Research Continues on Lithium-Ion Batteries' Fire Hazards

The Fire Protection Research Foundation's Property Insurance Research Group will begin the second phase of its research this year, Fred Durso, Jr. reports in the March/April issue of the NFPA Journal.

An excellent and typically comprehensive article by Fred Durso, Jr. in the March/April issue of the NFPA Journal brings us up to date on the fire hazard potential of lithium-ion batteries. Posted with it are a video about NHTSA's new electric vehicle guidelines, a sidebar about research being done by the French National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks, and a sidebar about a "puzzling" 2011 fire involving a Chevrolet Volt that had been crash-tested. The fire prompted crash tests and a defect investigation by NHTSA.

Durso reports the Fire Protection Research Foundation's Property Insurance Research Group began the Lithium-Ion Battery Storage Protection Project last year to address the fire risks of these widely used batteries in bulk storage and distribution settings. The challenge is that there is no guidance as yet for owners on how to protect warehouses that may be filled with these batteries, a PIRG member says in the article.

The chief concern is thermal runaway -– described as rapid self-heating of a cell. The electrolyte can combust, causing a fire to spread to other battery cells, Durso writes.

He reports PIRG will determine the appropriate fire protection commodity classification for lithium-ion batteries in a second phase of its research beginning this year. The first phase was a literature review to identify gaps in fire protection and assess battery hazards.

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