Opinion: Electric car revolution welcome but safety is paramount

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.

Chemstore launches dedicated lithium-ion battery storage unit

Hazardous materials experts Chemstore have launched the Electrovault, a dedicated lithium-ion battery storage unit which can be tailored to an individual company’s needs.

Lithium-ion batteries are becoming increasingly popular, not least due to their use in electric vehicles, but there is still some confusion around the safest way to handle and store the technology.

Chemstore Managing Director Mike Brodie explains: “When it comes to lithium-ion battery storage a standard fire rated unit just won’t do yet we are finding many companies are unaware aware of this.

“For example one issue with lithium-ion batteries is the occurrence of thermal runaway; lithium-ion batteries have a narrow operating temperature range of between +15 and +45°C and if they exceed this limit a thermal runaway can occur where an increase in temperature changes the conditions in a way that causes a further increase in temperature. During a thermal runaway hydrogen fluoride HF, phosphorus pentafluoride (PF5) and phosphoryl fluoride (POF3) are released and studies have shown that using water as a fire suppressant may increase the formation of HF yet it’s not uncommon to find people storing lithium-ion batteries in units with water suppression systems.”

The Electrovault units are made to comply with RC61 guidelines for battery storage and can be tailored to suit your specification, whether that is:

  • Atex Rated Temperature control
  • Atex Rated Humidity Control
  • Atex Rated Gas detection systems
  • Fire Suppression Systems
  • Fire Rated  (including all Atex internal electrical components where  required)
  • Atex Lighting
  • Remote monitoring systems
  • FIFO control operations
  • LIFO control operations
  • Fire rated and segregated Quarantine areas
  • Restricted access control
  • Fully automated extraction systems

Call Chemstore today for a free review of your lithium-ion storage arrangements on 0208 704 1807.

Interested in knowledge sharing and best practice around lithium-ion battery storage – join the Lithium Ion Network on Linkedin – just search “Lithium Ion network” and request to join.