The explosive problem of ‘zombie’ batteries

Posted: October 26, 2020 by oldbrew in Batteries, Critique, flames

Typical electric car set-up

There may be trouble ahead, as the song goes. But are we ready to face the music of industrial-scale lithium battery volatility, brought to us by government edict? Below we look at the second part of a BBC News story.
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Batteries that power mobile phones and other devices are causing fires because they are not disposed of properly, says BBC News.

Lithium-ion batteries, which power mobile phones, tablets and toothbrushes, can be extremely volatile if damaged.

CCTV footage taken at several recycling centres shows explosions sending flames and debris shooting across sorting areas.

And those sorts of batteries are a growing menace.

Between April 2019 and March 2020, lithium-ion batteries were suspected to have caused around 250 fires at waste facilities. That is 38% of all fires, up from 25% compared to the previous year, according to the latest data from ESA.

In many cases the precise cause of a fire is never established but ESA says it is likely that lithium-ion batteries account for an even bigger proportion of fires.

Paul Christensen, professor of pure and applied electrochemistry at the University of Newcastle, has deliberately damaged lithium-ion batteries in experiments to make them explode.

The experiments are part of his work to help fire brigades tackle fires involving lithium-ion batteries.

Prof Christensen is a “massive fan” of the batteries and points out that they are perfectly stable under normal conditions.

However, he says that even small lithium-ion batteries, similar to the ones in your mobile phone, would explode “with a rocket flame” if punctured.

His real concern though is with the much bigger batteries found in electric cars, or used to store electricity in homes and businesses.

They are generally divided into many small cells and managed by software that keeps the battery running smoothly. But if a car crashes and some of those cells are damaged, the chemicals inside can generate huge of amounts of heat, damaging and igniting other cells.

“An electric vehicle will burn for much longer than an internal combustion vehicle. They give off potentially explosive and toxic fumes. They can reignite hours, days or weeks after the incident,” says Prof Christensen.

Electric cars are still relatively rare on the roads, but that will change in the coming years.

In February the UK government brought forward a ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars from 2040 to 2035 at the latest.

Governments elsewhere in the world are also encouraging electric car sales – in China the government wants 25% of new cars sold to be electrified by 2025.

“That means not just more electric vehicles, but the production facilities will get more and bigger… the storage facilities are going to get more and bigger,” Prof Christensen says.

He wants planning and safety regulations to take account of the risks of having so many more powerful batteries. He also wants better training for firefighters.

Full article here.

  1. SasjaL says:

    Something I have not seen about charging batteries, is about one problem. There are not any kind of rechargable battery available, that is suitable for quick charging, due to physics. It’s a wear and tear situation, that will shorten the lifespan of the battery for sure.

  2. Graeme No.3 says:

    Splendid! Instead of threatening other countries with nuclear weapons, we can theaten to drop a large lithium battery on them.
    Lots of damage, toxic contamination of the impact site, and lots of expense in the clean up. Less damage from fallout. Also allows “diplomats” to claim ‘mine is bigger than yours’.
    The only problem I see is delivering the battery with ‘renewable’ energy’.

  3. Dave Ward says:

    Wasn’t there a report that authorities in Germany have invested in a (or possibly several?) large truck transportable water filled tanks in which to drop EV’s that have caught fire. This is to keep them cool and reduce the risk of subsequent re-ignition, which they were finding can happen more then once over the course of subsequent days.

  4. tom0mason says:

    I have some six Panasonic CGR18650HM (1630mAh 3.70V) type high energy Li ion batteries (from a laptop battery pack I rebuilt). I wish to safely dispose of them, I’ve yet to find out how as council run waste disposal sites say they will not take them.

  5. JB says:

    I have to drive18 miles to the hazardous waste recycling center to dump paint, fluorescent lamps, and lithium batteries. Who wants to travel that far ($3-4/trip, 1 hr) for a hand full of worn out cells/bulbs? I have to collect all this crap all year long, stored in the garage, and make an annual side trip when going into town. The local weekly recycler is very fussy about what they will take, which of course we’re paying for, and is not worth the service. Paper, plastics, and metal cans are much easier to deal with in a compactor and disposed of locally.

    Recycling methods have a long way to go to become efficient and inexpensive.

  6. BLACK PEARL says:

    Typical poop for brains thinking from Govts
    Until someone can develop a viable alternative to the I.C.E. dont rush off half cocked !
    Same for all forms of so-called renewables pushed by the super rich and their ‘activist’ shills and usually ‘lefty’ nutter Govts taxing us to death on the back of all these BS

  7. oldbrew says:

    Surely not…don’t park it in the garage…especially when recharging 🔥
    In fact – don’t even use it at all…

    BMW says it is currently working on a solution to the fault. Until a remedy is available, drivers will be instructed to not charge their vehicle, not to drive in manual or sport mode, and to not use the shift paddles.

    BMW is not the only brand to face battery fire fears. Ford was forced to recall almost 21,000 Kuga PHEV models in August due to a battery overheating issue. [bold added]

    Sport mode? That won’t save the planet 😂

  8. oldbrew says:

    One way to deal with battery fire risks – liquid cooling…

    Electric planes: a quiet revolution in the Swiss skies
    October 29, 2020

    Batteries and fuel cells are still far too heavy.

    The Velis Electro’s electric engine is powered by two liquid-cooled 11 kWh lithium batteries connected in parallel.–a-quiet-revolution-in-the-swiss-skies/46125906

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