FDNY shutters Queens bike shop accused of building ‘Frankenstein’ e-bike batteries

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By Dan Sears

The New York City Fire Department shut down a Queens e-bike shop where officials said dangerous lithium-ion battery packs were being built and refurbished.

FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said workers at Wilson’s Electric Scooter Sales & Repair shop on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills were building new battery packs from individual lithium-ion battery cells and billing themselves online as a “battery factory.”

“These are what we have called ‘Frankenstein’ batteries, and we have been warning people not to build these for months,” Kavanagh said. “Unregulated, tampered with and non-certified batteries are extremely dangerous and deadly. They kill people.”

Kavanagh said firefighters recovered about 60 battery packs, hundreds of individual lithium-ion cells, around 25 e-scooters and 25 combination electric and gas mopeds from the shop on Tuesday, which has been open for about four months, according to online records. E-bikes with refurbished battery packs had been selling for $2,000 to $4,000, according to FDNY officials.

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The bust is part of an ongoing effort by fire officials and other city agencies to curb illegal off-brand batteries, which were responsible for 268 fires, 18 fatalities and 150 injuries last year, according to FDNY data.

E-bikes surged in popularity during the pandemic as food and other delivery apps flooded the market, growing faster than government regulators were able to keep up.

Some batteries began to “fail” as they were being removed during the Queens takedown and had to be extinguished, according to Kavanagh.

“If you recall, a single device, an e-bike, took out an entire shopping plaza in the Bronx just a few months ago. This location had far, far beyond that,” she said.

Calls to the number listed on the shop’s webpage were not immediately returned.

The city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection has been working with the FDNY to identify businesses that make, sell and store uncertified lithium-ion batteries, according to DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga.

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The city has conducted more than 500 inspections and has issued nearly 200 violations to businesses since last September, Mayuga said.

“Any businesses with questions or consumers who believe they’ve come across a business violating the law should reach out to us,” she said.

Luba Gorsky works at a pharmacy two doors down from Wilson’s. Although she said she’s relieved the shop has been shuttered, she added that she regrets that the owner lost his “bread and butter” in the process.

“I was always nervous about it … it was always on my mind that any day something can happen,” Gorsky said. “I feel bad for them, but I would sleep better knowing that it’s not going to blow up any day.”

Lithium-ion batteries have caused 18 fires and eight injuries in 2024 so far, according to the FDNY. No fatalities have been reported yet.

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