Even though our smartphones will never last as long as we would want them to on a single charge, battery technology has made some significant strides over the years. And it doesn’t matter what device you use, lithium-ion is the standard rechargeable battery you’ll find in just about all of them.
Apple sums up the reasons why lithium-ion is the standard when describing its own batteries, saying they “charge faster, last longer and have a higher power density for more battery life in a lighter package.” In essence, they’re the Six Million Dollar Man of batteries: “Better, stronger, faster.”
But the technology is far from perfect and lithium-ion batteries — especially those from questionable manufacturers — can come with safety risks that include catching fire or even exploding. One mom recently learned that the hard way when the inside of her SUV was severely damaged as the result of a new battery for her iPhone. You’ll have to see the damage to believe it.
The risks of lithium-ion batteries
As Apple pointed out, today’s lithium-ion batteries provide more density in lighter packages. That’s great but that also means they’re more fragile and if they’re punctured or otherwise damaged, it can cause a short that leads to the lithium igniting.
You’ve probably seen reports over the years of e-cigarettes exploding or those once-trendy hoverboards catching fire, and let’s not forget about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 battery issues that led to a mass recall three years ago. And just look at recent recalls of laptop batteries over fire risk concerns, coming from HP late last year and Apple last month.
Not even wireless headphones are immune from potentially wreaking havoc. Now you see why you can’t check any luggage with lithium-ion batteries before your next flight. It’s carry-on or not at all.
New battery was more than she bargained for
While lithium-ion batteries are fragile, they don’t like extreme heat either, which can lead to a process called “thermal runaway.” Firefighters in Oklahoma City say an overheated iPhone battery led to an explosion inside Jabricia Pratt’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, according to Oklahoma City NBC affiliate KFOR.
Luckily, Pratt and her children weren’t injured because the SUV was empty at the time. Another silver lining is that firefighters say it could have been much worse had the windows been cracked because there would have been more oxygen for the ensuing explosion to work with.
While the outside of the SUV appears normal, there’s a considerable amount of damage inside. Just take a look at the video below from KFOR:
Here’s what makes Pratt’s case even more notable: the iPhone battery wasn’t the original. It was a replacement she ordered from a third-party seller (LeeVee) on Amazon that had not yet been installed. And now she says they won’t respond to her messages, and has coincidentally pulled the battery from their list of available items.
As far as Amazon goes, they apologized but said they’re not responsible for items sold by third parties. That could soon change after a recent court ruling says Amazon could be held liable for problems with what others sell, which you can read more about by clicking or tapping here.
Taking proper care of your batteries
Just to be clear – not every lithium-ion battery is a ticking time bomb. While it’s best to keep the potential risks in mind, taking proper care of your devices’ batteries will certainly reduce the chance of something going wrong that damages your property or worse, leads to injury.
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For one, don’t let the battery get too hot. That means don’t leave loose batteries or your lithium-ion-powered device inside a hot car, or anywhere else subject to extreme temperatures.
Another rule of thumb is to only use the charger that came with your device. That’s because some third-party chargers have a higher than recommended voltage which can lead to overcharging and thus possibly pose a fire risk.
If you decide to buy another charger (such as one for your car), make sure it’s an exact replacement or certified to work with your gadgets. Read more tips by tapping or clicking here.