CPSC: Risk of Fire Is Real, And We Really Need To Modernize The Standards For Lithium-Ion Batteries

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You’re probably within the explosion radius of at least once device containing a rechargeable lithium-ion battery right now, maybe even holding it on your lap or close to your face. Elliot Kaye, chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, wants to make sure that all of the rechargeable devices in your life are safer and less likely to burst into flames than they are now.

In the last year, the CPSC has faced two massive recalls of devices that use lithium-ion batteries. The first was the recall of over half a million hoverboards in one go, but the largest was the recall of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphone.

What these mega-recalls show us, Kaye points out in a statement today, is that a recall can be really efficient when a manufacturer dedicates hundreds of employees to getting devices back, even enlisting wireless carriers to help by letting the company deactivate the fire-prone phones remotely.

Chairman Kaye also announced that Samsung plans to share what its engineers learn from returned phones with the rest of the electronics industry and with the CPSC and its equivalent agencies around the world.

“Consumers expect more power from a smaller battery that charges faster and discharges more slowly,” Kaye said in his statement today. “Companies are under a lot of pressure to meet this performance demand.”

To that end, Kaye says the agency and Samsung are working with the wireless industry, battery manufacturers, and electrical engineers to “take a fresh look at the voluntary standard for lithium-ion batteries in smartphones.”

The progress of technology makes devices more dangerous over time without consistent standards: our love of thinner and smaller devices led Samsung to put a large, oddly-shaped battery in its flagship phone of 2016, the Galaxy Note 7.

“Industry needs to learn from this experience and improve consumer safety by putting more safeguards in place during the design and manufacturing stages to ensure that technologies run by lithium-ion batteries deliver their benefits without the serious safety risks,” Kaye concluded.

Companies will make batteries and devices smaller and more powerful, which is good for consumers… as long as those devices are safe.

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