Friday, July 5, 2013

Fire at Electric Bike Manufacturer, Brammo, Raises Questions Over Battery Safety

Brammo Motorsports Empulse, a Lithium-Ion Battery Toting Electric Motorcycle
The mainstay for electric vehicle traction batteries is, until they develop something better, lithium-ion battery packs, but could they be safer?
Lithium-ion battery packs are found in just about everything portable these days, from tablets to automobiles and everything in between. These high-density battery packs are also found in larger applications, including grid-scale backup power supplies and even aircraft. Research is ongoing to find a battery formulation that is more energy dense and cheaper [and less flammable?].
Unfortunately, there have also been some problems, including fires in the onboard lithium-ion backup battery on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, bad press surrounding a sexdecuplet of Fisker Karma spontaneous combustion after Hurricane Sandy, and even a Chevy Volt that caught fire. Time to add some more fuel to the fire? Brammo Motorsports, maker of electric motorcycles, recently lost a couple hundred thousand dollars in damage to their R&D wing where, you guessed it, some lithium-ion batteries were stored.
You know this is going to cause a storm of lithium-ion battery protest, but what the news agencies fail to point out is that zero lithium-ion batteries have caught fire while in normal use. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner was still in testing. The Fisker Karma fire was related to a short in the 12V system after being submerged in saltwater. TheChevy Volt caught fire three weeks after being put through crash tests at the NHTSA [I'm assuming the crash-test dummies were able to get away from the wreckage in time.] The lithium-ion batteries in the Brammo research lab weren’t installed in anything, they were just in storage.