This site provides an archived non-comprehensive list of articles, news events, and publications related to lithium-ion battery fire incidents and safety concerns and will be updated periodically.
This site was last updated on 12/28/2020
Incidents of lithium-ion cell and battery failures (defined here as a thermal runaway event) causing fires or explosions are very uncommon. The media and some online sources report cell failure rates ranging from one in ten million cells to less than one in one million cells but with no supporting data to validate these claims. 1,2,3 The reality is that accurate failure rates are difficult to determine given a lack of historical and comprehensive data. Failure rates are not commonly published and circumstances of failure that trigger lithium-ion battery recalls is often unclear.4,5 Furthermore, many consumer incidents may go unreported.
Numerous factors can increase the likelihood of thermal runaway including battery manufacturing defects, product defects, product software issues, battery aging, battery degradation, overcharging, faulty charging, improper product use, battery puncture, and exposure to high temperatures.
Did you know?
A battery pack can contain many individual lithium-ion battery cells. For example, Tesla's 85kWh battery pack contains 7,104 cells (18650 type) while a Bird scooter battery pack contains 30 cells (18650 type).6,7
Lithium-ion battery chemistry offers some of the highest energy densities available in today’s batteries. However, high energy density comes at a potential price. When battery failure occurs, tremendous thermal energy is released (upwards of 1,000°C) along with toxic fluoride gas and smoke. Lithium-ion battery fires burn with prolonged intensity, oftentimes requiring special procedures and copious amounts of water to extinguish.
Did you know? According data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a battery "incident" on airplanes and at airports occurs about once every 8 days (period 2017 thru August 2, 2020). Source: https://www.faa.gov/hazmat/resources/lithium_batteries/media/Battery_incident_chart.pdf See 'Airplane & Airport' section for a list of articles and publication related to battery fires and issues on airplanes and at airports.
Lithium-ion batteries have become ubiquitous, powering everything from consumer goods and electronics to electric vehicles. Battery production and demand are projected to increase rapidly, driven largely by automakers who aim to electrify their entire fleets over the next five to ten years. As a result, the frequency of catastrophic battery failures will also increase, and consumer-facing industries will undoubtedly look for safer battery technologies to power their products.
1 Challa V., “Are Lithium-Ion Battery Explosions Increasing?”, 6/1/18, DfR Solutions’ Insights
2 Hollister S., “Should you fear your phone battery?”, 10/12/16, CNET
3 Battery University, “Why Batteries Fail”, Cadex Electronics Inc.
4 Mikolajczak C., Kahn M., White K, Long R., “Lithium-Ion Battery Hazard and Use Assessment”, p. 78, July 2011, The Fire Protection Research Foundation
5 Larsson F., “Lithium-ion Battery Safety – Assessment by Abuse Testing, Fluoride Gas Emissions and Fire Propagation”, p. 1,2, & 64, 2017, Department of Physics, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
6 Lambert F., “Tear down of 85 kWh Tesla battery pack shows it could actually only be a 81 kWh pack”, 2/3/16, Electrek.
7 Tech Direct Club, “BIRD scooter battery 18650 Lithium-ion harvesting & disassemble the cells for Power Pack”, 4/18/19, YouTube.