Hurricane Florence set us wondering how a pack of lithium batteries would survive if deluged in a storm surge. Because we know the technology can be explosive, and spraying water does not extinguish a lithium battery fire. Moreover, we wanted to know, would lithium batteries survive hurricanes? We found a research paper titled ‘Preliminary Study on the Safety of a Lithium Ion Battery Pack Under Water Immersion’ that we’d like to discuss today.
Tsinghua University Asks, Would Lithium Batteries Survive Hurricanes?
Tsinghua University is a major research facility in Beijing, China. Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings rated it 14th globally in 2017. The National Natural Science Foundation of China also sponsored the study to investigate the posed question.
The Tsinghua University preliminary report begins, “Most battery packs must comply with IP67 standard to guarantee waterproof before commercialization. However, passing the IP67 standard cannot 100% guarantee that the battery packs do not leak when immersed in fluid like dirty water or sea water during the whole life cycle, especially under extreme conditions.”
Feedback from Hurricane Sandy and China’s Own Experience
The researchers cite “several Fisker Karma electric vehicles that burned after sea water intrusion caused by Hurricane Sandy. In 2016, two electric buses burned in a fire after overnight water immersion due to a heavy rain in Nanjing, China.”
They found that when they immersed a single cell in water, they observed an electric arc near the poles of the cell. “Because the poles of the prismatic cell fused near the area where the electric arc was triggered. We saw a ball of flames appear, and some other small flames floating on the water surface.”
Therefore, they conclude “an electric arc containing enormous energy will be released due to high voltage when the battery pack is immersed under water.” Hence the answer to our question, would lithium batteries survive hurricanes, is perhaps, but perhaps not. We wait for the final report with interest.
Preview Image: Single Cells in Tsinghua University Battery