Lithium-ion batteries are giving more than just laptop
makers constant headaches. Cell phone goliath Nokia today issued a product
advisory for the Nokia-branded BL-5C battery warning consumers that the device could
potentially experience overheating initiated by a short circuit while charging,
causing the battery to dislodge.
As the cells in mobile phone batteries are smaller than
those found in laptops, the risks are the same. Nokia told Engadget
that the batteries will “overheat, expand, and pop out of the phone (due to the
expansion of the battery).” The Finnish company said that no serious injuries
or property damage have been reported.
Nokia has several suppliers for BL-5C batteries who have
collectively produced more than 300 million BL-5C batteries. The estimated 46
million BL-5C batteries at fault are manufactured by Matsushita Battery
Industrial Co., Ltd. of Japan between December 2005 and November 2006, from
which there have been approximately 100 incidents of overheating reported
globally. Nokia said that is working closely with Matsushita and will be
cooperating with relevant authorities to investigate this situation.
Nokia is offering that all customers with affected BL-5C devices
a replacement BL-5C battery free of charge. For a full list of affected phones
and a form to check via product identification number, see Nokia’s website.
Battery recalls are a familiar thing for laptop makers, as
over 10 million lithium ion laptop batteries have been recalled worldwide since
last year. A long list of computer manufacturers has felt the effects of the
defective batteries, including Sony,
Interestingly, Matsushita said in late 2006 that was mass
producing improved lithium
ion battery technology that safeguards against overheating. It is
unclear if the BL-5C batteries incorporate this anti-overheating technology.
“When any supplier has a problem, it creates concern for the
technology itself. The challenge that we must meet is to reassure the public
that Lithium-ion batteries are safe,” said Michael Buckner, senior manager for
Panasonic's Energy Solutions Lab, in an
interview with DailyTech. “Safety has always been the number one
priority at Panasonic. The incidents last year just reconfirmed that we need to
maintain safety first in our designs.”