Why Ion Battery-Powered Devices Keep Exploding

There are plenty of reasons lithium-ion batteries are the power source du jour for everyday electronics. They are efficient, offer high storage capacity, and long life spans—and they power everything from cell phones and laptops to vape pens and car batteries.

Unfortunately, the one emerging problem with lithium-ion batteries is a potentially deadly one: They are prone to overheating and even bursting into flames.

Boosted, the manufacturer of a popular electronic skate board, was the latest to warn customers of the risk this week after two incidents where its product batteries failed. Although nobody was injured, and no batteries exploded, the company asked those who've purchased its first-generation electric skateboard product to stop using them.

This news comes in the wake of a full-scale recall of Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 cell phone following reports of the devices exploding in users' hands and pockets—in some instances, even when they were driving.

When—and Why—Lithium-Ion Batteries Explode

There are some common reasons why lithium-ion batteries explode. This happens when:

  • The batteries are charged too quickly.
  • The batteries are charged with the wrong accessory.
  • The walls separating batteries erode, spurring a chemical reaction that causes an explosion.
  • There is a manufacturing defect. With the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, there was an alleged manufacturing defect that caused the positive and negative components of the batteries to come into contact, causing explosions.

Exploding Lithium-ion Batteries: A Brief History

While exploding lithium ion batteries in Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones may have garnered worldwide media attention, they weren't the first devices to seriously—and, in some cases, fatally—injure consumers after catching fire or exploding.

Other exploding devices include:

  • Vape Pens—Whether you refer to them as vape pens or e-cigarettes, the lithium-ion batteries powering the electronic nicotine-delivery systems (ENDS) are prone to explosions. According to federal statistics, there have been 126 reports of e-cigarettes overheating, spewing flames or exploding, causing users burns (some required skin grafts) and other injuries. The majority of the explosions occurred while the batteries were charging. While the ENDS industry recently became federally regulated, the lack of oversight over the growing industry was largely blamed for the spate of fires and explosions.
  • Hoverboards—Hoverboards were last year's hot buy, but they made headlines for the wrong reasons after their lithium-ion batteries began overheating and catching fire. A consumer took legal action recently against Amazon after a Hoverboard purchased from the online retailer exploded and the ensuing fire destroyed his million-dollar home. It wasn't an isolated incident—the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says the self-balancing scooters were responsible for nearly 100 electrical fires.
  • Computers—After reports surfaced of computers overheating and in some cases, even melting, HP this past summer recalled 50,000 Compaq, HP ProBook, HP Envy and other computer models. Four of the reports included thousands of dollars in property damage.

Preventing Lithium-Ion Battery Explosions

If you're using a product powered by lithium-ion batteries, there are a few simple steps you can take to lower your risk of having it catch fire or explode:

  • Keep them cool. Don't store devices in hot cars or other extreme temperatures. Safety experts even recommend keeping your cell phone somewhere other than your pocket because they can get too warm from your body heat.
  • Keep them separated. If one lithium battery explodes, one that is stored nearby may also catch fire. Don't tempt fate—keep your devices powered by lithium-ion batteries in separate places.
  • Use the correct charger. Simply put: If you use any charger except the one the device came with, you could be at a greater risk of a fire and/or explosion.

After more than 30 years of representing injured clients, we know that no matter how careful you are, accidents sometimes happen. When it comes to exploding devices, sometimes it's not your fault.

If you've been injured by an exploding vape pen, cell phone or other device powered by a lithium ion battery, you could be eligible for money to compensate you for medical bills, lost wages, and in some cases even pain and suffering.

Call the product injury attorneys at Edgar Snyder & Associates today—we can help determine who is liable for your injury, and whether you have a case. We’re available 24/7, so contact us today for a free case review. Remember: There's no obligation to use our services, and there's never a fee unless we get money for you.

U.S. Fire Administration

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

"Why Lithium-Ion Batteries Still Explode, and What's Being Done to Fix the Problem," Consumer Reports, Sept. 21, 2016

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