Batteries seem innocent enough from the outside. And all battery systems are designed for safety, regardless of chemistry. However, in the case of leaks, corrosion, fire, puncture, or other abuse conditions, battery safety becomes a real concern.
You may have heard the term “battery abuse tolerance.” Abuse tolerance, which is common parlance in the battery industry, describes a battery’s ability to endure tough conditions and use cases. Abuse includes conditions such as over-charging, over-discharging, exposure to extreme temperatures, exposure to flame, and puncture.
Here are three things to consider when looking at the relative safety of different battery chemistries.
1) Is that ooze bad news?
Some battery ooze is harmless: white powder on the end of a typical AA battery cell is just salt crystals. No issue there. Other battery ooze can be downright dangerous. Batteries are able to store and expel energy due to electrochemical reactions that take place within the battery housing. As you might imagine, most batteries are full of interesting and lively chemicals, many of which are hazardous to humans, animals, and the environment.
The electrolyte in batteries is the “juice” that allows the flow of ions between the electrodes. The electrolyte in lead acid batteries is caustic acid. If your lead acid battery is corroding or leaking, raw electrolyte is being exposed, and you need to properly dispose of the batteries. Exposed lead acid electrolyte can cause severe chemical burns and other serious concerns.
Corrosion from sulfuric acid on a lead acid battery terminal
2) What happens if my battery is exposed to a fire?
Battery systems are designed for safety, regardless of chemistry. However, what happens when batteries are exposed to flame? This varies from chemistry to chemistry.
The electrolyte in lithium ion batteries is highly flammable, and lithium ion batteries are very energy dense. You’ve seen the news reports on lithium ion battery fires. When exposed to fire, the chemicals in lithium ion batteries react, which can result in thermal runaway, dramatic energetic release, fire that is difficult to contain and extinguish, and release of hazardous toxins into the air.
Lead acid batteries also release dangerous toxins into the air if they catch on fire.
Aquion’s Aqueous Hybrid Ion (AHI™) chemistry is inherently safe and is not capable of energetic thermal runaway. Our batteries have passed UL 1973 flame propagation testing. In addition, our batteries contain no hazardous, toxic, or noxious materials, so they can’t release toxins into the air if caught in a fire.
Plus, they just don’t light on fire. Watch us try:
3) What happens if my battery gets punctured?
No one means to puncture their battery. But if it does happen, what’s the result? To find out, battery manufacturers use a standard test called a “nail penetration test.”
We decided to get a little more dramatic with our batteries and go at them with a drill! Watch as we drill holes in an energized battery. (Also, our ooze is safe and non-toxic.) For comparison, we've included a lithium ion nail penetration test for you to check out as well.
Lithium ion nail penetration test:
For more on how our AHI™ technology compares to lithium-ion, download our tech comparison: