UL Introduces Safety Test For Battery Fire Protection

Having a great electronic device or a great car is nice, but it’s easy to forget that having those devices be safe can mean the difference between enjoying new technology and suffering (or dying) from it. Few things can ruin the rest of your day faster than having a gadget blow up in your face, or having an EV catch on fire.

Fortunately, UL (a well-known electronics safety testing company) recently announced the Battery Enclosure Thermal Runaway (BETR) evaluation, the first material screening test method at UL Solutions to evaluate electric vehicle (EV) battery enclosure material. The UL 2596, Test Method for Thermal and Mechanical Performance of Battery Enclosure Materials, standard was published on Jan. 27, 2022 by the UL Standards and Engagement organization.

“As the electrification of mobility continues to grow, thermal runaway has become a critical safety issue in the automotive industry and has heightened attention concerning how optimal enclosure material is used for thermal runaway protection,” said Eric Bulington, director of product management in the Engineered Materials group of UL Solutions. “With this offering, we are helping manufacturers navigate one of the e-Mobility industry’s most complex challenges while meeting the market demand for innovative and trustworthy automotive products.”

UL Solutions uses a thermal runaway test to evaluate material performance. Material plaques are tested against the entire battery assembly, saving resin manufacturers and materials suppliers time and money in the process. The purpose of material evaluations is to ensure that producers have access to a variety of options so they can provide original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with solutions that fit their needs while also evaluating the performance of materials.

“UL Solutions has a long history of thought leadership with respect to batteries of all shapes and sizes, so it’s fitting that we continue that legacy with EV batteries,” Bulington said. “With this offering, UL Solutions addresses industry concerns by providing automotive OEMs and suppliers, and automotive component and system manufacturers, testing and advisory solutions to meet multiple standards and regulations.”

Why This Matters

UL and its spokespeople made this sound a lot less interesting than it is. Unlike most safety testing, they intentionally make the batteries go up in smoke. This is a good thing, because they want to make sure the outer casing for the batteries can keep people from getting hurt in the event of a thermal runaway event (aka a battery fire).

Lithium battery fires are particularly dangerous because they can reignite after being put out. That’s why we see news about electric cars burning up long after they’ve been extinguished. With the new BETR test, the goal isnt to prevent these hot, difficult to extinguish fires as much as make sure nobody gets hurt while dealing with the situation.

Electronics battery fires are more common than many people think. A cursory Google search can find many stories of cell phones catching fire, or airliners experiencing in-flight emergencies because somebody’s device caught fire or started smoking. Making these incidents even just a little safer can make a big difference.

Featured image by US Forest Service.


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