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More Lithium Battery Product Recalls Predicted (mercurynews.com) 99

While "the vast majority" of lithium-ion batteries will never malfunction, lithium itself "is highly combustible and batteries made with it are subject to 'thermal runaway'," which can be triggered by damage -- or by bad design. An anonymous reader quotes the San Jose Mercury News: Battery and electronics manufacturers take numerous steps to try to mitigate such dangers... But while the industry has tried to make lithium-ion batteries safer, 'the technology itself isn't foolproof,' said Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage research at GTM Research... And there's reason to think that the problem could get worse before it gets better. Consumer demand for devices that are ever more powerful and longer lasting has encouraged manufacturers to make batteries that can hold even more charge. To do that, they typically pack the battery cells closer and closer together...

Since June of this year, educational toy company Roylco recalled 1,400 light tables designed for kids... Razor, Swagway and some eight other manufacturers recalled a total of 500,000 hoverboards. And HP and Sony between them recalled more than 42,000 notebook computers. All for similar reasons -- lithium-ion batteries that either had caught fire or which have posed a fire hazard... Other notorious examples include the several different Tesla Model S's that have caught fire, typically after crashes compromised their battery packs, and Sony's wide-scale recall a decade ago of the batteries that powered its Vaio and other laptop computers.

In a related story, Samsung's recall of their Note 7 is now expected to cost $5.3 billion.
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More Lithium Battery Product Recalls Predicted

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... will ultimately be passed to the consumer. No one seems to be talking about that. Samsung isn't just going to "lose" 5.3 billion dollars; they'll be marking up future hardware to finance it.

    • by hashish ( 62254 ) on Sunday October 16, 2016 @06:10PM (#53087295)

      No, not totally true because no one is going to force you to buy a Samsung product, you have to see the value at the higher price for this to work.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        A lot of businesses give their employees a choice only between either the current Samsung flagship products or the iPhone. It's IT policy where I work for sure. Maybe the everyday consumer can walk away, but many professionals are going to be hit hard if/when such a thing occurs.

        Furthermore, this battery issue isn't just limited to Samsung if you RTFA.

        • A lot of businesses give their employees a choice only between either the current Samsung flagship products or the iPhone. It's IT policy where I work for sure. Maybe the everyday consumer can walk away, but many professionals are going to be hit hard if/when such a thing occurs.

          Furthermore, this battery issue isn't just limited to Samsung if you RTFA.

          This is ridiculous. If your employer's IT is saying they can only support the latest Samsung flagship, or an iPhone, (you didn't specify latest,) then they need to be fired. Even in the "worst case" scenario of having to support Exchange, ActiveSync has been available Android, and hence Samsung's phones, for a VERY long time.

          • by radish ( 98371 )

            It's not about support, it's about security. Knox (only on Samsung) is the closest you can get to decent security on Android, and if you're using it for work purposes they likely care about such things.

        • Maybe the everyday consumer can walk away, but many professionals are going to be hit hard if/when such a thing occurs.

          So what you're saying is it still comes down to someone's decision?

    • ... will ultimately be passed to the consumer. No one seems to be talking about that. Samsung isn't just going to "lose" 5.3 billion dollars; they'll be marking up future hardware to finance it.

      They aren't talking about it because it doesn't work that way. Samsung is in a competitive market for smartphones and cannot arbitrarily raise prices to make up for a previous loss. No one can, not even Apple. Think about it for just half a second. If they could have raised prices and still sold the same number of units they would have done that already. No, Samsung is going to eat this one. It's a big company and they can probably take the hit but losing that amount of money hurts even the biggest o

      • Actually, that's exactly how it works. Samsung's profits are, in part, a hedge on cost of risk; or they have insurance against shit like this, which they cover a deductible for (from cash holdings built by profits), and the insurer essentially manages that cost. Either way, there's a chunk of cost that goes to covering these problems.

        You have to remember everything is wages. In the U.S., the average profit rate is 10%--that is, out of all of the income, 90% is individual and 10% is business. Some bus

        • Actually, that's exactly how it works.

          No it is not. I'm a certified accountant so I ought to know. I do this for a living. Samsung does not and never has been able to arbitrarily raise prices to compensate for product disasters. They are limited in what they can charge by what other can charge. This is a cold stone fact not up for dispute.

          Samsung's profits are, in part, a hedge on cost of risk; or they have insurance against shit like this, which they cover a deductible for (from cash holdings built by profits), and the insurer essentially manages that cost.

          A company the size of Samsung is most likely self insured [wikipedia.org] for issues like this. The fact that they have built up a pile of profits to absorb losses like this has NOTHING to do with the fact that they wil

          • The original argument attempts to imply that companies somehow "eat" the losses. They don't. Their ability to manage risk is built-in.

            Businesses don't price everything to fit a happy world where nothing ever goes wrong, then accept a loss or "pass it on to the consumer" when something breaks. They assess the cost of risk, factor that into the cost of business, and derive price from that cost. When something goes wrong and prices don't go up, it's because prices already factor in something going wrong

    • ... and if I'm not a Samsung customer, then I won't be paying for their fuck up. Also, if they raise their prices, they will be less competitive with the other smartphone manufacturers.

  • It's simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 16, 2016 @05:45PM (#53087175)

    Make the devices thicker. Nobody wants a thin phone, just to put in in otterbox. Just make the device as thick as if it were in a case, and use the extra space for battery. On an iPhone you will get 3 times the battery if not more

    • I agree, I'm sick of the "my phone is thinner than yours" marketing spiel, how about my phone is more comfortable and easier to hold.
      • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Sunday October 16, 2016 @06:10PM (#53087293) Homepage

        My phone blows up less, and it has a replaceable battery. It isn't any thicker than a wallet. It fits in a pocket. Maybe I'm just old, but I don't really benefit if it gets thinner. It isn't an `80s backpack phone, after all.

        They really need to clue in and start taking batteries seriously again, like in the olden days. Household-name battery companies should be stepping in and releasing OEM lithium battery packs. It could be a major selling point to have "Now with Trusted Brand(TM) battery pack! Think of the Children!"

        • by martinX ( 672498 )

          My phone blows up less, too, and it has a VGA camera. It also has sudoku. Ain't technology grand.

        • My phone blows up less, and it has a replaceable battery.

          The problem with this argument is that all phones blow up less regardless whether or not the battery is replaceable. Remember Samsung is recalling ~2-3million phones. They have shipped on average 150million every year for the last decade without any blowing up issue being correlated to a battery being removable or not.

          • Right, but you went running to "try to disprove this part I don't understand" instead of asking yourself, "why are smart people claiming that it helps to be removable?"

            And the answer you might have found would be that if it is removable, and there is a batch of bad batteries discovered after they've already been installed, you can replace them without replacing the whole device. The thing you tried to refute isn't a thing anybody said. Who cares if it doesn't correlate to things I didn't say it correlates t

            • And the answer you might have found would be that if it is removable, and there is a batch of bad batteries discovered after they've already been installed, you can replace them without replacing the whole device

              Look I hear this over and over again so let me give you my standard response:

              a) There's evidence the problems are not related to batteries
              b) The cost of the initial recall was minor, the cost of rework is also minor.
              c) With over 1billion phones sold and until recently zero explosions, there's no business case for "we better make them removable just in case".

      • by Anonymous Coward

        One thing I miss from the pre-cell phone era is the ability to hold a receiver to my ear with my shoulder. That's impossible with a cell phone of any description since some time in the 90s.

      • by cjjjer ( 530715 )

        my phone is thinner than yours

        Reminds me of the Corner Gas episode "Cell Phone" where the physical size of the phone was the important buzz.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      One or two mm extra thickness due to replaceable batteries won't scare off any consumer, so why not do it?

      While "the vast majority" of lithium-ion batteries will never malfunction, lithium itself "is highly combustible and batteries made with it are subject to 'thermal runaway'," which can be triggered by damage -- or by bad design

      So it's dangerous, yet not easily replaceable. What does that say? Manufacturers care more about profit than customers getting injured in a fire. Even with good design, the batter

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        There should never be "lithium" (as in, metallic lithium) in a lithium-ion battery. In normal operation, you have the lithium ions intercalated in graphite (or now silicon) on the anode end and intercalated in a spinel or olivine material on the cathode end; you never deal with metallic lithium. Lithium metal existing in a li-ion battery means that something has gone wrong. So talking about the flammability of lithium metal as it's part of the fundamental risk of a li-ion battery is a distortion of the a

        • Re:It's simple (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Streetlight ( 1102081 ) on Sunday October 16, 2016 @07:20PM (#53087547) Journal
          Even though Samsung has said they don't know what caused the problem in the Note 7s, I have a theory. In the drive for thinness the battery is squeezed very tightly against the other internal parts of the phone. Charging and discharging will cause expansion and contraction of the battery and in the tight environment some warping and bending might occur causing breaking of the outer battery skin. In addition if the battery comes in contact with sharp or pointed components in the phone expansion could result in pierced battery skin. The result is leakage of the liquid ether containing liquid electrolyte. These are organic ethers, not diethyl ether once used as anesthetic, but more complex, higher molecular weight compounds. Ethers coming in contact with air form peroxides which are spontaneously explosive and flammable. This might explain why the phones burn when not in use as the accumulated organic ethers take some time to become oxidized to peroxides.

          The suggestion by earlier posters that phones should contain customer replaceable batteries might mitigate what I have suggested happened. The design of the batteries I've seen for phones with replaceable batteries (like my wife's Samsung Galaxy S4) were contained in substantial metal cases to be placed in a cavity in the phone protected from internal phone components. Maybe the phones would the somewhat thicker. So what?
          • by Rei ( 128717 )

            If that were the case, I'd expect wear in non-failed batteries. And not all battery electrolytes are flammable, let alone outright hypergolic with air - and I'd expect evidence of any flammable peroxide accumulation in some phones which hadn't caught fire. This doesn't sound plausible to me.

            Often these sorts of random faults are due to defective membranes, aka bad QC. Also bad charge management or monitoring can lead to a fire in such batteries. When you want the highest energy density chemistries, you

            • Quote: "I'd expect evidence of any flammable peroxide accumulation in some phones which hadn't caught fire."

              The only time the peroxides would show up is if the battery had leaked and in the absence of leakage there's no exposure to air so no peroxides.

              Samsung quickly found replacement batteries from a different manufacturer but the same problem seems to obtain. Were the new ones on the shelf in numbers Samsung needed because they were a standard product of the manufacturer? If both the original and
          • Even though Samsung has said they don't know what caused the problem in the Note 7s, I have a theory. In the drive for thinness the battery is squeezed very tightly against the other internal parts of the phone. Charging and discharging will cause expansion and contraction of the battery and in the tight environment some warping and bending might occur causing breaking of the outer battery skin. In addition if the battery comes in contact with sharp or pointed components in the phone expansion could result in pierced battery skin. The result is leakage of the liquid ether containing liquid electrolyte. These are organic ethers, not diethyl ether once used as anesthetic, but more complex, higher molecular weight compounds. Ethers coming in contact with air form peroxides which are spontaneously explosive and flammable. This might explain why the phones burn when not in use as the accumulated organic ethers take some time to become oxidized to peroxides.

            The suggestion by earlier posters that phones should contain customer replaceable batteries might mitigate what I have suggested happened. The design of the batteries I've seen for phones with replaceable batteries (like my wife's Samsung Galaxy S4) were contained in substantial metal cases to be placed in a cavity in the phone protected from internal phone components. Maybe the phones would the somewhat thicker. So what?

            I have a Galaxy S5 which I bought a replacement battery for a little while back. Every time the battery got hot, it would start making a loud tick or snap noise every so often. Not long after I identified this source, I went back to my original battery. It may hold less charge but I don't like it when a lithium battery is acting like it wants to do something potentially violent.

            This sound rather similar to your theory, in a phone that had a little more tolerance.

            • by PRMan ( 959735 )

              All 4 of my S5's have had thermal issues with the original lithium ion batteries. Thankfully, it was removable and replacements were $12 each, so I just replaced them. They all still work great.

              But, to add to the grandparent, PHONES GET DROPPED. Expansion/contraction probably has little to do with the problem.

          • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

            The suggestion by earlier posters that phones should contain customer replaceable batteries might mitigate what I have suggested happened. The design of the batteries I've seen for phones with replaceable batteries (like my wife's Samsung Galaxy S4) were contained in substantial metal cases to be placed in a cavity in the phone protected from internal phone components. Maybe the phones would the somewhat thicker. So what?
            Flag as Inappropriate

            Hah. It just appears so.

            A battery is in a plastic frame, and wrapp

          • I have a theory

            So do I, electronic design. The good thing about theories is there are even more of them than standards.
            There's a myriad of things that could cause a lithium battery to blow up in service, and unless someone here works for Samsung it is likely we won't know for sure what caused it.

      • One or two mm extra thickness due to replaceable batteries won't scare off any consumer, so why not do it?

        If you are asking the company doing it the answers include the following:
        1) Customers demonstrably do not care if the battery is removable by their buying behavior. Other features are clearly more important.
        2) Few customers ever removed the battery. Why put in a costly feature that almost nobody actually used?
        3) Having a removable battery adds cost and customers demonstrably are not willing to pay extra for this feature given that few actually use it.
        4) It eliminates third party batteries and the attendan

        • by PRMan ( 959735 )
          And that "simple" calculation about removable batteries turned out to be demonstrably wrong, to the tune of a billion dollars.
    • Li Fe P04 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Sunday October 16, 2016 @06:30PM (#53087377)

      It seems to me this battery is the one we've been waiting for. Yes a little less peak energy storage but it's thermal properties and lifetime mean that it can be recharged fast and will degrade less over the life of the phone. Effectively that means in practice the phone will perform better than Li ion. I don't think it's going to cost more either. Yes right now it is slightly pricier but it doesn't have the economy of scale working for it yet so the jury may be out on that.

      Is it just thickness then? That's short sighted.

      It does have one double edged sword. It's voltage is 3.2v so it's absolutely perfect for running 3.3v chips right off the battery without a regulator. 3.7v is slightly above many 3.3v chip max voltages so you end up with a regulator and that's a loss. You can run the 3.2v Lifepo4 all the way up to 3.6V at max charge but at anything less than 95% charge it's under 3.4v making it safe at all times for 3.3v electronics.
      The flip side of beinbg below 3.6v is if you really do need a regulator for some reason then your V_drop has to be very small and you don't have much headroom above the minimum regulator voltage, or you have to drop the operating voltage down lower than 3 volts. A lot of 3.3v chips tend to start sucking current hard when you drop them below 3v so that headrooom matters in a big way.

      • Re:Li Fe P04 (Score:4, Informative)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday October 16, 2016 @07:39PM (#53087609) Homepage

        It's that they are 4X more expensive than Lithium Polymer batteries. Cellphone makers care more about profits and "thinnyness" than making a quality product.

        Plus using LiFePO4 means your cellphone will last 5-7 years EASILY without a battery failing. and that is bad for profits.

        • Re:Li Fe P04 (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Sunday October 16, 2016 @08:02PM (#53087705) Journal

          4X more expensive *and* 25% lower energy density is a pretty big hit. The whole push is to get more time out of a battery, and taking the space of a 10Wh battery and throwing in a 7.5Wh battery isn't going to make users happy. I agree that thinness is a stupid-ass metric for companies to compete on, but we're kind of stuck with it until all-powerful Apple tells us that it's not the in-thing anymore.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            It seems as though there is a plague of mass-dumbassery taking place. A perfect example is Apple's "thinner is better" ideology. Now, what category of humans tends to focus and obsess on "thinness"? If you guessed "females", you guessed right. The origin of all evil in the universe: https://www.nawbo.org/

        • They don't really seem to be 4x as expensive (though the capacity loss is real).

          For instance, a 30 second search on Hobby King:

          Turnigy 2200 mah 3S Lipo pack, $10
          http://www.hobbyking.com/hobby... [hobbyking.com]

          Zippy 2100 mah 3S LiFePO4 pack, $15.60
          http://www.hobbyking.com/hobby... [hobbyking.com]

          I bet the cell manufacturers don't pay more than $4-5 for the current Lipos in our phones in bulk. That would be more like $6-7.50 for a LiFePo4 cell. But it would have to be 25-30% larger for the same capacity as well.

          No idea why NO manufacturers

        • Plus using LiFePO4 means your cellphone will last 5-7 years EASILY without a battery failing. and that is bad for profits.

          What are you talking about? After 1 year some phones won't be trendy anymore. After 1.5 years a large pool of these phones will be cracked, broken, or dingged with owners just waiting for a contract to expire. After 2 years most people replace their phones regardless if they work perfectly or not because hey contract is up and I can get a new shiny for "free".

          This won't affect profits one bit.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Or lmr. They have a little lower energy density, so the battery has to be a little bigger, but they don't go boom if overcharged or over discharged and they are rated for 20-40 Amps so the phone won't overload them. They also have a voltage range comparable to LiIon, so no need for a total re-design and a little easier to regulate.

        They're safe enough to use without a protection circuit in an eCig.

      • by PRMan ( 959735 )
        Finding/making a 3.3v chip with a tolerance up to 3.8v shouldn't be that difficult.
    • I'm with you on slightly thicker phones, but the bad news is that would make it worse. You can make a case thick enough and light enough for a modern phone to contain the sudden runaway of a lithium battery. Making the case tighter and stronger just means you get a bigger bang when it does finally give. And using the case to put in a bigger battery - just more energy to dissipate when it goes off.

      Besides - a thicker phone just means having to put an even bigger case on it. Nobody it buying cases to protect

      • Not just thicker -- with a REPLACEABLE battery. Production batteries start having a problem? Instead of having to recall 3 billion dollars worth of phones, you can send out new batteries made conservatively, or even with completely different tech.

        Non-replaceable batteries present a much broader spectrum of risks. All the manufacturers get out of it is a bit of thin, and the hope that your phone will seem unfixable to you when the battery dies.

        They're treating the consumer very poorly.

        And as long as the cust

        • by Agripa ( 139780 )

          Not just thicker -- with a REPLACEABLE battery. Production batteries start having a problem? Instead of having to recall 3 billion dollars worth of phones, you can send out new batteries made conservatively, or even with completely different tech.

          Non-replaceable batteries present a much broader spectrum of risks. All the manufacturers get out of it is a bit of thin, and the hope that your phone will seem unfixable to you when the battery dies.

          They're treating the consumer very poorly.

          And as long as the customer base can be kept from realizing that, they'll keep almost certainly doing it, too.

          My guess is that besides not enforcing obsolescence, they figure replaceable batteries encourage third party batteries which will be even less reliable and more of a safety hazard. Or at least that is the excuse they will use.

      • The phone needs to have a replaceable battery for two reasons:
        1. To be able to replace the battery if it turns out that the battery is defective and prone to catching fire. If Note 7 had a replaceable battery, Samsung could have told the buyers to just bring the battery to the recycling center etc instead of shipping the entire phone in a flame proof box.
        2. To protect the battery from the other phone components.

        I use older phones that have replaceable batteries. The battery has a case tat is quite sturdy (I

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          1. To be able to replace the battery if it turns out that the battery is defective and prone to catching fire. If Note 7 had a replaceable battery, Samsung could have told the buyers to just bring the battery to the recycling center etc instead of shipping the entire phone in a flame proof box.
          2. To protect the battery from the other phone components.

          Wow, so you know more about the fires than Samsung?

          Newsflash - the first part of the recalls were PROBABLY caused by faulty Samsung made batteries. So Samsung

          • by Pentium100 ( 1240090 ) on Monday October 17, 2016 @02:32AM (#53088887)

            Removable batteries have to have protection circuitry built in the battery (AFAIK it is the law). Protection circuits that cut off power (sometimes permanently) in case of overcharge, overdischarge or overheat. Protection circuits that you can leave out when making the battery non-removable.

            Here are the reasons I came up with why the batteries exploded:
            1. Bad batteries - not very likely as the new (supposedly good) batteries still exploded.
            2. Bad charger circuits leading to overcharge or overheat. The protection circuits should have prevented that.
            3. Incorrectly set low voltage cut-out resulting in overdischarge. The protection circuits should have prevented that too.
            4. Battery overheat due to being near some hot chip or other component. The protection circuits should have cut off power.
            5. Battery case squished or pierced by some component in the phone. The double case of a removable battery should have prevented that. May have helped with insulating the battery from the hot component as well.

            So your phone components really get only another sticker's worth of isolation.

            Both the battery case and the phone case under the battery compartment is thicker than a sticker, at least in my phones.

            • Removable batteries have to have protection circuitry built in the battery (AFAIK it is the law).

              Not at all. Most are able to withstand a short circuit but the protection circuit built into batteries is incredibly crude at best. General purpose lithium batteries need to be resistant to all sorts of things you mentioned, but there's the lovely little gotchya that by having a specific form factor manufactured for a specific device they are not general purpose. All those extra pins exposes on the batteries allow the protection circuits in the charger to interface with it. Usually they are balance lines be

    • Some researcher's speaking aspirationally. There are a lot of dogs not eating the dogfood. Whoever wanted these thin devices done just now on the consumer's dime is having a sad. Automakers, perhaps?

      Anyway, this consumer demands a usable off-screen keyboard, easy to get to all 95 ASCII printable characters plus Enter, Tab and Esc. And not having on the order of a watt of microwave power mere millimeters from my BRAINS trying to talk to a BTS a kilometer or more away... this does NOT make sense, not even

    • At the same time the overheating problem would worsen threefold.

    • My Galaxy S5 is the last Samsung Galaxy with a removable battery. A spare battery that lets me keep a second one charged requires little space change on the phone and allows longer use without portable external battery packs. I've got a charger on the wall at home and a second battery charged when I'm going to go out on the road and need a long amount of phone battery use. Swap the battery when I get down to under 20 percent. Cost of the pair of items was around $16.00.

      The phone maker can sell the optio

      • by PRMan ( 959735 )
        We do the same at home. After all 4 phone batteries overheated, we bought 5 more and a charger, and now one is always ready to go.
  • Any terrorist could turn a laptop into a bomb much more devastating than the guy who set his pants on fire or the shoe bomb that fizzled out. Why hasn't this happened yet and why hasn't DHS put a ban on all electronic devices with batteries on airplanes? Why can't I bring shampoo or toothpaste in my carry on but a lithium battery is fine?
  • I think I said this a few weeks ago on my Facebook.

    You can only pack so much charge into a lithium before the slightest knock will set it off.

    The note 4/5 batteries aren't even designed to last even 2 years. The result of trying to push a higher capacity into a small physical size.

    They pushed the envelope too far in the Note 7.

  • In todays bleeding edge market, no one takes the time to properly test their components before shipping to market. They want to get the latest and greatest into the hands of the customer yesterday. What ever happened to Underwriter's Lab? We need something like that for cell phones, tablets, etc. Refuse to allow a company to sell products that haven't been tested for safety. Nah, what am I saying. Those corporations own the puppets who are supposed to make these laws. Never going to happen.

    • Puh-leeze! Don't you understand that if companies had to do that, it would slow innovation? American companies would less innovative! We cannot have an innovation gap!

      Besides, no company would sell a dangerous product because it would affect their profitability! So why have this extra step? We can certainly trust companies to make sure that their products aren't dangerous because it's in their own interest!

      So a few people get injured along the way. That's price you pay for innovation!

      (And, yes, I'm be

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "What ever happened to Underwriter's Lab?"

      An interesting observation. Have you ever considered what the word "Underwriter's" here means in context? UL was originally set up by Insurance Underwriters as part of Risk Assessment; how much should Insurance Premiums be set in regards to potential Liabilities. In other words, the Minimum Safety Standards set so as to guarantee a profitable Insurance Industry. It only peripherally was directly concerned with Consumer Safety. That said, UL did develop a reputation

  • toxic fumes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 101percent ( 589072 ) on Sunday October 16, 2016 @07:21PM (#53087551)
    Something rarely discussed is the toxic fumes. The hobbiest flashlight community has done a lot of research on these batteries for the past decade. The fire is the absolute least of your worries. These batteries violently vent extremely toxic gas that causes severe damage when inhaled. If you breathe this in you should immediately seek emergency attention. I just haven't seen this mentioned enough and everyone should share.
  • by MouseR ( 3264 ) on Sunday October 16, 2016 @07:43PM (#53087625) Homepage

    It's catchy to slide in Tesla in unrelated articles but just because it uses batteries doesn't mean they are prone to fires.

    The one that famously caught fire and torched a supercharger in Europe was caused by a genuine one-off assembly line defect [greencarreports.com].
    The one that caught fire in France during a test drive was found to have a a faulty electrical connection [autoblog.com].
    The one that crashed on autopilot and "battery caught fire" actually didn't burned down: it smashed into a tree separating the front of the vehicle from the cabine, tearing the battery apart where a small number of cells separated from the rest and autopilot tesla crash fire caught fire, away from the vehicle [electrek.co] and the rest of the battery pack. Driver dies of impact.
    Another one caught fire due to hitting debris where car alerted driver to pull aside [nytimes.com].

    Complete list of EV fires exonerate batteries for the most part, as most EVs (Tesla and Chevy Volt) have liquid-cooled battery packs, unlike consumer electronics (esp. handheld devices).

    • by gnupun ( 752725 )

      It's catchy to slide in Tesla in unrelated articles but just because it uses batteries doesn't mean they are prone to fires.

      Except batteries are prone to fires when damaged which is why Tesla added titanium shields to the underbodies of their cars.

      https://www.tesla.com/blog/tes... [tesla.com]

      • Except batteries are prone to fires when damaged which is why Tesla added titanium shields to the underbodies of their cars.

        Gasoline-powered cars are also prone to fires when damaged, which is why they should also have shields on the underbodies. Most cars have plastic fuel tanks now, even (or perhaps especially!) very expensive ones. But virtually nothing a pickup truck ever has a tank shield.

        • by gnupun ( 752725 )

          Could it be because fuel tanks occupy only a small area of the underbody of a car compared to almost all the underbody of a Telsa car is occupied by the battery.

          • Could it be because fuel tanks occupy only a small area of the underbody of a car compared to almost all the underbody of a Telsa car is occupied by the battery.

            No, no it could not. That only means that a gas tank only needs a smaller shield. The fact that they put shields on pickup trunk tanks proves that they know that fuel tanks can be punctured and that it is a problem.

      • Yes, and the Samsung batteries are blowing up because they're mis-assembled. Regular use causes them to explode.

        Tesla batteries are blowing up because people are driving iron rods through them.

  • Duh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by p51d007 ( 656414 ) on Sunday October 16, 2016 @09:26PM (#53087943)
    Been saying this a while. Anyone with an electronics background that also knows anything about chemistry could tell you these Lithium Ion or polymer batteries are ticking time bombs, just waiting for an excuse to go off. Usually there are 3 backups. 1 in the phone (or charging device) and 2 in the battery. The charging circuit, will cut off current once it reaches the programmed level. The thermistor(s) in the battery, will tell the charging circuit to stop the current flow, if the battery heats up to whatever the cutoff level is. And the fail safe, is the thermal fuse. If all else fales, and the battery continues to heat up, the thermal fuse will melt in two pieces, which cuts off all current flow (and requiring the battery to be replaced, it is a one shot device). But, if the thermal fuse is close to the breakdown of the chemicals of the battery, it might be too late to prevent a thermal runaway. If phone manufacturers would stop cow-towing to the "fashion designers" in Hollywood and make phones that aren't "slim and stylish" for the lDIOT hollywood types that run around all the time with their phones in their hand, and start "beefing up" the cases, it would provide enough ROOM inside a phone, to go back to a removable battery. The batteries in non removable battery phones, typically do not have a protective plastic case surrounding them. That plastic case takes up room, room that can be used to increase the capacity of the battery, which given the manufacturers silly idea of continuing to increase the processor speed, screen density etc, need a bigger and bigger battery, in hopes it will make it through the entire day, without needing charging. Now, the problem is you combine a battery that can flex, that has as much capacity that they can squeeze into it, coupled with a very thin casing, then, place said phone, in your tight jeans back pocket, front pocket, and sit down and get up a few dozen times a day and that battery starts to flex. Once you break down the barrier shield that keeps everything separated (anode, cathode, electrolyte) and they all get together, you end up with a thermal runaway. People "think" they wanted thinner and thinner phones, because that's what the industry produced, and they go along like little sheep. Now, you are stuck with non removable batteries, thin phones and the result is BOOM! For Samsung's part, they tried to "one up" Apple, by releasing their phone, without really testing for durability. This time, it costs them DEARLY!
  • Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries are considerably more stable than lithium polymer and are not prone to thermal runaway.

    They have somewhat lower energy density than lithium polymer, which is probably why they're not very common for phones, tablets, and laptops. They were used in the OLPC.

    They are also somewhat common in RC cars and planes, in part due to their voltage (3.2V, so four series cells make 12.8V), and in part due to their higher possible discharge current.

    • They are also somewhat common in RC cars and planes, in part due to their voltage (3.2V, so four series cells make 12.8V), and in part due to their higher possible discharge current.

      The voltage difference from normal lipos is irrelevant, and there's high-discharge lipos now. The benefit of lifepo4 is a massive reduction in fire risk. It's not high discharge as much as high charge without fire since we already have high-rate lipos.

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