Lithium-ion batteries for vehicle traction. One of the hottest topics in the automotive world, one with the most unofficial experts, the wildest stories and the least info to find. Li-ion batteries are rather new technology, but they find their way to our housekeepings everywhere. The non-traction types can be found in cell phones and laptops and in other devices, the traction types in bicycles, cars (electrical vehicles and hybrid vehicles: EV or H/EV) but also toys like hooverboards. Everything for the climate (where probably environment should be mentioned) to prevent direct emissions (direct, as the power to charge them is almost always of fossil origin anyway). And we must admit, the radius may be limited, the acceleration of an EV is fenominal. But batteries (the Li-ion type) cannot be ingored or denied any longer as they are everywhere and EV ELV’s start to enter our businesses also.

Where do we find info about these batteries? We hear many stories, but we need solid info. What should we pay extra attention to? Most dismantlers have heard of IDIS. IDIS provides rather good info about batteries. Described is the system and how to dismantle batteries from hybrids and EV’s. And when info is incomplete or wrong, IDIS is easy to approach and listens to your comments and will adjust the information. But this info is limited to dismantling and high voltage. No directions or tips for storage are given and about flamability of damaged batteries nothing is said. Transport is regulated in ADR legislation, but storage isn’t. In some EPR scemes is refered to collectors and recyclers and some provide transport containers that can be used for temporary storage, but that’s about it.

What do we need to be aware of when handling EV’s or batteries? What are the characteristics of these batteries? First there’s the high voltage. Li-ion is able to store a lot of energy in relatively little weight, compared to lead-acid batteries or other conventional types. They also can be charged rather quickly. Li-ion batteries want to decharge quickly also, so regulation technology is necessary. For this there’s always some electronics on Li-ion batteries, easy to recognise by the lights that are always on them, even when they are used as starter batteries, almost looking like lead-acid ones. A lot of safeties are build in in Li-ion batteries and as said, info is in IDIS and most trainings learn how to disconnect and secure the high voltage systems.

The other typical characteristic is the flamability of the electrolite in the cells. It burns from itself when released from the cells. And when it burns, it does at a temperature of 1200*C and is not to be extinguished. It will light up again and again until it’s completely burned out. When is a Li-ion battery prone to catch fire? 1 When it’s damaged. This is visible. It could be hit and cracked or dented, or it can come out of a burned vehicle. Leaking Li-ion batteries smell a bit like soap. Even if the battery didn’t burn itself, the heat can have it affected. 2 Overcharging. This can only be measured. The battery is instable and can catch fire at a non-predictable moment. 3 Undercharging. Almost empty a battery can become instable too. If simply charging will stabilise it, nobody knows. Measure it. Another way of detecting instable batteries is feeling if they are getting warm while nothing is done. A spontanious warming up is alarming. Always. Secure it and have it collected right away.

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What we advise, is to have a suspect battery leave the yard as soon as possible. Dismantle it as soon as possible and have it collected by an authorised collector. Your EPR network knows, the producer of te brand knows. Avoid a Li-ion fire. Leave damaged EV’s outside if the battery is suspected. Storing it inside may burn down your complex and even your neighbour’s. Make sure even when stored outside, in case of fire it cannot expand to anything else, it can be reached easily by emercency services (they may be able to protect everything else around the fire) and it can burn out without damage to anything else. The same counts for a dismantled instable battery.

Do we need to be afraid of EV batteries? We need to have respect for them and recognise them as they are. Good batteries are great for trade. Even batteries that are under 80% capacity can be refurbished by specialists or rebuilt to energy storage systems. As long as cells in the battery pack can store energy, there’s a goal for them which is very sustainable. Just don’t tinker with them and make bad ones or suspected ones leave your yard before anything happens. Store the good ones in such a way that they are protected from anything around them. Do not store them with other goods, avoid other activities than storage in the same room where used batteries are stored. In some countries working groups are busy trying to find out what’s the best way to store them. Make sure you are in such groups, before ineffective very expensive measures are advised. It’s possible to handle them in a safe way, but as long as there are no directions for them, you need to be the wise party and avoid any emercencies. As soon as there’s more info about batteries, we will share.