Opinion: Electric car revolution welcome but safety is paramount

February 10, 2020

Chemstore UK welcomes the Government’s announcement that all new vehicles in Britain will be electric from 2035 and the positive impact this will have on the environment, however when it comes to the technology behind electric vehicles – lithium-ion batteries – it must be remembered that safety is paramount.

Lithium-ion batteries have quickly become ubiquitous powering so many of our every day devices from mobile phones and laptops to power tools. However their risks are still poorly understood.

Lithium-ion batteries are now a common contributor to household fires and they have become a serious hazard in waste and recycling centres as people casually dispose of them within their household waste with little understanding of the dangers they pose. They are also present a serious hazard within industrial premises.

One major issue is that they are vulnerable to thermal runaway, an uncontrollable chain reaction during which the high heat created by the failing cell can develop to the next cell, causing it to also become thermally unstable. Once ignited, the batteries can also emit toxic fumes and battery cells can reignite hours after an initial fire has been extinguished making them extremely unpredictable for the fire service to deal with.

Why lithium-ion battery fires start is unclear but manufacturing defects and contamination, damage in transit and over charging are all thought to play a role. If they are not appropriately segregated there is also the risk of them being affected by a fire that has started elsewhere which can have devastating consequences.

More questions than answers

The reality is that there are more questions than answers at the moment about lithium-ion battery safety and even the fire service is learning as we go. Research is underway which will hopefully provide some clarity but it is prudent to manage lithium-ion batteries with the utmost caution until we fully understand their risks, handling them with care and keeping them in specialised safe storage facilities, such as Chemstore’s Electrovault range, segregated from other hazards.

As trusted specialists in hazardous materials, at Chemstore UK, we are already working with leaders in the automotive and motorsports industry to ensure they are handling and storing their lithium-ion batteries in line with best practice as it is currently understood.

However whether you are an electric car manufacturer handling and storing vast quantities of lithium-ion batteries, or just dealing with this technology in small amounts, it is important not to overlook this omnipresent risk.

Chemstore UK offers a range of indoor and outdoor handling and storage solutions for lithium-ion batteries as well as providing bespoke storage options. Contact us today on 020 8704 1807 to find out more.

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