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Lithium-Ion batteries will still be the power source of choice for notebooks in the foreseeable future

There have been battery recalls announced in the past few months involving names such as Dell, Lenovo, Apple, Toshiba, Matsushita/Panasonic, and Fujitsu. The seemingly weekly recall announcements have had many industry watchers and consumers asking for alternatives to current battery technology. But for all the talk of exploding batteries and with recalled units now topping the 7 million, the industry will be sticking with lithium-ion batteries for the foreseeable future.

As shocking as the number of recalls may seem, there have still been fewer than 50 incidents involving the faulty batteries. Also, companies like Hewlett-Packard have yet to announce recalls for its Sony-manufactured batteries and has no plans to do so. The company is confident in the safety of its battery packs and lithium-ion batteries as a whole.

Quite frankly, there really is no credible alternative to lithium-ion technology at the moment. For all the talk of fuel cell technology, which Toshiba recently had on display, the infrastructure to make such technology viable for consumers is not yet in place. eWeek reports:

Moreover, although the recalls have sparked moves by some in the PC industry to increase the care with which lithium-ion cells are manufactured—one group is working to establish universal cell manufacturing standards, for example—there appear to be few lithium-ion alternatives on the horizon at the moment that don't involve trade-offs in energy density, cost or both. Some options, such as zinc-silver batteries, use entirely different chemistries, while others reformulate lithium-ion designs by introducing new materials. Numerous manufacturers are also designing fuel cells, which convert hydrogen into electricity. But none are without challenges, ensuring that in the absence of a dark horse replacement candidate, lithium-ion or some version of the chemistry is likely to power notebooks for years to come.

So while we may not see an alternative to lithium-ion technology take over in the near future, there are other ways to squeeze more run time out of notebooks. The Mobile PC Extended Battery Life (EBL) Working Group is collaborating to ensure that business notebooks will be able to operate for eight hours on a charge by the year 2008. The group is working to develop 72-watt hour batteries, 3-watt 14" and 15" XGA LCD panels and dramatically reduce power requirements in processor/chipset designs to achieve this goal.

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RE: What a play on words...
By JeffDM on 10/9/2006 12:09:39 PM , Rating: 2
The failure rate out the door that you estimate, in itself, is incredibly low for any product. The only problem is that the failures in this battery situation have terrible consequences, where as failure usually means a product that just doesn't work, rather than damaging things.

As a whole, I think companies that get a 1% failure rate for consumer electronics are pretty happy. You can make that be a .000001% failure rate due to manufacturing or design flaws, but really, in general, it's cheaper for a company to replace the failed unit than it is to make it not fail. But products potentially harming people which isn't the user's own fault is the kind of failure that isn't acceptable under any circumstances.

RE: What a play on words...
By TomZ on 10/9/2006 12:18:47 PM , Rating: 2
Has anyone been injured by these batteries? I haven't heard of any injuries, though of course it is a remote possibility.

Also, I think we have to keep this all in context, and compare it to, say a defect in an automobile which has a much greater potential to cause injuries and/or death than a laptop battery. Think also about the possibility of a defect in medical equipment as another example.

RE: What a play on words...
By mlittl3 on 10/9/2006 12:25:20 PM , Rating: 2
I would agree with you except we aren't talking about a loss of data here. The defective batteries cause the laptops to explode. Those few who have been unfortunate enough to experience the problem have been lucky not to have battery acid get on their skin.

RE: What a play on words...
By TomZ on 10/9/2006 12:32:24 PM , Rating: 2
...and the number injured thus far? Zero. Killed? Zero. Odds of being killed or injured? Nearly zero. You're more likely to get injured driving to work than using your laptop at work. Heck you're probably more likely to be struck by lightning.

Also, I don't think battery acid is a concern in a Li-ion battery - it is a different chemistry than lead-acid batteries like those used in cars. The fire itself is the main concern.

RE: What a play on words...
By Murst on 10/9/2006 3:50:03 PM , Rating: 2

and this is exactly why sony is recalling these batteries. They don't want the number of people killed to be 1, they want it to stay at 0.

I'd much rather have a company not wait until someone is killed before they decide a product is recalled.

Laptops are used in many different circumstances, including areas where there isn't much mobility (such as cars, planes, etc). If the battery explodes in that situation, its not very hard to believe that serious injury or death will not follow.

RE: What a play on words...
By rcc on 10/9/2006 4:27:49 PM , Rating: 2
The problem here as I see it, isn't the ones that have failed. But the question of how many more will fail after 100 more cycles. Is it 5%, 50%, 100%; no one knows. And why did the xx fail first; because they were the only ones that will, or because they were in the hands of power users that put a lot of cycles on them in a short period of time.

Obviously the manufacturers don't want to take chances with their reputations. Neither does Sony.

"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken
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