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Lithium-Ion Battery Safety Tester Tightens Standards

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Lithium-ion battery pack for 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV electric car

Lithium-ion battery pack for 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV electric car

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Electric cars aren't cut much slack in the mainstream media, and any issues are usually jumped upon before facts have time to surface.

Recent high-profile battery failures have been seized with zeal whether automobile-related or not, but one product safety company is aiming to curtail that with tighter safety standards for lithium-ion batteries.

Underwriters Laboratories, a 119-year old U.S.-based company specializing in product safety, will strengthen its lithium-ion battery standards to ensure the chemistry's inherent vulnerabilities are minimized, according to Automotive News.

That could help prevent instances such as those earlier this year, when Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner aircraft made headlines as overheating lithium-ion batteries caused the whole fleet to be grounded..

It led some commentators to draw links between the batteries used in the aircraft and those used in electric cars--with the inevitable digs at electric car safety.

In reality, the batteries used in each have completely different chemistry, despite falling under the banner of "lithium-ion batteries"--but higher safety standards would benefit all industries.

Underwriters Laboratories says it has developed a new testing procedure to prevent short circuits inside the battery, a leading cause of overheating and fires. In addition, reports Automotive News, the company will refine its testing standards for electric and hybrid vehicle batteries.

Developing such tests is a challenge, says the company--owing to the number of lithium-ion batteries in use, their complexity, and the huge spectrum of products they're used in. A test that works for an iPad may not be relevant to an electric car or aircraft, for example.

Figures from the Portable Rechargable Battery Association put the number of lithium-ion cells produced in 2012 at 4.4 billion--up from just 800 million a decade earlier. That's only set to increase, as more products--notably electric cars and hybrids--begin using the chemistry.

Those batteries aren't inherently unsafe, but tests to prevent potential issues escalating are always a bonus--and it'll give the media one fewer reason to jump on electric vehicles.

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