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Insurer releases ESS fire safety guidelines

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 11:53 -- John Shepherd
Insurer releases ESS fire safety guidelines

International commercial property insurer FM Global has released new fire protection guidelines to combat increased incidences of energy storage system fires.

The US-based insurer said the guidelines are needed because lithium-ion battery-based systems are under growing scrutiny after being involved in fires in South Korea and the US.

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Dumped batteries blamed for €600,000 recycling blaze

Sat, 06/22/2019 - 12:40 -- John Shepherd
Dumped batteries blamed for €600,000 recycling blaze

Discarded toys containing lithium-ion batteries are believed to have started a blaze at a recycling company in Germany that led to an estimated €600,000 (US$682,000) worth of damage.

Willi Hörger, the owner of the recycling company Hörger in Bächingen, Bavaria, told regional broadcaster BR24 that batteries wrongly discarded along with the toys appeared to have started the blaze, which destroyed a warehouse and at one point was being tackled by around 80 firefighters.

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Cause of ESS fires in South Korea ‘still unknown’

Fri, 05/03/2019 - 10:37 -- John Shepherd
Cause of ESS fires in South Korea ‘still unknown’

South Korea’s government said investigators need more time to discover the cause of a series of energy storage system (ESS) fires— and a temporary manufacturing ban continues for several manufacturers.

More than 20 ESS units across the country went up in flames over the past year, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (Motie) has confirmed.

The government asked public institutions, large multi-purpose facilities and domestic ESS users to stop using their devices as a temporary safety measure.

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Crash probes in US, Europe, highlight lithium fires

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 09:00 -- John Shepherd
Crash probes in US, Europe, highlight lithium fires

Lithium-ion batteries continue to be in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons— the latest being fatal crashes and fires in the US and Europe.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has confirmed it is investigating a crash involving a 2014 Tesla Model S in Florida, which was “reportedly traveling at a high rate of speed when it struck a wall resulting in a post-crash fire”.

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New battery recalls expose lithium fire risks

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 10:58 -- News Editor
New battery recalls expose lithium fire risks

Just when you thought it was safe to leave your lithium-ion powered laptop recharging by your bed comes another laptop battery recall.

So far there has been one fire incident with these computers in Canada. Fujitsu is the latest in a long line of laptop producers to announce a product recall of the batteries for its CELSIUS H720, LIFEBOOK E752, E733, E743, E753, P702, P772, S710, S752, S762, T732, T734, and T902 notebook computers.


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A flaming embarrassment

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 11:59 -- gerry@bestmag.co.uk

Looking for ways to make lithium-ion batteries safer? Well, don’t go to a battery safety conference, because you won’t learn much! At least I didn’t when I went to Cambridge EnerTech’s battery safety event last week in Arlington.

There’s a lot of interesting science around in terms of working out what happens when you short circuit a lithium-ion battery on a very expensive high energy X-ray source (the images are fantastic) but how that helps you, the manufacturer, prevent whatever that “natural” causative agent might be for this to happen seems about as likely as predicting the next self-styled lunatic with enough money (and guns) to carry out a massacre in the USA. 

It can’t be done.

As the Donald said: “This is not a guns issue.” And as to battery fires and failures, perhaps they are not a lithium-ion issue. If we didn’t have so many portable devices and electric vehicles, this would not be an issue at all… Of course, you’d have to plug your not-so-smart phone into a wall socket each time you wanted to check your mail and we’d all be connected ‘wiredly’ to do so much that we now take for granted. Or fire granted?

And this brings me to my final topic for this excuse for conference spleen venting… battery stand-up comedy!

It’s a new comedy form that is being developed by Joseph Nowikowski, almost the last act on the two-day event. Nowikowski, a fire investigator, managed to achieve laughs from fire scenes— before and after. Radio-controlled cars bursting into flames, caught on camera (security) in ‘man caves' all over the Union, dog teeth marks on a punctured battery found under a burned out sofa (we kid you not), not to mention the litany of stories of exploding vaping devices (missing teeth thrown in for more good measure) and laptops left charging on beds. All down to lithium-ion.

Nowikowski was right on the money. Sure, the insurance companies will pay out on the fire because they allow for peoples’ stupidity… but if they can show a defective battery was to blame, they’ll be after you. Another investigator in the audience said they had 120 open files on fires, with lithium batteries ‘in the firing line’, so to speak.

Nowikowski didn’t quite say, “if you can charge it, don’t leave it unattended”, but if I had felt like misrepresenting him, I could have sold that story to the so-called British newspaper, The Sun.

Joe public has no idea about the number of fake phone chargers there are in circulation, nor can they tell if a product has a BMS capable of detecting overcharge or thermal runaway in its earliest phase. They have no knowledge of UL and Interek’s safety standards and they like to buy cheap and nasty electronic products (‘cos they’re cheap!).

One day, the catalogue of errors that are ‘crap cells’ with flammable electrolytes will turn into the perfect storm and somewhere, perhaps, a lot of people will die, just like they did in London (thanks to flammable building materials) this summer. For other chemistries, it’s the equivalent of Weinstein’s alleged sex misdemeanours.

Isn’t it time you guys named and shamed?


Australia issues draft home storage fire-risk rules

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 10:41 -- News Editor
Australia issues draft home storage fire-risk rules

Proposed regulations in Australia that would prioritise fire safety for the use of lithium-based batteries inside homes have been opened to consultation.

The draft regulations by Standards Australia follow reports that emerged earlier this year that new guidelines could ban the introduction of on-site lithium-ion battery storage in homes.


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No-fly lithium looks very possible

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 15:47 -- gerry@bestmag.co.uk

There are few inside the battery industry who haven’t seen a video of a lithium-ion cell going into thermal runaway, shooting out flames and gas like some kind of giant firework.

There are enough battery specialists who can appreciate and calculate the release of energy from such devices and have the imagination to visualise the domino effect that could take place when one defective cell goes wrong in a pallet containing maybe several thousand cells.

There are plenty of battery specialists who’ve come across the unscrupulous and counterfeit battery manufacturers beyond the Middle East. Lithium-ion batteries are classed as dangerous goods for good reason: they store considerable quantities of energy and they can fail, due to faults in manufacture, poor quality control or poor design. Even the best have been caught out— GS Yuasa and Boeing.

Thanks to the US Federal Aviation Authority we now know that just ten18650 cells— a tiny fraction of those in a Tesla car, can create enough heat and gas to blow open a 737 cargo hold.

The situation gets worse if the cells are fully charged… partially-charged cells produce less gas, apparently. Long term, it appears that costly containment of lithium-ion cells and batteries would be the only risk-mitigation one could reasonably put in place, as is being formalised for the fixed lithium batteries providing back-up power in civil aircraft.

Containment will add to weight and cost and it doesn’t take a genius to see that manufacturers will be limited in the number of cells being air freighted.

Aviation is still incredibly safe— if you are one of these unlucky ones, IATA have shown quite conclusively that the number of “battery incidents” which have resulted in deaths is just one incident in ten years. Weather, loss-of-control and even depressed pilots have killed more.

But it’s not a comforting thought to consider that beneath your feet on many commercial jets is a stack of batteries that might just turn your plane into a flaming coffin at cruising altitude.

Even if no ban on air-freighting of lithium-ion happens wouldn’t it be pertinent for manufacturers to start considering global warehousing of the product and transport by sea and land? We now know the best fire suppressant, (halon) won’t work in a hold fire, so if such an event happens and you can’t land in minutes, it’s a catastrophe.

Once this story fully emerges properly in the public domain, rationality won’t prevail. Not carrying lithium-ion cells (as some carriers have already adopted) will be a sales advantage to freight carriers and passenger operators alike.

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