Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere – from our phones and laptops to electric vehicles (EVs) and e-bikes. Data from the ACCC shows over 90% of Australians own at least one product that uses a lithium battery. But with their ubiquity comes concerns about their safety. Are lithium batteries safe, or are they a fire hazard waiting to happen? Is this fear unfounded? We’re here to separate fact from fiction in lithium battery fire safety.

The Rarity of Lithium Battery Incidents

First off, it’s essential to understand that incidents involving lithium batteries are extremely rare. The data on these events is somewhat unclear, not necessarily pointing to the battery as the culprit when things go awry. As acknowledged by Fire and Rescue NSW, there is still limited knowledge about the likelihood of lithium-ion battery failures, how these failures occur, and the possible outcomes. While any fire incident is alarming, jumping to conclusions without solid data does a disservice to the technology and its users.

Are Lithium Batteries Safe?

Comparing Risks: ICE Vehicles vs. Electric Vehicles: As we move towards a more sustainable future, the role of lithium-ion batteries in powering electric vehicles is becoming increasingly significant. According to the ACCC, electric vehicles are expected to account for 62% of lithium battery pack sales by 2030.

When it comes to vehicle fires, it’s important to remember that internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles aren’t without their risks. Petrol, as we all know, is highly flammable, and vehicle batteries seldom cause issues unless compromised in an accident. The real worry with damaged EV batteries is thermal runaway – a chain reaction leading to extreme heat and, potentially, fire. But unlike petrol fires, lithium battery fires don’t feature the same kind of rapid spread due to flammable liquids.

The E-Bike Conundrum: E-bikes and e-scooters need careful handling because their batteries can be risky, especially the cheaper kinds. Charging an e-bike inside your house, close to the only way out, is not safe. It’s like filling up a motorbike in your hallway. The best way to avoid battery fires is to charge your e-bike outside or in a spot that’s not blocking your exit. To keep you and your home safe, always use the right charger and battery that the e-bike company says to use.

Fighting Lithium Battery Fires

Dealing with a lithium battery fire requires understanding the unique challenges they present. Due to the batteries’ design, extinguishing them can be difficult – prevention is your best defence. Routine maintenance and inspection of the batteries and the devices they power can help identify potential issues before they lead to a fire. This includes checking for signs of damage, such as swelling, leakage, or any noticeable odour coming from the battery, which are all indicators that the battery may be compromised and should be replaced.

Dispelling Lithium Battery Myths

When it comes to lithium battery safety, it’s vital not to let fear outpace the facts. While thermal runaway and intense heat are concerns with lithium batteries, comprehensive data on such events remains scarce. The fear surrounding lithium battery fires, especially in EVs and e-bikes, often eclipses the reality of their safety when used and maintained correctly.

Safety Tips For Lithium Batteries

At Betta Fire Protection, we’ve spent over 40 years ensuring the safety of NSW residents and businesses. Our view on lithium batteries? They’re generally safe, provided you adhere to some key safety tips:

  1. Try not to charge lithium batteries beyond 80% capacity or let them discharge below 15% repeatedly.
  1. It’s often best not to leave batteries charging unattended, especially once they hit the 80% mark.
  2. Avoid introducing potential hazards into your home or building, particularly near exits. It’s also essential to check that your building’s fire doors and emergency exit lights adhere to safety standards.
  1. Never charge your phones or devices under pillows or blankets. This can cause overheating and potentially start a fire.
  1. Protect your lithium battery-powered products from exposure to high temperatures.
  1. Always use chargers approved by the manufacturer for your devices. Using non-approved chargers can result in improper charging and pose a significant fire risk.
  1. Install working smoke alarms in your property, test them regularly and replace your smoke alarm every 10 years.
  1. Store your lithium batteries and devices in a cool, dry place.

Your Safety Action Plan

While lithium batteries come with their set of risks, being informed and cautious can significantly mitigate them. By following our lithium battery fire safety tips and staying informed, you can enjoy the benefits of lithium battery-powered devices and vehicles without undue worry.

For those in NSW looking to ensure their lithium battery-powered devices are as safe as possible, contact us today on (02) 8669 9100.