New York City firefighters are on the lookout for fake Underwriters Laboratories stickers on e-bike and scooter chargers and batteries they fear are wrongly persuading buyers that the items are safe, the Daily News has learned.
The FDNY does not know how many fake UL stickers are in circulation, or how many batteries and chargers are being sold in the city.
But the discovery of a fake sticker in a fatal Queens fire has led the department to seek them out in e-bike shop inspections and fire investigations, department officials said. UL stickers are a widely accepted indicator that electrical products have been tested for safety.
Firefighters sifting through the rubble of an April 10 e-bike battery fire that killed a 7-year-old Queens boy and his teenage sister found a lithium-ion battery charger that had a bogus UL insignia, FDNY officials said.
“It didn’t look like the real sticker,” an FDNY official with knowledge of the case said. “We went to Underwriters Laboratories and asked them if it was theirs, and they said it wasn’t.”
The charger was for the e-bike battery that exploded inside the 46th St. home in Astoria, causing a fire that killed 7-year-old Elias Abdulsamed and his 19-year-old sister Arwa.
The two were trapped in their second-floor apartment when the e-bike battery burst into flames, blocking the only exit from their residence, according to the FDNY. Their father and four siblings managed to make it out alive.
A month before the Queens fatal fire, the City Council approved a bill that bans the sale of batteries not certified by Underwriters Laboratories or other testing labs. It was one of several bills meant to curb e-bike and scooter fires. Mayor Adams signed the legislation on March 20.
Fire Department investigators and battery experts say the exploding batteries are bought cheap online or in area scooter stores to supplement or replace batteries included with scooters or e-bikes as original equipment.
Many deliveristas buy knock-off backup batteries so their rides can stay continuously charged.
One way to identify a legitimate Underwriters Laboratories sticker: It will have the letters “UL” in a circle with the ‘U’ slightly higher than the ‘L.’ Counterfeit stickers often have the ‘U’ and the ‘L’ on the same line, investigators have found.
Underwriters Laboratories posted on its website images of a fake sticker the FDNY found. In a public notice in June, UL said any lithium-ion battery or charger with a bogus sticker should be “removed from service.”
Products with unauthorized UL certification marks “have not been evaluated by UL Solutions to the appropriate safety standards and it is unknown if the battery charger complies with any safety requirements,” UL’s website notes.
UL spokesman Steven Brewster said the counterfeit stickers are a “very urgent safety issue.”
Anyone who spots a fake sticker on an e-bike battery or charger is encouraged to report the finding to UL on their website at www.ul.com.
E-bike and scooter batteries are blamed in 164 fires, 96 injuries and 14 deaths throughout the city in 2023, according to FDNY data updated on Aug. 28.
The FDNY fought 216 battery fires in 2022, roughly double the 104 it reported in 2021.