April 05, 2022

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EV’s catching fire: Possible Reasons For Failure Of Battery Packs

failure of battery packs

A scooter’s rechargeable battery pack is the major cause of a fire, and most electric two-wheelers today use lithium-ion batteries since they’re lightweight and relatively inexpensive. It does not mean that these batteries are unsafe, but a number of failures are bound to happen in an industry that is still in the early
stages of development. Fires can happen during charging, discharging, while the scooter is in use, or even when it stands idle.

For each battery, there are three parameters to consider:

Performance is number one, followed by battery life and safety.

Summer heat and poor thermal management have an impact on 1 and 2, but they do not cause fires. So, let’s clear up that misunderstanding.

Short circuits resulting in unregulated current, which causes 99 percent of battery fires.

This occurs as a result of:

a) Poor cell quality;
b) Poor battery architecture (the way cells are linked and packed); and
c) Overcharging due to faulty BMS (management of cells via sensing & software intelligence)

failure of battery packs
Summer heat and poor thermal management have an impact on 1 and 2, but they do not cause fires. So, let’s clear up that misunderstanding. A scooter’s rechargeable battery pack is the major cause of a fire, and most electric two-wheelers today use lithium-ion batteries since they’re lightweight and relatively inexpensive. It does not mean that these batteries are unsafe, but a number of failures are bound to happen in an industry that is still in the early stages of development. Fires can happen during charging, discharging, while the scooter is in use, or even when it stands idle.

The battery must be designed in such a manner that it can survive any C (capacity) grade cells, and the battery box must be fire-resistant or designed in such a way that the fire cannot escape the battery cabinet.

There are many causes of battery failure including design or manufacturing flaws, damage to the battery,and lack of cooling for the battery pack. In order to ensure this optimum level of charging, good quality lithium-ion batteries have internal controls that are also specified by the manufacturer. Even so, overcharging or fast charging too much can damage these controls. Extreme temperatures can cause fires too.

When operating beyond their optimum temperature limit, lithium-ion batteries are susceptible to thermal runaway, which puts them at risk of fire. When the temperature is hot, the active cooling system can only keep up with the failures. We carry batteries in our pockets and backpacks, and they never catch fire because
they are always kept at a temperature that people demand.

For cases like this, it is not only cell quality or grade that is to blame, but also faulty Battery Management System (BMS) that also might be responsible for the fire hazard or failure of the battery.

Internal short-circuiting can be caused by poor cell quality. When the anode and cathode are mistakenly joined internally due to manufacturing flaws, the usual current channel is short-circuited. This results in an unregulated current, which eventually causes fire damages.

Short-circuiting isn’t necessarily the result of poor cell quality. The design of battery packing has a significant influence on safety. Packaging relates to how cells are assembled, electrically connected, and mechanically held together.

Packaging of Cells, like every other living thing, require oxygen to survive. It’s a formula for disaster if you crowd them together with no space between them and no insulation. Every nut and bolt must be thoroughly considered. Indian roads have the ability to shake everything free. Imagine driving an electric vehicle along a bumpy Indian road with a loose bolt dangling inside a container full of live cells – it’s a ticking time bomb.

Moral:Before criticizing any technology that is happening around us, we should always consider all of the positive and negative aspects of it, especially since it is in its early stages for both people and OEMs. We should think of ourselves as part of a community that is developing and delivering a specific solution for our future generation and upcoming technology.

Credit: Kaustubh Kumbhalkar

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