Fear of fires leads San Diego officials to explore lithium-ion battery regulations

SAN DIEGO — Concerns about explosions, fires and toxic gas have prompted San Diego officials to begin crafting proposed laws to regulate the storage and disposal of lithium-ion batteries, which power electric cars, scooters, laptops, smartphones and other devices.

The legislation would also impose new limits on where large-scale lithium battery storage facilities can be located.

City leaders praise the increasingly popular batteries for being energy-efficient and helping to fight climate change, but they say new regulations are essential because a rash of recent incidents has raised concerns about public safety.

“We’re not trying to eliminate them — we’re trying to make sure they are safer for consumers and our first responders,” said Councilmember Marni von Wilpert, who is spearheading efforts to craft a new city law.

San Diego would be the first city in the county to regulate the batteries, which pose higher risk than ordinary batteries because they contain more energy and can ignite or emit dangerous gas when damaged or exposed to high heat.