There have been a number of news reports recently, detailing the potential dangers associated with lithium-ion batteries.  These reports have been focused mainly on battery fires in e-bikes and e-scooters.

But this type of battery is not limited to use in bikes and scooters.

Many items that you use on a daily basis – at work and at home – are powered by lithium-ion batteries.

Mobile phones, laptops and smart wearables are all powered with lithium-ion batteries.

Power tools can also run on lithium-ion batteries, and they are common in the workplace, as well as camping and home gardening equipment.

Electric vehicles, such as Teslas, use lithium-ion batteries – as do many residential/industrial solar battery systems.

What makes these batteries dangerous?
All types of batteries can be hazardous and can pose a safety risk. The difference with lithium-ion batteries available on the market today is that they typically contain a liquid electrolyte solution with lithium salts dissolved into a solvent, to create lithium ions. This allows the battery to store a large amount of energy in a relatively small area, which is why they are so popular.

However, the liquid electrolyte containing these lithium ions is highly volatile and flammable, which creates a serious risk of fire or explosion, particularly when exposed to high temperature. In an explosion, small projectiles of metal fragments can be released at high speed, increasing the risk of injury to persons nearby.

Unfortunately, lithium-ion battery fires are not easily contained and are self-sustaining which is why they are considered more volatile than other battery types.

How to safely charge and store your lithium-ion battery.

Prepare your space.

  • Make sure a working smoke alarm or heat alarm is installed in areas where devices or batteries are charged or stored.
  • Don’t charge batteries or devices on combustible and insulating surfaces such as beds, sofas or carpet, and keep them away from highly flammable materials such as blankets, clothing, and paper.
  • Larger batteries and equipment such as power tools and electric scooters should be charged in the garage, shed or carport away from living or office spaces.
  • Don’t charge or store battery devices near exits or along egress paths where they might hinder or block your escape should they catch fire or become involved in one.

Safe charging.

  • Avoid leaving batteries or devices unattended while being charged or charging overnight.
  • Once the indicator shows that a device or battery has been fully charged, disconnect it from the charger.
  • Only use chargers that are supplied with the equipment or device, or certified third-party charging equipment that is compatible with the battery specifications. Using chargers with incorrect power delivery (voltage and current) can cause damage to the battery including overheating that can lead to fires.
  • Only purchase and use devices and equipment from reputable manufacturers and suppliers.
  • Check that chargers have the Regulatory Compliance Mark, to show that it meets the relevant Australian Standards under the Electrical Equipment Safety System (EESS).
  • Never store or leave batteries or devices in areas where they can be exposed to heat or moisture. Do not leave devices such as phones, computers or charging devices in direct sunlight or in parked vehicles, where they can quickly heat up.
  • Do not use batteries or devices that show signs of swelling, bulging leaking or overheating, or that have signs of mechanical damage (eg cracked, crushed, dented)

The recommendation from Fire and Rescue NSW is that you do not try and extinguish the battery fire.

  • Evacuate the area and close doors if safe to do so.
  • Do not allow anyone to re-enter the area. Smoke and fumes given off from lithium-ion fires are highly toxic.
  • Call 000 immediately and wait in a safe area for firefighters to arrive.
  • If anyone has been exposed to spilled electrolyte, flying debris, smoke or fumes, seek urgent medical assistance.