Lithium Ion battery - Lipo blows up first then catches fire after charging - RC Groups
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Nov 10, 2017, 03:16 PM
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Lithium Ion battery - Lipo blows up first then catches fire after charging


Hello All,

I have been a long time user of Lithium Ion / LiPo Batteries but yesterday I was charging an old Wild Scorpion Nano 4S 4400 Mah battery to put in my electric scooter and when I had connected the balancer lead of my battery to the appropriate port of my Tenergy TB6AC charger, I noticed the charger had starting charging at a measly 11.8 V and showing a full charge at only 12.5V. This was very surprising to me because even though the batteries were a few years old they were unused and had just been lying on the shelf in the garage with a full charge for a few years. So, brilliant as I usually am (that was a joke) I disconnected the balancing part of the charger and continued charging at 4A with my smart charger (set to LiPo charge) and then the battery happily took the charge and I noticed the Voltage was steadily rising up past 12.5V. Those dumb balancers I thought to myself, pleased at my inventiveness.

Fortunately I had put the battery in a battery charging bag (you know the ones with the velcro on the flap to seal the bag in) because in about half an hour I heard a loud popping / explosion sound and realized that something had definitely happened when charging the battery and the charging bag seemed to have puffed up, so I immediately disconnected the charger and put the battery still in the protective charging case outside on the patio to cool off; very pleased with myself that I had used the battery bag when charging this practically unused but older (3 years?) LiPo battery. I thought it was unnecessary to put the battery out on the patio because clearly the damage had already happened and I had nothing to worry about, but still it never hurts to be safe.

Well.... luckily I looked outside at the patio in a few minutes because I was very surprised to see that the charger bag was on fire with MAJOR flames 3 to 4 ft high in the air! I extinguished the flame with a red can of fire retardant - it did work well to stop the flames, but the whole thing kept smoking for half an hour. The smoke smelt real bad. All this still of course in the wonderful charging bag! So you can see spontaneous fires do actually happen. And a charging bag is not enough to stop a fire. Can you imagine what my wife thinks about all this? For once I actually agree with her!!!

Take away is that suddenly some 5% Nitro fuel and Lead Acid batteries are looking MUCH safer to me for my Radio Control model airplane, RC car and scooter hobbies / experiments. I never knew I would feel this way, but it takes one incident like this to make you see straight. I really will miss the power of those LiPo batteries, but it also is really good to have your house not burn down. Also, if you are a die hard or have no choice (think drone people!) maybe store your LiPos in a charging bag and put the charging bag in a sealed metal or fireproof case nowhere near anything that can catch fire - like build a little island in the middle of a lake and put your steel case there(!) - if you want to sleep peacefully at night. That fire extinguisher was a real saver.

Good luck folks, I hope this never happens to you.
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Nov 10, 2017, 03:29 PM
Registered User
I don't understand a few things here. First you stored the battery for a few years at full charge.
Second you mention the charger had the termination voltage at 12.5v, that's not correct for a 4S battery, it should be 16.8v. You didn't set your battery parameters correctly. You mention you're a long time user of lithium batteries but it doesn't sound like you know how to maintain or charge them.
Nov 10, 2017, 03:51 PM
Registered User
Sounds like you probably had a dead cell which then would overcharge all of the others if you charged with the balance lead disconnected.
Nov 10, 2017, 04:03 PM
Registered User
Absolutely correct Volt_Ampere. I am glad you pointed that out.

But I'm surely not the only person on planet Earth with a situation like this, I wonder how many more situations there are to account for? Point is, that you dont see cars suddenly bursting out in flames because their Lead Acid batteries spontaneously caught fire because one of their cells were under voltaged do you? As I said SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) batteries are looking very good for my scooter, I actually already had a set but their performance was underwhelming, I figured I'd upgrade them to Lipos. Not happening.

Also SLA batteries are heavy and for a scooter they drop the center of gravity and act like a keel to the scooter, making it more stable, so thats another good thing. Light is not necessarily good in all cases.
Nov 10, 2017, 04:14 PM
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by j.harris
I don't understand a few things here. First you stored the battery for a few years at full charge.
Second you mention the charger had the termination voltage at 12.5v, that's not correct for a 4S battery, it should be 16.8v. You didn't set your battery parameters correctly. You mention you're a long time user of lithium batteries but it doesn't sound like you know how to maintain or charge them.
The Tenergy charger was set to its default configuration I did not alter its factory settings except for increasing the max charge capacity and timer limits. I'm hoping that Chargers come with the correct settings pre-set and that one does not have to be a battery engineer to use one.

You may know that the Boeing Dreamliner had to be recalled because of Lithium battery fires on board while flying. Airbus also did not put Lithium batteries in the air apparently.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing...ttery_problems

https://www.theverge.com/2013/2/14/3...-ion-batteries

I knew about these problems before but never paid any attention to them, but after last nights' fire in my home, I'm starting to pay attention.
Nov 10, 2017, 04:42 PM
Space Coast USA
hoppy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by videovid
Absolutely correct Volt_Ampere. I am glad you pointed that out.

But I'm surely not the only person on planet Earth with a situation like this, I wonder how many more situations there are to account for? .
See post #4
https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...eports-Part-II
Nov 10, 2017, 04:50 PM
I'd rather be Flying
davecee's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by videovid
So you can see spontaneous fires do actually happen.
This will sound harsh, but that was NOT a spontaneous fire. That fire was absolutely and totally your fault. Improper storage, failure to check individual cell voltage prior to charging, and failing to check individual cell voltage after noticing a problem, removing the balance lead from the charger, and continuing to charge a problem pack blindly. I'm super glad that there was no significant property damage and no injury. Perhaps you're right though, you probably should stick to nitro, unless you're willing to understand just how wrong you went about storing and charging your LiPo.
Nov 10, 2017, 04:57 PM
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by videovid
The Tenergy charger was set to its default configuration I did not alter its factory settings except for increasing the max charge capacity and timer limits. I'm hoping that Chargers come with the correct settings pre-set and that one does not have to be a battery engineer to use one.
You have to tell the charger how many cells are in the battery, what amperage to charge the battery at, and what the termination voltage should be. The settings you're talking about have nothing to do with why your battery was improperly charged and destroyed.
Nov 10, 2017, 05:12 PM
Registered User
Of course I told the charger I had connected a 4s battery and of course I set the charging to 4A. I already mentioned that in my first post. Here are some pictures of what's left of the battery and charging bag.
Nov 10, 2017, 05:22 PM
Registered User
I agree that Lipos have more risk for fire than FLA's but for model flying - and in my Golf cart they are a necessary evil. Care in charging, storing, discharging is required. I have Nissan Leaf batteries in my golf cart. It's 250 pounds lighter than it was with the FLA batteries and it goes more than twice as far on a charge. I first tried electric flight on NiCads. It sucked. We would not have the electric hobby we have now with miniquads, great performing electric planes, etc without Lipos. We all have to minimize the risk by being very careful how we handle these batteries - but life is full of risk.
Nov 10, 2017, 05:41 PM
Registered User

Regarding Spontaneous


Wonderful, I would really like to know what are the proper ways to store Lipos for long periods of time. Actually because of what happened to me last night, I'm not buying lipos anymore but do give us an answer as to how one should store Lipos because other people might benefit from it. One thing that did benefit me a lot was that I did not set the charger and walk away from it. This is one of the things they say - do not walk away from a charging Lipo. That surely saved my home last night.

By spontaneous I mean after the initial explosion sound, the battery was just there calm and quiet in its charging bag. Nothing happening. Five minutes later 4 ft tall and 4 ft wide yellow orange flames from that same comatose bag. That is what I mean by spontaneous. I thought the battery explosion issue was over and done with. Wrong.

Had I not had the presence of mind to put the completely quiet charging bag outside on my patio my whole house might have burned down. Also the Kidde Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher really helped - it helps put out electrical fires. Here is a link that would be helpful for those in need of using Lipos in their life. This could save them and their families lives:

http://www.kidde.com/home-safety/en/...siness/466204/

The fire extinguisher puts out this white powdery stuff that engulfs the fire and stops it. I must say I've always wanted to use one, and now I have and it was fun to use! It worked! Today I have to clean up the powdery mess though! Not fun. The indicator on the canister reads EMPTY now. Oh well. It did its job brilliantly though. Thank you Kidde.

And you are trying to tell me its all my fault! You think I'm nuts! I dont remember when the last time I saw a car battery explode and take the car and home down with it for whatever reason. In fact that is the exact reason why they use Lead Acid cells in cars. You think car companies are not with the program and dont install Lipos in their cars? You think their engineers need to start hobbying and learn about Lipos too? I think you need to give the Engineers more credit Sir. That is my point; there are a slew of other reasons that might cause a similar effect with Lipos - may be you should list them all and then be sure to get them included when these Lipo batteries are being sold, that is if you care to help people. And then hope and pray people follow them.

It is not my job to harm people, but to get them out of harms way. Safe hobbying. At least get a steel case and put your lipos in there if you are addicted to Lipos. This is a little akin to the war on drugs, the more you warn people about the ill effects of drugs, the more they want to use them it seems! Maybe I should do a post on how wonderfully great Lipos are and how sick those orange yellow flames look when they explode from charging or god knows what, maybe then people will start to be more careful or wake up? Because I was lucky to be there to catch the trouble the moment it happened, I just hope others will be there too when it happens to them, otherwise...
Nov 10, 2017, 06:41 PM
I am a nice guy! Really!
Quote:
Originally Posted by videovid
Wonderful, I would really like to know what are the proper ways to store Lipos for long periods of time. . . . .

Do a search for "storage charge" on this site. Or buy a modern charger and read the storage charge instructions.

By spontaneous I mean after the initial explosion sound, the battery was just there calm and quiet in its charging bag. Nothing happening. . . . .

Not so spontaneous, because the batteries had already been abused by year(s) of storage at full charge followed by an overcharge condition. Just because the fire took 5 minutes to develop after the initial explosion does not make it spontaneous. If you read through these threads you will see that it is always recommended to get any battery that has experienced any sort of charging problem to a fire safe place. Even Chevrolet recommend that their Volt be placed in an isolated fire safe place after any accident. Damaged batteries are unpredictable.


Also the Kidde Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher really helped - it helps put out electrical fires.

Actually a lithium battery fire would not be considered electrical, rather chemical. And Lithium batteries also provide their own oxygen, so they can be especially problematic to extinguish.

http://www.kidde.com/home-safety/en/...siness/466204/

And you are trying to tell me its all my fault! You think I'm nuts! I dont remember when the last time I saw a car battery explode and take the car and home down with it for whatever reason. . . . .

Well it was your fault. You did not educate yourself on the proper use and care of the batteries you were using. And you cannot compare them to LAB's because they are an entirely different animal.

In fact that is the exact reason why they use Lead Acid cells in cars. You think car companies are not with the program and dont install Lipos in their cars? You think their engineers need to start hobbying and learn about Lipos too? I think you need to give the Engineers more credit Sir. That is my point; there are a slew of other reasons that might cause a similar effect with Lipos - may be you should list them all and then be sure to get them included when these Lipo batteries are being sold, that is if you care to help people. And then hope and pray people follow them. . . . .

In fact lithium batteries are used in some electric and hybrid vehicles. But they also have a battery management system that cares for the batteries, eliminating any possible errors that could be induced by the owner/user. As long as said owner/user follows the instructions provided, there should be no problems.
To sum up, it was your fault that the fire occurred. And you probably are wise to use LAB's. They seem to fit within your desires/capabilities as far as learning to take proper care of batteries is concerned. LiPo's are reasonably safe to use as long as they are given proper care and used within their capabilities. No, they are not as safe as Nixx or LAB, but they have their advantages that make up for that.

BTW any battery can and will cause a fire if they are not properly secured to prevent accidental short circuits when the move unintentionally, or if the wire associated with them is not done with care.
Last edited by Mike Dubovsky; Nov 10, 2017 at 06:46 PM.
Nov 10, 2017, 06:47 PM
Registered User
There are hundreds of posts here about how to properly care for and store lipos. We don't need to generate any more of that. Just go study the posts and use the Search function.
Lithium batteries are everywhere - every cell phone - laptops, tablets, Electric cars, shavers, etc. The reason they are not used in IC cars is not that they are dangerous - they are not suited to the kind of job that a car requires - and they are much more expensive than FLA.
Nov 10, 2017, 06:59 PM
Space Coast USA
hoppy's Avatar
It's been said over and over that some lipo bags are no better than a paper bag....point proven. Only use TESTED lipo bags like the LipoSack.
Nov 10, 2017, 07:44 PM
Registered User

Education?


Well, in ah my defense and the defense of most people the battery I was trying to charge was brand new ie unused. Period. Just sitting on a shelf. Never even bumped let alone dropped. When charging an unused Nickel Cadmium or NiMh or Lead acid battery one does not expect them to blow up after they have been sitting around.. come on!

When my brand new battery showed an under voltage I actually thought it was a problem with the battery balancing connector - there are several possible connections/options on the Tenergy battery balancing system, I thought (mistakenly) that perhaps I am not connecting the balancing connector to the correct balancing port of the Tenergy charger, and that the battery is not being balanced properly and so that is why I am getting a low voltage because in my wide experience using LiPos I never had a situation where the battery did not get charged fully. And so I disconnected the balance circuit. Now I, who has a degree in Engineering did this. Care to think of what other people might do? Besides it is not necessary to connect a battery balancer every single time you charge a LiPo - I just happened to do so. So give me a break and see what I am talking about.

And you are talking about battery management systems. Well I do have a smart charger and my Tenergy smart charger was working properly - clearly it had tried to charge some cells that were weak, but I had no experience with this kind of situation where the proper voltage was not being reached and certainly I would not jump to any conclusion about weak cells for a brand new battery. But I do hope the battery management systems out there for cars drones LifeoPo4 systems are smart enough to figure things out, otherwise we are all going to be dead. I did have a drone that would just drop vertically from the sky onto the ground and it took me sending the drone in twice to the manufacturer before the problem was resolved. There too btw I had to change the LiPo battery! There again the battery was a little old! See - a trend! OLD LIPO Batteries are dodgy imho.

I wonder if they can come up with a battery management system for LiPos - that may save some of us.

We all know about the power of LiPos - the high drain current and light weight but there is a real scary side which is quite unpredictable imho. Battery Management for Lipos (like they have for LifePO4 batteries) may be the solution..


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