The lithium-ion battery is a great little invention, until it explodes.
The lithium-ion battery, a form of rechargeable battery, is used in products ranging from cell phones, to laptops, to e-cigarettes. Due to the world’s portably charged and rechargeable lifestyle, approximately 4.8 billion lithium-ion cells were manufactured in 2013 and industry experts predict product of 8 billion a year by 2025.
In February 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted tests in which they overheated lithium-ion batteries to 1,100 degrees, showing that they regularly emit explosive gases when they overheat. Primarily consisting of hydrogen, the gases caused violent explosions and fires. Due to the fact that a single shipping container may contain thousands of batteries, the explosive and fiery nature of lithium-ion batteries is cause for concern.
As a result, United Airlines and Delta will not accept shipments of rechargeable batteries and American Airlines will accept rechargeable battery shipments only under restricted conditions. Cargo planes continue to transport such shipments, though lithium-ion battery explosions may have caused 3 fires destroying 2 Boeing 747s and a freighter plane. The problem for regulators is a 2012 law enacted by Congress. The law restricts the government from regulating battery shipments more stringently than does the International Civil Aviation Organization without an international investigation showing that batteries ignited an aircraft-destroying fire. The 3 destroyed planes were so damaged that the blaze sources could not be determined; there you have it: no determination that batteries caused the aircraft-destroying fires; therefore, no tougher regulations.
An additional worry for us e-cigarette users, reportedly 2.5 million Americans at last count, is the specter of e-cigarette battery explosions. I’ve seen a spate of those reports lately and the explosions supposedly result from incompatible chargers, overcharging or insufficient safety precautions, such as failing to pack them in static-free packaging. Better yet, experts liken the exploding e-cigarettes to “flaming rockets” due to their shape and construction. As a result, the FAA is advising airlines to ban e-cigarettes from checked luggage. The FAA proposes that e-cigarettes be carried only in the aircraft cabin, “where overheating or fire can be observed and handled more quickly.” (I can just see the friendly faces on my fellow passengers when my e-cigarette blasts through the cabin like a Roman Candle.) The FAA also requested that airlines explain their e-cigarette policies to passengers via web sites, news releases, and during ticket purchasing and check-ins.
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