After Volt and Dreamliner 787 Fires, Panel Struggles With How to "Fix" Batteries
April 12, 2013 2:34 PM
Top industry figures says there's no sure fire method of predicting internal shorts
For the last two decades demand for lithium ion batteries in mobile devices has exploded, but so did safety concerns. Apple, Inc. (
), Sony Corp. (
) and several others
I. Expert Panel -- How to Make Batteries Safer
Now it's the transportation industry that is grappling with these issues. This week a panel of experts
met at a forum
sponsored by the
U.S. National Transportation Safety Board
in a bid to answer the question of how to prevent the wave of battery fires that have swept the electric vehicle and commercial aircraft industries.
The answers were not terribly reassuring. While experts said the issue of short-circuits was known and best-practice preventive measures were included in most large battery systems, that there's no sure-fire method of protecting a battery from its own internal flaws.
And the mechanism by which short circuits start fires is still poorly understood. Laurie Florence, principal engineer at international battery safety certifier
, says that you can shoot a nail into most lithium ion batteries, triggering a short circuit, but no fire. However, more subtle internal design issues can trigger short circuits that
lead to fires.
Daniel Doughty, president of
Battery Safety Consulting
, urged the industry at the forum to embrace research into design isolated cell technology that prevents a fire in one cell from spreading to the next. He also urged industry leaders to develop better technology to diagnose and predict internal short circuits.
Battery manufacturers already rely on a cruder fault prevention technology -- additives. The liquid lithium ion fluid -- roughly 25 percent of the contents of a typical cell -- is highly flammable. Typically additives are mixed into this volatile liquid to reduce the fire risk. But these additives also frequently reduce the power capacity/delivery of the battery, hence raising costs and cutting battery life.
Janet McLaughlin, deputy director of the
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
's hazardous materials safety programs,
, "We all know lithium batteries are hazardous materials."
On the other hand, replacing batteries also isn't cheap.
II. Battery Fires Hit Boeing, GM, Hard
Both Airbus, a subsidiary of The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V. (EADS) (
), and The Boeing Company (
), the world's top two commercial aircraft companies, initially tapped lithium ion batteries for auxiliary power systems in their new flagship aircraft, an industry first. Airbus recently dropped plans for lithium ion batteries in its upcoming A350 after
backpedalling amid fire concerns
Those concerns allude to rival Boeing's efforts, which are still forging ahead despite major setbacks.
In January the battery module in the
Dreamliner 787 caught fire in Boston
, Mass. while on the ground. Just a couple weeks later, a Dreamliner in Japan was
struck by a serious battery fire
. After the second incident Boeing
agreed to ground the Dreamliner
and search for a solution.
Boeing 787 production line [Image Source: Boeing]
Since then, Boeing has redesigned the battery module. And while
into the previous fires is still ongoing, the FAA has agreed to permit Boeing to start testing the new module.
The auto industry has also been struggling with battery issues of its own. Fisker
suffered a pair of fires last year
, although the company
insists they weren't battery related
. But General Motors Comp. (
) did trace
fires in its Chevy Volt
electric vehicle back to malfunctions,
triggering a quasi-recall
. In the aftermath of the recall GM executives were forced to
testify before Congress
. GM recently acknowledged that the
publicity from the fires hurt Volt sales
Chevrolet Volt [Source: TECHVEHI]
But again, in automotive applications automakers are struggling with the delicate game of risk regarding batteries and additives. Fewer additives might give customers more miles on a charge -- but they might also cause a fire.
III. Soft Demand Tempts Some to Cut Corners
A final issue is soft demand. The struggles of electric vehicles -- caused in part by poor battery range and public awareness of battery safety issues -- have cause the industry to badly miss sales growth predictions.
In 2002 only 800m lithium ion cells shipped. This year roughly 5.5 times that total -- 4.4b cells -- shipped. Glen Bowling, vice president of sales at Saft Specialty Battery Group, a producer of lithium ion batteries, comments to
, "The growth in the mission of lithium-ion batteries is substantial. It's a stretching of the technology boundaries and we have to be professional when we do that."
But the industry is also hurting.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
materials engineering professor
comments, "[2008-era predictions of 2011 demand] were off by more than a factor of 10. This created a great deal of stress among those who manufacture batteries.
LiIon battery-makers have been under increasing financial stress amid missed sales targets.
[Image Source: ANL]
Those miscalculations have caused manufacturers and startups to load up on
expensive lithium metal
and overproduce. Professor Chiang says there's enough idle lithium cell stock to power 400,000 LEAF EVs from Nissan Motor Comp., Ltd. (
Many companies have gone out of business.
Amid that market it may be tempting to the survivors to cut corners. Survivors are desperate that Congress will back
a fresh round of $7,500 to $10,000 USD electric vehicle tax credits
proposed by President Obama to stimulate asales.
"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay
Obama Calls for 75% Budget Increase for Vehicle Research
April 11, 2013, 11:00 AM
Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Battery Fire Caused by a Thermal Runaway Condition
February 11, 2013, 9:17 AM
Airbus Has Back-Up Plan for A350 Lithium-ion Batteries
February 1, 2013, 2:07 PM
Investigation of 787 Dreamliner Issues to Focus on Batteries
January 18, 2013, 1:13 PM
FAA Grounds Boeing's 787 Dreamliner in U.S.
January 16, 2013, 11:23 PM
Jaguar I-PACE – Jaguar’s New Electric Concept / New SUV
November 16, 2016, 5:00 AM
Car Insurance - The Hidden Discriminatory Practise
October 18, 2016, 5:00 AM
End of the Road for the Audi R8 e-tron
October 15, 2016, 5:00 AM
Paralyzed Race Car Driver Recieves Nevada License
October 12, 2016, 5:00 AM
Take a Glance at the Cars of the Paris 2016 Motor Show
October 4, 2016, 5:00 AM
Automaker Porsche may expand range of Panamera Coupe design.
September 18, 2016, 11:00 AM
Most Popular Articles
What Can You Do with Your New Echo Dot?
December 3, 2016, 5:00 AM
Google has developed Deep Learning Algorithm to detect Diabetic Eye Disease
December 4, 2016, 5:00 AM
Microsoft Surface – Which Surface is Right for You?
December 2, 2016, 5:00 AM
The iPlugmate is an Excellent iPhone Flash Drive at a Great Price. (Deal Expires in 3 Days)
November 23, 2016, 1:00 AM
Foscam R2 Home Security Camera System – High Quality High FHD Security Video Footage with No Monthly Fees
December 1, 2016, 2:00 AM
Latest Blog Posts
Latest Tech News
Dec 8, 2016, 5:11 AM
In The News
Dec 7, 2016, 5:00 AM
e Guide: Mobile Security for 2017
Dec 6, 2016, 5:00 AM
Apple Car is Not Dead
Dec 5, 2016, 1:00 AM
Dec 4, 2016, 5:00 AM
Dec 3, 2016, 5:00 AM
Dec 2, 2016, 5:00 AM
Surface Ergonomic Keyboard
Dec 1, 2016, 3:01 AM
Chapeconense plane crash: Football rallies around Brazilian Team
Nov 30, 2016, 1:00 AM
How to Extends Your iPhone’s Battery Life
Nov 29, 2016, 12:49 AM
Nov 28, 2016, 1:12 AM
News: Fidel Castro
Nov 27, 2016, 5:00 AM
Nov 26, 2016, 5:00 AM
Changes in Social status affect the way genes turn on and off within immune cells.
Nov 25, 2016, 5:12 AM
Austrian far–right hopeful Hofer may back EU vote.
Nov 24, 2016, 4:00 AM
Final Fantasy XV Leaked Before Nov 29 Launch Date
Nov 23, 2016, 1:00 AM
Nov 22, 2016, 2:26 AM
Nov 21, 2016, 1:00 AM
HTC Makes Big Moves in China
Nov 20, 2016, 2:00 AM
Do you know who is the number one company in the word?
Nov 19, 2016, 5:30 AM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information