Lithium-Based Batteries – What Every Manufacturer Should Know

24 November 2011

Battery power. A lot of industries, specifically electric vehicles, are adopting new methods to use batteries for multiple purposes. Why? Batteries, specifically lithium-based, have a number of advantages and long-term pay-offs. While there are a number of benefits, manufacturers also should be aware of the risk and safety factors associated with lithium-based batteries. Over the course of the next several weeks, this blog will explore a three-part series on lithium-based batteries – specifically exploring the common causes of external and internal battery faults, common issues to consider for primary and rechargeable batteries, and more.

One of the lithium battery's major strengths is its high energy density. However, this strength is also a leading reason as to why the risks of lithium-based chemistry are greater than in other battery systems. But why?  Although the risks are directly linked to the specific cell chemistry, the cell size and cell number, there also are certain common factors that manufacturers should be aware of from a safety standpoint when using lithium batteries. These factors include the following:

  • Impact of high temperatures.  Lithium batteries contain flammable material in the form of organic electrolytes that have a low flash point and polymers that can maintain a fire and increase the risk of spreading to surrounding areas.
  • Impact of low temperatures. Low temperatures can also pose a problem. Primary batteries generally only lose their function when it becomes too cold, which can be serious enough. Rechargeable batteries often have limited chargeability at low temperatures, and should not be charged if the ambient temperature is lower than the lowest recommended charge temperature, as it may lead to formation of metallic lithium which is precipitated as islands on the anode, so-called lithium plating, and forms dendrites that can cause interior short circuits in the cell.

The next blog entry will take a closer look at the common external causes of battery faults.  Check back on December 1 for that blog entry.

To speak with an Intertek expert on this subject matter, e-mail us at EVNews@intertek.com.