priced ones, are not. UL, or Underwriter Laboratories, and other laboratories in the US and EU certify many products, confirming that they meet industry safety standards. Consumers and safety officials can feel confident that devices that are certified meet high safety standards, while the safety of uncertified devices is unknown. Unfortunately, since the UL-certified devices are often more expensive, many current owners of uncertified devices wouldn’t be able to afford to just buy a new one and may need to live out of compliance, which creates enforcement or harassment hazards for them with their landlords and neighbors, or they may improperly discard their device, which is also hazardous.

Our proposed amendments

Most crucially, we feel strongly that, for UL or similarly certified devices, the State’s limit of five devices per apartment is adequate (rather than the ordinance’s limit of four). And for certified devices, a minimum of 12 or even 18 inches between charging batteries would be safe, rather than the ordinance’s 3 feet. After all, the energy drawn by an electrical circuit to charge an e-bike is about 2 amps — virtually the same as a laptop.   

Since the ordinance’s initial introduction, we have worked closely with other stakeholders, small businesses, and individual advocates to propose the following amendments to the ordinance: 

  1. A reduction from 3 feet to 12 inches between charging UL or similarly certified devices
  2. A removal of limitations on the numbers of UL or similarly certified devices in Group R-2 occupancy (multi-family dwellings like apartment buildings), allowing the State limit of five devices to stand
  3. A path for current owners of non-certified devices, such as being able to apply existing e-bike subsidies and rebates to replace their non-certified devices. 
  4. That the Department of the Environment lead the public awareness campaign with support from the Fire Department to balance safety messaging with encouragement to safely adopt these climate-friendly modes

We’re glad to see that many stakeholder suggestions have already been implemented and that changes related to points 3 and 4 are being seriously considered. We’d like to thank President Peskin, co-sponsors Supervisor Melgar and Supervisor Preston, and the SF Fire Marshall for leading such an important issue and we look forward to working together to make the ordinance as strong as it can be to prevent unintentional consequences. 

Get involved!

The ordinance is going to the Land Use and Transportation Committee next week on January 29, 2024 and we need you to turn out to public comment with us. Sign up now to get details about the upcoming hearing.

Sign me up!


Become a member and you'll improve your commute and get discounts at shops across the city.