Overheating Batteries Highlight Continued Need for Battery Manufacturing Vigilance, Organization Says

THE continuing issue of overheating lithium ion batteries underscores the need for the electronics industry to conduct rigorous testing to protect businesses and consumers, especially in view of changing demands from consumers for increasingly smaller portable devices, says Info-Tech Research Group.

A year after the world's largest laptop computer battery recalls by multiple manufacturers took place due to overheating batteries, and a laptop computer battery recall by Toshiba this month, Nokia announced on Aug. 14 a recall of up to 46 million mobile cell phone batteries. The batteries, manufactured by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. and supplied to Nokia, have a tendency to overheat due to a short circuit while charging, Nokia stated.

Additionally, on Aug. 16, the U.S. Product Safety Commission announced that Clarion Corp. of America, of Cypress, Calif., was voluntarily recalling an additional 1,500 N.I.C.E. P200 Navigation and Entertainment Systems because the lithium-ion batteries in these units can melt or overheat posing burn and fire hazards to consumers.

Info-Tech Research Group stated that the continued occurrence of overheating lithium ion batteries begs questions, including what is the industry doing to address the challenges of these batteries and why are the problems continuing?

"There are battery associations that set standards for battery performance, but those standards may need to be elevated to protect public safety. And manufacturers need to ensure rigorous testing in today's changing conditions," said Michelle Warren, senior research analyst, Info-Tech Research Group. "Lithium ion batteries are known to overheat when heat dissipation is not sufficient due to space constraints, and with more circuitry and power being compressed into smaller and smaller devices, we can expect these problems to arise."

Alternate technologies such as thin-film batteries are being developed to provide alternative solutions for electronic devices, Info-Tech officials said. The cell phone battery recall is expected to cost Nokia and/or Matsushita Electric an estimated $137 million (U.S. currency), Warren stated.

In 2006, Info-Tech called for scrutiny in the computing industry following incidents with exploding laptops, with particular concern for laptops used during air travel. What followed was the world's largest computing device recall ever, with Dell computers containing Sony-made batteries being hardest hit along with most other major computing manufacturers. And as recently as this month, another 1,400 laptop computer batteries manufactured by Sony were recalled by Toshiba due to overheating problems posing a fire hazard, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"This is clearly an ongoing problem that continues to plague computing manufacturers and may affect more cell phone companies, given they all face these same design and battery quality challenges," Warren said.

More information on the Nokia recall can be found at http://www.nokia.com/A4136001?newsid=1146281. For more information on the Clarion recall, visit http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml07/07278.html.

Info-Tech Research Group: http://www.infotech.com

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