Lithium-ion batteries in the logistics supply chain

TT webinar: Lithium-ion batteries in the logistics supply chain
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The webinar discusses the risks associated with the handling, storage and transport of lithium batteries in the logistics supply chain. Lithium-ion batteries are used in many devices and their usage is increasing. Under normal conditions they are safe but under certain conditions they can fail catastrophically resulting in fires that are difficult to extinguish. The webinar covers the science behind lithium-ion batteries, risks associated with battery failures, challenges faced on different ship types, and potential solutions and innovations.

How Lithium-ion Batteries Work

  • Lithium-ion batteries consist of electrodes (cathode, anode), electrolyte, and separator.
  • Cathode is made of various chemistries, each with different properties. Battery is named by cathode chemistry.
  • Anode is graphite, electrolyte allows lithium ion flow, separator isolates electrodes.
  • Batteries combined in modules and packs placed in battery enclosure in vehicle chassis.
  • Battery management system monitors the battery and prevents overcharging/discharging.

Battery Failure Leading to Thermal Runaway

  • Failure can occur from mechanical, electrical or thermal abuse.
  • Creates unwanted reactions generating heat, accelerating to thermal runaway.
  • Rapid heat generation results in fire, venting of toxic/flammable gases.
  • Cathode chemistry influences the rate of heat generation.

Other Risks of Electric Vehicle Fires

  • Explosion releasing shrapnel, causing secondary fires.
  • Risk of electrocution.
  • Most fires occur during charging or when parked.
  • Toxic gases produced including hydrogen fluoride.

Challenges on Ships

  • Regulations not updated for lithium battery fire risks.
  • Crews have basic training, not professional firefighters.
  • Access difficulties due to tight cargo stows.
  • Hard to identify electric vs combustion engine vehicles.
  • Stability concerns from water use.
  • Lifeboats located above burning vehicles on car carriers.
  • Potential for aluminium construction to melt from high temperatures.
  • Limited deck space makes fire blanket use difficult.
  • Contradictions between manufacturer guidelines and typical firefighting.
  • Each fire fighting system has pros and cons.

Technological Innovations and Solutions

  • Improving battery components and chemistry.
  • Advanced detection of off-gassing before thermal runaway.
  • Purpose built containers with integrated fire fighting systems.
  • New vessel designs to isolate fires.
  • Alternative firefighting mediums under development.

Key Considerations

  • Possibility of vapour cloud explosions.
  • Extreme toxicity of fire water and gases.
  • Challenges fighting fires with multiple decks at risk of collapse.
  • Manufacturers learning from recent incidents.
  • End-of-life batteries potentially have a higher risk.


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