Caring for Lithium Ion Batteries

by Safety Connection

Do you know how to care for and dispose of lithium ion batteries?

These days they are used in many of our electronic devices including cellphones, laptops, smart watches, scooters and even ebikes. They pack more power into a smaller space and deliver a higher voltage, but because they are also designed to be lightweight, they are more susceptible to being damaged or punctured which can lead to fires.

A bedroom caught on fire at a Madison home on Saturday (6-11-22). The homeowner was startled awake by a loud popping noise from his lithium ion bike battery which was sparking and smoking. The family tried using 3 different dry chemical fire extinguishers but they were unable to put out the fire, so they evacuated the home and called 911. Madison Fire was able to extinguish the fire with a water can extinguisher, and the home suffered smoke and fire damage to that bedroom and the entire second floor.

In early 2021, a City of Madison recycling truck caught fire and the operator had to dump the load on the street to protect the truck from burning. Madison Streets PIO Bryan Johnson reported that the exact cause of the fire was unknown but it was suspected to be a lithium ion battery. He added that “Fires at recycling facilities and within recycling trucks from lithium batteries are a worldwide problem.”

In Madison, lithium ion batteries and other single use household batteries should not be thrown in the trash, but instead be disposed of at city drop-off sites. The contact points for batteries also need to be covered in clear tape. You can read the full instructions for recycling your batteries here.

The warning signs for failing lithium batteries include:

  • Being hot to the touch (but it’s normal for them to generate some heat when charging)
  • Swelling or bulging
  • Making a hissing or cracking sound
  • Giving off a strong odor
  • Smoking (which means a fire has already started)

And here’s how to care for lithium ion batteries to extend their life and prevent fires:

  • Store batteries in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight
  • Inspect your batteries for damage regularly
  • Don’t mix and and match chargers and batteries – use only what is approved for your device
  • Remove batteries and devices from the charger once they are fully charged

Related Articles