Common Causes of Battery Failure – Part 2

All batteries will ultimately fail, stop working, and cease to operate, and or otherwise end their useful life. It is the reality of a consumable product. But sometimes batteries can warp, bubble, and even explode! Batteries can also fail due to incompatible designs or improperly selected hardware, and batteries can fail due to customer misuse or abuse.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission each year deaths, injuries and property damage from consumer product incidents cost U.S. taxpayers more than $700 billion annually. This cost includes over 15,000 different types of products that pose a risk of fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard or products that can injure children (cribs, toys, etc.). Batteries by their nature are 1 out of the 15,000 products the CPSC monitors because of the increased implementation of battery chemistries that pack higher energy in smaller packages. Batteries with lithium ion and lithium metal polymer chemistry are thinner, smaller, and lighter weight and contain more energy than traditional rechargeable batteries. These battery chemistries are excellent choices for small electronic devices that require higher capacities and specialized hardware to safeguard the battery from doing anything other than performing as expected within the device.

It is true that sometimes batteries can warp, bubble, and even explode. It is also true that batteries can fail. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission there have been 339 battery-related overheating incidents tracked. 339 overheating cases sounds like a lot but when compared to the well over 100,000,000 battery related devices that have been bought by consumer since 2003 it represents a very small percentage (.000003) of all battery related devices on the market.

The reason why overheating occurs in batteries to the point of warping, bubbling, or exploding is due to one of the following reasons:

1. Improperly Selected Hardware – from the connector, the fuse, the charge and discharge FETs, the cell pack, the sense resistor, the primary and secondary protection ICs, the fuel-gauge IC, the thermistor, or the pc board

2. Uncontrolled Manufacturing Processes – including badly run production facilities which lead to cell short circuits, leaks, unreliable connections, sealing quality, mechanical weakness, and contamination.

Batteries can also fail due to customer misuse or abuse. Battery abuse can happen in a variety of ways however all types of battery abuse fall under one of the following categories including altitude simulation, thermal cycling, shock, external short circuit, impact, overcharge, forced discharge.

Finally batteries can fail due to consumer misuse. Misuse is different then abuse because battery abuse is intentional consumer disruption of the battery and battery misuse is unintentional consumer misuse of a battery. For example one common misuse of a battery is trying to use a camera battery rated and designed for a specific camera model, but used for an entirely different camera. It may sound funny but it has happened. Why because consumer’s think that just because the physical footprint, the voltage and the capacities are the same that the battery will work in multiple devices. This is a fallacy that happens frequently. To avoid this type of misuse, only use a battery that is specifically designed for the device model you have and do not battery swap.

Until next time, Dan Hagopian –