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Update on Safety Regulations for Lithium Batteries

At the Eurobike World Fair 2009 in Friedrichshafen, Germany, BATSO project manager Tim Schaefer presented an overview of safety issues in the electric mobility field. He had a number of things to say about lithium batteries for pedelecs, e-bikes, and green cars, especially worth noting by vehicle manufacturers.  
 

 
Electric mobility is personal, free of local emissions and already available in large quantities. The topic has, meanwhile, achieved a high position on the political agenda, due to strategic thinking, climate protection, dependency on oil and more and more regenerative energy available. Markets have already developed some momentum and are further on the rise. True, savvy political strategists are going to turn Germany into the leading market for electronic mobility. The Eurobike World Fair 2009 in Friedrichshafen has established itself as a trend leader, showing a variety of electronic mobility solutions from the traditional electric bicycle to the latest pedelecs. They are all equipped with battieres and many of them are quality-tested by Extraenergy. Electric mobility exists - the market is shaped by the following trends:

• Lithium Ion batteries of approx. 210 watt hours up to 1 kilowatt hour
• Batteries made by vehicle manufacturers
• Batteries only partly labeled with safety instructions
• Battery designs of same component type used by different producers

Test results of products belonging to the upper market segment are mostly positive and show the high quality and good price/performance ratio of these products. Trends favor higher extra energy content – the combination of 1 kilowatt hour and multiple batteries on the same light vehicle are a challenge for safe handling. It should not be forgotten that one kilowatt hour is enough to toast approximately 130 slices of bread.

Bicycle manufacturers as battery producers?
Safety and cost are of utmost importance to the industry. Obviously, manufacturers of light electric vehicles have only insufficient experience with existing regulations and their consequences. A battery without labels, such as the disposal label with the crossed-out garbage bin, should not be used in any product. A lack of safety labels is a grave cause for concern. Until now, bicycle manufacturers have produced batteries under their own brands, contrary to the interests of battery manufacturers. It seems questionable if bicycle manufacturers are aware of the consequences of the German battery legislation of 25/06/2009, effective from 01/12/2009 (triggered by EU directive 2006/66/EG).

The law obliges a bicycle manufacturer (possibly also a battery manufacturer) to indicate if the company has physically altered the product, changed or increased the terms of insurance, analyzed or observed the markets regarding product liability terms, or built warranty provisions on the balance sheet. Has the returning of batteries been organized? Are clients notified that a bicycle battery may generally not be checked in with airline luggage (prohibited!) and taken on vacations? These are all questions that matter for a battery producer. Or has the light electric vehicle industry fallen for the supposed savvy of the Asians? It seems that a large share of batteries is made in Asia. Since they are both good quality and cheaper, compared to  batteries manufactured in Germany in line with regulations, there is sufficient production capacity available in Germany.

Starting 01/03/2010, all battery manufacturers will need to register according to German law, including vehicle battery producers. Otherwise, marketing will be prohibited.

Product safety and UN test specifications
Clients of small electric vehicles demand safety more than anything else. Unqualified products with potentially unsafe batteries do not belong in the market. It is not possible to ship uninspected batteries legally, independent from warranty or product liability issues. Battery manufacturers as well as government and non-government agencies will proceed with all due power against such actions. A lot is at stake – the false declaration of hazardous goods as spare parts or bike parts, or the use of uninspected lithium-Ion batteries, is against the law.

Good to know that qualified battery manufacturers have their own, detailled inspection plans for batteries. And that the Battery Safety Organization (BATSO) conducts its own, independent inspections.

At the Eurobike Fair electric bikes seemed to be the hottest topic of all. The industry will take care that the battery doesn't turn out to be the hottest (meaning you-don't-want-to-touch-) part of the bicycle.

Presentation on safety issues for lithium batteries by Tim Schaefer
(PDF download, 1.4 MB, German)

More about BATSO


Copy: Tim Schäfer
Photo: Susanne Brüsch

21 September 2009

 
 

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