Large Lithium-Ion battery fires are a risk too far

Large Lithium-ion battery fires – classified as those with 100-watt hours (Wh) or more – happen at least daily Australia-wide. The thermal runaway damage is total and can be deadly.

To put ‘large’ in perspective, a 20,000mAh USB-C power bank is about 100Wh capacity. It is the maximum size with global Transport Security Administration (TSA) approval for aircraft cabin luggage.

 

Lithium-ion battery-powered device importers would have you believe their largely self-serving statements that the cause is mainly due to using unauthorised third-party chargers, cheap batteries, or low-cost battery management systems. Yes, these contribute, but the fact is that well-known brands are just as susceptible to thermal runaway as generic brands.

Why? It is an irrefutable fact that lithium-ion chemistry is highly toxic and inherently unstable unless adequately cared for. Once a thermal runaway fire starts, destruction is total as water or traditional means cannot easily extinguish it.

The latest fire – predictably at an e-bike assembly, repair, and sales workshop in suburban Sydney

At around 5 AM on 5 January, Croydon residents heard loud explosive popping noises. They saw thick toxic smoke billowing from a workshop positioned perilously close to a neighbouring petrol station and suburban shopping strip.

It took over 60 firefighters and 15 fire trucks to prevent the fire from spreading to the petrol station and shops. The heritage-listed workshop and hundreds of e-bikes had total destruction.