5 Top Tips to Prevent Thermal Runaway

What is Thermal Runaway?

Thermal runaway begins when the heat generated within a battery exceeds the amount of heat that is dissipated to its surroundings.

If the cause of excessive heat creation is not remedied, the condition will worsen. Internal battery temperature will continue to rise – causing battery current to rise – creating a domino effect. The rise in temperature in a single battery will begin to affect other batteries in proximity, and the pattern will continue, thus the term “runaway.”

The self-generating heat stage (50°C-140°C)

The thermal runaway stage (140°C-850°C)

Signs of thermal runaway

  • A Li-ion battery cell first begins to fail when it is subjected to an abuse factor like heat, overvoltage, etc.
  • Off-gassing
  • Smoke
  • Fire

Smoke and fire often occur almost simultaneously. So, by the time smoke is detected, thermal runaway has typically already begun.

Off-gassing usually occurs due to a breakdown of a Li-ion battery cell electrolyte, as a result of pressure buildup. Later, temperature increases, smoke is emitted and then fire breaks out.

Assessing the possibility of thermal runaway

Training helps identify and know the signs of thermal runaway. This is important as it’s unsafe for staff to be near a vehicle in Thermal Runaway. Emergency Services should be contacted immediately.

How to prevent a lithium-ion battery from catching fire

  • Store lithium-ion batteries at room temperature when possible
  • Do not charge them at temperatures below 0 degrees C or above 40 degrees C
  • The highest risk of a fire occurring is when a battery: 
    • is being charged.
    • is being transported, therefore at increased risk of damage.
    • has been damaged previously, as thermal runaway can occur hours, days or weeks later.
    • has been abused from over-charging or continual charging and discharging.

Reducing the risk of fire and explosion

A suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment should be undertaken and be subject to regular review.

This should cover, where appropriate:

  • Handling
  • Storage
  • Use
  • Charging

New Battery Regulations – Effective February 2024

The new European Battery Regulations, effective from February 18, 2024, aim to enhance battery sustainability and recycling across the EU. Key provisions include stricter waste management, extended producer responsibilities, and new battery categories. The regulations enforce end-of-life requirements, recycling targets, and reporting obligations, applying automatically across EU countries. Collection targets for waste batteries are set to increase, and specific measures for lithium recovery are outlined. The regulations also introduce mandatory recycled content levels and the concept of a ‘battery passport’ for detailed battery information. Stakeholders are encouraged to engage with implementation efforts in Ireland.

For more details, visit [WEEE Ireland])

Fireguard can help your business comply with the new 2024 European Battery Regulations by ensuring your battery waste management, reporting, and recycling processes meet the updated standards, including specific measures for lithium recovery and mandatory recycled content levels.

Fireguard acts as a consultant, training provider, and distributor for fire safety products, specialising in Lithium-Ion battery safety for EVs, forklifts, and pallet trucks.

Our mission is to educate companies about the risks of these batteries and prepare them for emergencies. We are committed to developing bespoke training programs that address our customers’ unique needs and challenges.

We offer a comprehensive range of safety solutions under one roof, ensuring that our clients receive the best possible support and equipment to manage and mitigate hazards effectively.

Bespoke Training Programs 

Our specialty is designing bespoke training programs and safety solutions tailored to each customer’s unique needs. Recognising that every business presents distinct challenges and risks, we focus on understanding these specifics to offer effective solutions.

Our expertise lies in building strong, trusting relationships with our clients, allowing them to rely on us for all their commercial safety needs. From initial consultation to comprehensive safety program implementation, we ensure that our clients are fully equipped to handle their specific safety challenges, providing a single source for all their commercial safety requirements.