Lithium-ion Batteries Take Off, And Catch Fire

Lithium-ion Batteries Take Off, And Catch Fire

First it was exploding hoverboards.

And then the vaping industry caught fire in the form of flaming electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes).

Then Samsung’s Galaxy Note7 and Galaxy S7 smartphones began to catch fire.

In 2016, faulty lithium-ion batteries accounted for thermal runaway and the resulting conflagration of various portable and consumer products.

Rechargeable lithium-based chemistries such as lithium-ion have become the chemistry of choice for many portable devices.  Over the past decade, they have steadily replaced lower-value rechargeable battery chemistries such as nickel-metal hydride and nickel-cadmium in high-drain portable devices such as smartphones, cordless electronic power tools, and laptops, among others.

Characteristics promoting trends toward lithium-ion batteries include their:

  • Lighter weight
  • Slimmer size
  • High power density
  • Longer runtimes
  • High operating power
  • Low rate of self-discharge

The high power density of lithium-ion batteries makes them appropriate for use in high-drain devices such as smartphones and laptops where they help meet consumer demand for slimmer products with longer runtimes.

But that same high energy density and high operating power also put lithium-ion batteries at risk for combusting due to thermal runaway.

New Technology

Despite its increasing popularity in diverse applications, lithium-ion battery technology remains relatively new and, as such, is still a developing area.  In addition, incidents of thermal runaway and battery explosion are relatively infrequent.  Thus, it should be noted that the reported incidents of thermal runaway in lithium-ion powered consumer products in 2016 are likely mere growing pains as the lithium-ion battery manufacturing process continues to be refined.

Anticipated Growth

The various advantages of lithium-based rechargeable batteries, including lithium-ion and lithium-polymer chemistries, will continue to promote sales gains going forward, and ongoing improvements to battery development will continue to improve battery safety.  Indeed, lithium-based rechargeable batteries will yield the fastest and the largest gains in sales through 2020, advancing at a double-digit annual rate. 

Other Applications

Lithium-ion batteries are far more powerful than other rechargeable battery chemistries and find use in diverse other applications, including:

  • Hybrid/Electric vehicles (H/EVs)
  • Energy storage systems (ESSs)
  • Certain industrial motive power systems

For More

To learn more about US demand for batteries, check out Battery Markets, a new comprehensive industry study from the Freedonia Group, which provides analysis on the following: 

  • Historical demand data and forecasts
  • Market environment factors
  • Industry structure
  • Company market share
  • US industry competitors

For information about single-use and rechargeable batteries, see the Freedonia Group’s Single-Use Batteries and Rechargeable Batteries studies.

About the Author:

E. Reta Sober is an industry analyst at The Freedonia Group where she writes studies related to electrical equipment and machinery.