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Are lithium batteries safe?


Chalkie
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This caught my eye today. An electric bus in Connecticut caught fire and they had a heck of a time getting it out. The full article can be found here.

So my question is, how safe these lithium batteries really. More and more are putting them in their RVs, with or without solar. We have them in more and more cars. There have been articles about phones combusting. I was considering some for the RV but now I am not so sure. 

burningbus.jpg

Edited by Chalkie
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The early lithium batteries were a different chemical composition than the industry standard used today for EV’s, RV’s and off grid systems.  The early chemistries had issues with thermal runaway and combustion.  The current chemistry of LiFePOare very stable and no longer present the same issues as the old chemistries.

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1 hour ago, Chad Heiser said:

The early lithium batteries were a different chemical composition than the industry standard used today for EV’s, RV’s and off grid systems.  The early chemistries had issues with thermal runaway and combustion.  The current chemistry of LiFePOare very stable and no longer present the same issues as the old chemistries.

But this was today. So basically older EVs (although I don't know how long these have been service) would still have the old style batteries? I'm not sure I find that thought comforting.

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Most, but not all of us are using the LifeP04 batteries that Chad referenced.  The chemical make up is very stable and doesn't burn like typical  lithium ion batteries. Like what is found in a cell phone.  These aren't as energy dense, meaning a little heavier and slightly larger.    EV's such as Tesla use both types.  There are advantages to both but I only use LifeP04 as they are much safer.  Unfortunately when people mention lithium batteries the fire problems are all mixed together.  There are detailed articles and YouTube videos that discuss this in detail.

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If you feel anxious about Li-Ion batteries being safe by all means avoid them. We have seen laptops of al brands years back catch fire, iPads explode in early models, as well as iPhones and Android phones in the last three years or so. I still use mine with Li-Ion batteries too.

Exploding Phones: Why It Happens, How to Prevent It

The average smartphone is unlikely to explode, but it happens. There's not much you can do if shoddy hardware is to blame, but these tips may help prevent your phone from going up in smoke.

"Sometimes smartphones explode. This summer alone, an Alaska Airlines flight was evacuated after a Samsung Galaxy A21 caught fire, a Galaxy A02 caused a house fire(Opens in a new window) in Glasgow, a device exploded inside a man's pocket(Opens in a new window) in Vietnam, and a battery blew up in a man's hand(Opens in a new window) in China.

The likelihood of your smartphone exploding is slim, but it happens, as demonstrated by Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 fiasco a few years ago. But why does it happen and what, if anything, can you do to avoid it?"

From August 31, 2021 Source PC Magazine:

https://www.pcmag.com/how-to/why-phones-explode-and-how-to-prevent-it-from-happening-to-you

From 2018, iPhones exploding in Europe with injuries:

https://www.newsweek.com/ipad-explodes-apple-store-injuring-3-people-1080953

Ford is having a serious problem with fires right now. Many more than just one have caught fire and those are fossil fueled not battery EVs.

Good information and you are doing due diligence before using them in your RV.

The bus that caught fire was in my home state of Connecticut and the last line said that: "According to a representative from CT Transit, the buses have been pulled from operation until a full investigation has been completed."

Please let us know what the cause was when the investigation is complete and they find the cause.

Safe travels!

 

Edited by RV_
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3 hours ago, Randyretired said:

Most, but not all of us are using the LifeP04 batteries that Chad referenced.  The chemical make up is very stable and doesn't burn like typical  lithium ion batteries. Like what is found in a cell phone.  These aren't as energy dense, meaning a little heavier and slightly larger.    EV's such as Tesla use both types.  There are advantages to both but I only use LifeP04 as they are much safer.  Unfortunately when people mention lithium batteries the fire problems are all mixed together.  There are detailed articles and YouTube videos that discuss this in detail.

I agree with you that LifeP04 batteries are safer completely Randy, unless punctured. And they are safer in many respects but when punctured as in a wreck or accident like gasoline and Li-Ion batteries they can also catch fire.

Like the single data point with the bus fire this thread is about, the tester in this video states right up front that they are safer, but he too was surprised by the fire. And that it does not [provide its own oxygen to sustain the fire internally.

Let's just remember that all high density fuels and batteries can cause fires under the right circumstances just like airplanes can and do crash. Some folks choose to take boats and cars which also can crash, catch fire, and sink in the case of the boats. Being aware and not taking for granted something is safe just because others use it or do it is a good thing.

I picked this of several because he asks that you not judge them by one test alone. This applies to everything when evaluating safety of any energy source.

 

Edited by RV_
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42 minutes ago, RV_ said:

I agree with you that LifeP04 batteries are safer completely Randy, unless punctured. And they are safer in many respects but when punctured as in a wreck or accident like gasoline and Li-Ion batteries they can also catch fire.

Like the single data point with the bus fire this thread is about, the tester in this video states right up front that they are safer, but he too was surprised by the fire. And that it does not [provide its own oxygen to sustain the fire internally.

Let's just remember that all high density fuels and batteries can cause fires under the right circumstances just like airplanes can and do crash. Some folks choose to take boats and cars which also can crash, catch fire, and sink in the case of the boats. Being aware and not taking for granted something is safe just because others use it or do it is a good thing.

I picked this of several because he asks that you not judge them by one test alone. This applies to everything when evaluating safety of any energy source.

 

There are also many videos of LifeP04 batteries sustaining punctures without igniting.  Some claim these are safer than lead acid but as you said these can burn if all things align.  Another aspect is the total amount of energy stored.  Most RV's that have lithium have larger battery banks and like in an EV that much energy is not without some risk.  Most of  these use a BMS which in most cases keeps the battery safe.  Maybe safer than gasoline? However, the sensational stories of lithium batteries burning has some jurisdictions banning ANY lithium for solar in a house unless it meets a new testing criteria that most are not certified for.  So we have these batteries in our EV's in our garage but can't have them in an attached garage for the house?  We have them in our phones and laptops but not for the house.

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This was started with Gary posting about a Li-Ion battery vehicle fire. You nailed it Randy. Except for one thing when you said

"Most of  these use a BMS which in most cases keeps the battery safe.  Maybe safer than gasoline?"

The topic is - are Li-Ion batteries safe from fires because of one bus fire.

Implying that gasoline energy storage is safer from fires and explosions is the reverse of what we see when we look at their fires:

Excerpt:

According to findings pointed out by AutoInsuranceEZ, vehicles that operate using gasoline are tenfold more likely to catch fire compared to EVs.

The study compiled and compared data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), and government recall data from Recalls.gov to put together the charts you see above and below.

From that data, you will notice that far more fire recalls were made in 2020 for gasoline models, which also include hybrids in which vehicle batteries garner 100% of their energy directly from gasoline combustion in the engine.

Admittedly, 2021 tells a different recall story as Chevy alone recalled over 140,000 Bolt EVs and EUVs. That being said, the recall was implemented following just 16 vehicle fires resulting in only a few injuries. Still, those EV fires occurred, providing argument fuel to those already hesitant to adapt to electrification.

EV fires Source: AutoinsuranceEZ.com Chart Picture in article

So, let’s talk about the vehicle fires themselves. As you can see from the car fire data compiled from the NTSB, gasoline is a lot more combustable. Who knew? If you combine gasoline cars with hybrids (also require gasoline), you’re looking at over 215,000 fires compared to 52 from EVs.

According to a recent report from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), vehicle fires accounted for 15% of the 1.4 million fires that took place in the US in 2020, and those fires contributed to 18% of civilian deaths and 11% of the civilian injuries. EV fires? About 0.02% of the US fire total.

The first chart shows that both EV recalls in 2020 were due to fires as the result of battery pack issues. When driving any vehicle, there is a risk of fire, especially following an accident. However, it’s safe to say that the issues that can lead to fire inside and outside of an accident in a gas vehicle far outweigh any risk of fire from battery chemistry. EVs generally don’t tend to explode either.

No matter which vehicle you choose to drive, the number one goal is safety for you, your passengers, and those other souls on the road with you. If you have range anxiety, can’t charge at home, or simply think electric vehicles are too expensive, that’s your prerogative and we implore you to find further educational resources through Electrek and beyond.

However, the argument that EVs catching fire exists as a veritable threat holds no water, so let’s drop it once and for all and save that H2O for the fire departments. They clearly need it."

Source with the charts showing the numbers: https://electrek.co/2022/01/12/government-data-shows-gasoline-vehicles-are-significantly-more-prone-to-fires-than-evs/#:~:text=Admittedly%2C 2021 tells a different recall story as,to those already hesitant to adapt to electrification.

So if fire safety is the concern then let's do the math and look at the known and readily available facts. 

Safe Travels!

Edited by RV_
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data to prove it. (click on links)

EV fires

Admittedly, 2021 tells a different recall story as Chevy alone recalled over 140,000 Bolt EVs and EUVs. That being said, the recall was implemented following just 16 vehicle fires resulting in only a few injuries. Still, those EV fires occurred, providing argument fuel to those already hesitant to adapt to electrification.

EV fires Source: AutoinsuranceEZ.com Edited by RV_
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Because lead-acid batteries are so common, we seldom hear of the explosions and resulting fires in vehicles. IMO that is because it is not newsworthy, unlike the relatively new technology of battery-powered vehicles/bus'.

Bloomington Indiana has had a fleet of Gillig chassis hybrid passenger bus's in service since the early 1990's without incident.

I've wanted to buy a lithium battery jump starter since they were first advertised. The first generation was reported to have some explosions that resulted in human injury. I waited until this summer to buy one as a result. Today I feel comfortable with owning and using this lithium jump starter after reports of  problems subsided.

Edited by Ray,IN
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Gary, yesterday an electric bike battery caught fire when the bike was in an apartment, major damage to building.https://www.foxnews.com/us/nyc-fire-ebike-batteries

That would be a very rare occurrence with any other type bike-like neverrr.. IMO the problem lies in the country of origin for the bike batteries, not the fact it is an electric bike.

I know of no U.S.A. standard for  batteries made off-shore. Remember the hover-board fires? They are all made off-shore.

 

On the same day as the Jag EV fire, how many gas powered cars caught fire around the world? Right, no way of finding out, they are not reported on the news.

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1 hour ago, Ray,IN said:

On the same day as the Jag EV fire, how many gas powered cars caught fire around the world? Right, no way of finding out, they are not reported on the news.

Very true, however, to me the reporting on the EV fires could be a cautionary tale that we should not plunge into the technology until some dangerous details are worked out. I mean yes, cars catch fire but they do not explode like you see in the movies.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/27/2022 at 8:16 PM, Chad Heiser said:

The current chemistry of LiFePOare very stable and no longer present the same issues as the old chemistries.

 

On 7/28/2022 at 1:52 PM, RV_ said:

Implying that gasoline energy storage is safer from fires and explosions is the reverse of what we see when we look at their fires:

 

 

On 8/4/2022 at 7:17 PM, Chalkie said:

Very true, however, to me the reporting on the EV fires could be a cautionary tale that we should not plunge into the technology until some dangerous details are worked out.

I never meant to imply that gasoline was safer than batteries. I meant what I concluded with that reporting should be a cautionary tale. It would seem I am not alone. 

One fire department chief said that electric vehicles that catch on fire are “trick birthday candles,” due to their tendency to reignite even after the fire seems to be out.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently stated that emergency responder guidebooks are inadequate, especially in the case of electric vehicles. The NTSB found that half of all U.S. fire departments are not prepared to handle electric vehicle fires and almost one-third of fire departments have no specific training for electric vehicles or hybrid cars that catch fire.

The full article is found here.

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I appreciate your concern for safety Gary. Car fires are a concern for firefighters and we should know to keep our distance and let the professionals do their job. Now that is an important cautionary tale I will help with below. All car fires are dangerous. EVs can catch fire, and reignite, but not flash or explode? Yeah I agree.

The only solution is for everyone to sell their EVs and no one buy any anymore. And get rid of their gas cars too since they can and do flash and explode. Houses and apartments also catch fire!

Note: Go to 3:33 in the video and watch from there.

Excerpt:

"Vehicles fires make for a common call type for firefighters. As exciting as they can be for a new firefighter – and even some seasoned firefighters – vehicle fires pose many dangers to crewmembers working on scene.

A key point that all firefighters must remember is that a vehicle fire is a class B fire. Every vehicle carries on board some sort of flammable liquid: gasoline, diesel, transmission fluid, steering fluid, coolant, etc. They will all contribute to the fuel load when heated to their ignition temperature. Some liquids, like gasoline, will ignite faster than others.

Source:

https://www.firerescue1.com/fire-products/personal-protective-equipment-ppe/articles/firefighter-safety-reminder-car-fires-are-class-b-fires-aHIOlyst4ZAmA2Z6/

RVs catch fire and can burn down in minutes, here are the stats for another good precautionary tale:

Excerpt:

"Leading areas of fire origin in RV fires (2018‑2020, unknowns apportioned)

Areas of fire origin Percent
Engine area, running gear, wheel area
26.2
Other vehicle area
15.7
Operator, passenger area of vehicle
9.1
Cooking area
7.7
Vehicle exterior
6.9
Other area of fire origin
4.1
Cargo, trunk area
3.9
Source: NFIRS 5.0.

RV fires most often started in engine, running gear and wheel areas (26%), followed by other miscellaneous vehicle areas (16%) and operator/passenger areas (9%). Smaller but not minor percentages of fires started in cooking areas (8%), vehicle exterior areas (7%), other areas of fire origin (4%) and cargo/trunk areas (4%).

Source: https://www.usfa.fema.gov/data/statistics/reports/snapshot-rv-fires.html

Safe Travels!

Edited by RV_
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3 hours ago, RV_ said:

I appreciate your concern for safety Gary. Car fires are a concern for firefighters and we should know to keep our distance and let the professionals do their job. Now that is an important cautionary tale I will help with below. All car fires are dangerous. EVs can catch fire, and reignite, but not flash or explode? Yeah I agree.

The only solution is for everyone to sell their EVs and no one buy any anymore. And get rid of their gas cars too since they can and do flash and explode. Houses and apartments also catch fire! 

 

Well, at least the you and the NTSB agree and your absurdity is noted.

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BTW that Tesla crash and fire your Breitbart article refers to happened in 2018 - FOUR YEARS AGO! It was a tragic high speed crash with a fatality. This article below contradicts your source as they show the batteries being removed from the EV before transporting in the local news video at 22 seconds into the video. Big misinformation in your article.  I would tend to believe the one with a date and that there was a tragic death in the fire. No doubt it is the same car in both articles. and is local. You see they removed the batteries from the car before moving it and a few popped but they are trained for that. The batteries were removed at the scene so could not catch fire again several times as the Breitbart article purports to have happened. You can see the blue Tesla pics in both articles but this one has checkable facts in the article below.

After Huang's Tesla hit the median, it landed in the second left-most lane of southbound Highway 101 and was hit by a white Mazda and consequently struck again by a gray Audi traveling in the adjacent lane, CHP officials said.

The three vehicles were loaded onto tow trucks at about 2:20 p.m. after Tesla engineers investigated the scene and verified it was safe to move the cars, according to the CHP.

For about five hours, the right two lanes of southbound Highway 101 were the only lanes open to traffic as detectives closed the carpool flyover and two left-most lanes for preliminary investigation.

The problem is that some fire departments haven't trained their people. You get high voltages in manufacturing plants and oil refineries that catch fire and firefighters have to battle. I would imagine they are trained for that.

EVs are the future, an indisputable fact. So if you read the below articles in full, and you are concerned about firefighter's ability to put out a EV fire, you will find it is due to a lack of training.

https://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/577814-fighting-ev-fires-overlooked-as-industry-booms/

 

 

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No absurdity Gary, they can explode and catch fire again and have. But using Breitbart and a 2018 accident where the car did catch fire in the lot but not on the truck as the article stated, (yes it did catch fire again in the lot later,) presents news challenges. The article and your premise was re-ignition. 

Did you watch that video of the firefighters engulfed in flames by the gasoline flashover? OMG!

My point Gary is not argumentative but to as gently as possible point out that the problem is training, simply that.

High voltage like a fire in a manufacturing plant with high voltage like a car factory or is not new to first responders. They are trained for those and will be trained for these.

If they are not trained by their departments I'd say that is where you might wqant to point fingers.

Yes EV catch fire and it is necessary to be trained to extinguish them.

Since more are selling today by far than four years ago why did they use a four year old article if it is a pressing issue?

Yes vehicle fires happen and firefighters are faced with new challenges every year.

Everything can catch fire from schools to houses blowing up from natural gas leaks or electrical fires. RVs can burn down in just a few minutes as we have seen too.

MY advice is to have extinguishers in your car/house/RV/workshop/place of business and if you are not the owner know where the extinguishers are and the emergency exits.of the appropriate class.

Safe Travels Gary! Be well! Thanks for the safety discussion.

Edited by RV_
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