Electric scooter company Spin must clear thousands of defunct scooters from a warehouse just east of downtown after lawyers for the City of Cleveland complained the lithium-ion batteries pose a fire hazard.
In an August legal filing, the city accused Spin of using the warehouse as a “dumping ground” for scooters from around the country. The company failed to act on a March citation by fire inspectors after losing an appeal, the city alleged.
Spin, whose legal name is Skinny Labs, argues that its batteries undergo industry-standard safety tests, and that the real fire risk comes from bootleg electric bikes and scooters made with uncertified batteries.
Nevertheless, the company agreed this week to maintain a 24-hour fire watch until workers removed the batteries and scooters from the warehouse.
The company, which no longer takes part in the city’s scooter program, pledged not to move the batteries elsewhere in Cleveland without the permission of fire officials. It has until Sept. 8 to finish the work.
Spin declined to comment.
On Wednesday evening, workers were seen breaking down the site at 4200 Lakeside Avenue, which is down the street from Cleveland’s fire training academy. Rows of scooters lined a loading bay visible from the sidewalk outside. A jumble of scooter handlebars and wheels poked up over the top of a Dumpster nearby.
A fire inspector first examined the warehouse in November last year, when there were far fewer scooters on site, and told the company about the city’s fire codes, Fire Marshal Capt. David J. Telban told the city’s Board of Building Standards and Appeals in March.
After another inspection on March 9, fire officials ordered Spin to remove what the city said were 8,000 scooters from the warehouse.
“There’s just thousands of them stacked on top of each other,” Telban told the board. “Each one of them has a lithium-ion battery. This is the hazard.”
Spin appealed that March 9 order, which prompted the hearing at a meeting of the building standards board later that month. At the hearing, the city shared photos of rows upon rows of scooters in the warehouse. The photos also showed a scooter plugged into a bank of power strips surrounded by a tangle of wires.
“I don’t believe that, if this were to ignite, if we would even be able to extinguish this product,” Telban said. “It would probably burn to the ground.”
Dan Fleischbein, Spin’s director of operations infrastructure and safety, told the board that the company’s batteries and equipment undergo safety certification – similar to those in electric cars that drivers park in their garages. Spin already agreed to remove the power strips, although the company believes they are safe, he said.
Spin legal chief Brandon Kaufman said that Cleveland’s fire regulations were archaic and didn’t account for advances in battery technology. Spin and its competitors store scooters in similar ways in cities around the country, he told the board.
“We don’t see any difference whether there’s 80 scooters stored, or 800, or 8,000, or 80,000,” Kaufman said. “We are to the letter of the recommendations from numerous safety experts…We are doing everything to a T.”