Death by Lithium-ion Battery

Credit card (aka money no object) survivalists and preppers are doing my head in with all their electronics.

Looking at their modern communications, navigation, and digital devices, they are all moving towards lithium-ion (Li-ion) power packs. Yet have you thought about being off grid and charging these miniature fire bombs and what can go wrong with them?

In a nut shell if things go VERY wrong its instant fire if not explosion.

So what causes a failure?

  • Over charging or too fast a discharge (aka a short or massive fast current demand),
  • Too high a voltage (thus current) applied when charging.
  • If the cell gets physically crushed or pierced.
  • Deep discharging below 2 volts per cell.

What happens?
Initially the cells start to vent gas. Usually CO2.
Then as things get hotter it get nasty as the plastic and other materials start to melt and evaporate.
Next stage is smoke, then flames,
And the worse case thereafter is an explosion.

Now the fun bit, you don’t get much warning!
lithium

Let’s talk fire control or “hell its burning” what do you do?
Get rid of it is my immediate action as there is an explosion risk!

nuke1BUT if you can’t chuck it out the window (figuratively speaking), remember its a battery (a storage device for energy) and thus will keep going until all it’s energy is expended.

In short once a battery pack starts a thermal runaway (Posh name for burning itself to death) it’s going to keep going until all that power has dissipated!

Using Water.
The ‘experts’ say you can use water on Li-ion cells as the water may keep battery components cool enough to not overheat other things.

OK, I can see why the experts are saying this BUT once things get hot, that heat will set off a reaction in other cells within the battery pack.

Note:- Advice varies about the use of water.
As it’s your life that may be in jeopardy, I’d err on the side of caution and simply ditch the bitch ASAP!

Fire needs three things to burn, heat, fuel and oxygen.
Take one of those away and the fire goes out.

Except if a cell has gone into thermal runaway, the problem then is all that heat spills into other cells in the pack and that CAN CAUSE THEM to join in the fun and also thermly runaway.

Only there isn’t a definite timetable for this one i.e. they could all go ‘pop’ in seconds or cook gently till a ‘BIG POP’ occurs after a few hours. Bottom line? (sounding like a stuck record here) Ditch the bitch ASAP!

You can also use foam, CO2, or dry powder to control the fire.
That is fire control of everything else which is cooking off because of the heat from the damaged cells.

So is it any different for Ni-cad, Ni-Mh, or even Lead acid?
All batteries are storage for energy.
Apply a short or damage them and things will get hot, EXTREMELY HOT, usually QUICKLY.
Using any form of extinguisher will cool things down BUT AS BEFORE, until all that stored energy has dissipated as heat, battery fires are almost impossible to control if the fault is internal.What’s safe then?

  • Navigation? Magnetic compass and those paper things i.e. maps.
  • Communications? Apart from semaphore, flags, and yelling, not a lot.
  • Digital devices? Why use them? What are you carrying that can’t be written down in a little book?
  • Battery powered weapon sights? Now I could be wrong but I have never heard of a mercury button cell or alkaline battery powered red dot or holo-sight bursting into flames.
    Until you tell me you know of one that did.

Footnote.
What’s a Li-po battery?
Li-poly and others), is a rechargeable battery of lithium-ion technology in a pouch format.

Used a lot in those personal drones that the geeky survivalist and prepper ‘must have’ as a toy.

I’ll discuss them next and if anything they are even more dangerous.

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5 Responses to Death by Lithium-ion Battery

  1. jlm990 says:

    I firmly agree with you that knowing how to do things “old school” is critical. Sure, I use a GPS, but I also have a couple of quality compasses and maps and know how to use them. For long term (TEOTWAWKI) all electronics are eventually going to be useless, and rechargeable batteries are only going to recharge a certain number of times. Excellent points about battery safety and I think spares need to be carried in protective containers and certainly often inspected. Ditch the bitch is absolutely correct and having a handy e-tool or trowel is a good thing.

  2. equippedcat says:

    Tesla is getting ready to announce a LI battery which “can power a house”. Good luck chucking one of THOSE out the window…

    • This is exactly why I hate “technology”.
      Their record of cars burning out is impressive enough BUT in the interests of bigger and better they now develop a device with the capacity to power a house.

      Only what happens when it goes wrong with that much stored energy?

  3. Death by a battery! Something truly funny to consider in a world of increasing technology
    On the plus side, if terminators take over I’ll just make sure they a batch of faulty batteries!

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