To take each of these in turn:
A) Regulatory certification is only ever a starting point when
it comes to safety, but it is essential nonetheless. Batteries must
be approved to UL1642, UL2054 or UL1973 standards, and the
devices they are used in approved to their respective standards.
B) Any new and different battery chemistry is higher risk.
Lithium metal batteries are coming that have higher energy than
lithium ion. Here’s a paradox though: The best way to deal with a
lithium ion fire is to douse it with lots of water. The worst way to
deal with a lithium metal fire is to use any water at all!
C) There are many experienced lithium ion cell manufacturers
with sterling records, who follow every safety protocol possible
to ensure safety. The insurance industry should maintain a list of
these “A” suppliers and set premiums accordingly.
D) Cell manufacturers care a lot about safety and their reputation. The good ones have strict policies regarding the device
designs in which they will allow their cells to be used. Product
design sign-off by the cell and device manufacturers does more
to ensure accountability for safety than any other single factor.
E) Battery energy is like computing power. We will never be able
to get enough. This desire may be insatiable, but it is controllable.
Battery design and system management strategies can be employed to ensure that the high energy need not be such a liability,
and simple design metrics can be employed to confirm this.
Determining culpability for incidents
For the purposes of insurance investigation and the assignment
of liability, here are the facts one should consider before pursing
compensation for a battery-related incident.
1) Over 90% of lithium ion batteries are manufactured in the Asia
Pacific (AP) region. Japanese and South Korean companies will
generally act responsibly regarding a problem, but companies from
other AP countries will be more variable in their cooperation.
2) For U.S. insurance purposes, U.S. agents, distributors and
original equipment manufacturers must be held accountable.
Their insistence on the application of UL standards, their audit of
foreign factories and their engagement in the product development process are considered essential. It is normally impossible
to determine the cell manufacturer of a failed battery from a failure, but business forensics can normally find the culprit.
3) It will be difficult to carry out root cause analysis on a single
incident; however, once the problem has manifested itself multiple
times, a good technical expert should be able to determine the root
cause and therefore the culpability. A central database is going to
be essential here and by default these are slowly coming together.
4) There is no reasonable excuse for lithium ion fires or explosions. The pursuit of rightful compensation will always be justified based on the effort versus the payback.
This article has focused on lithium ion, and given its size,
growth and inherent risk, that is appropriate. Other battery sys-
tems are in development and the list is long. For example: Zinc
air, aluminum air vanadium redox, solid state, sodium sulfur,
nickel iron, nickel zinc, zinc-bromine, magnesium, prussian
blue, advanced lead acid, sodium salt and liquid metal. Together
they do not exceed $1 billion in sales globally. The majority of
them will be used for large applications such as renewable energy
storage and grid demand management. Lithium is the system
that will dominate for the next 10 years if not longer.
Welcome to the world of tomorrow and the energy debate.
Halle Cheeseman ( Halle@EnergyBluesHelp.com) is a 35-year
battery veteran and is the president of Energy Blues LLC, a
battery consulting group.
Tracking Battery Usage
• Renewable energy is more useful with
• In the U.S. there is one new solar
energy installation every 84 seconds.
• There are over 8 million jobs globally in
• There are over 300,000 jobs in the U.S.
in renewable energy.
• Energy storage investment in the U.S.
totals over $1 billion.
• After a slow start the Electric Vehicle
(EV) Market is beginning to grow
• EV sales in the US in 2017 were 200,000
vehicles. That is 1.1% of all cars sold
in 2017. Some forecasts predict 40%
• Tesla is the EV leader & is building a
“Giga-factory” to make EV batteries.
• In the U.S. , EV battery sales could
exceed $100 billion/year by 2040.
• Home robots are forecast to be a $30
billion global business by 2025.
• Vacuum robots have been around
for a few years & can cost from $70 to
$1500. Other home robots starting to
hit the market include shop assistants,
lawn mowers, grill cleaners & for the
sleepyheads, a mobile alarm clock!
• Robots are expected to require
typically 6 to 100 -18650 cells/unit
• The battery requirements for artificial
intelligence are unknown.