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Tough love for the industry's lithium addiction

Discussion in 'General Scuba Equipment Discussions' started by 2airishuman, Sep 4, 2019.

  1. Brian G

    Brian G Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Pittsburgh
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    So, umm, I was around way back in the 1990's and I saw this first hand. You said you heard horror stories. I saw horror stories. Batteries would be discharged in about 5-7 minutes (9-12C) then fast-charged for the next flight. Not everyone did this, but some did, sometimes with Frankenstein creations involving 12V car batteries. After the first couple of fires, the folks doing this either stopped, or brought metal enclosures to charge in. After losing enough batteries/planes/garages/houses, they learned not to treat lithium-ion/polymer batteries like the ni-cads that they had been using.

    Fires were inevitable from that kind of abuse. Now they don't have that problem because they know to use specified charge rates and balancing connectors. For lithium-ion cells, you can buy protected versions that have circuitry that does some of what a smart charger does, monitors the voltage and current and shuts off the battery if those go out of spec. I'm not saying that lithium-ion batteries now are 100% safe, but authentic cells with proper care will very rarely catch fire. Some cells are even approved for use in firefighting SCBAs.
     
    KWS likes this.
  2. chillyinCanada

    chillyinCanada Solo Diver Staff Member

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    "rarely catch fire"?
    I'm glad that the incidence has drastically decreased by rarely ain't never.
     
  3. Brian G

    Brian G Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Pittsburgh
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    Your activities are going to be very limited if you restrict yourself to things that carry zero risk. Certainly don't drive a car.
     
    StefinSB, KWS, kelemvor and 1 other person like this.
  4. chillyinCanada

    chillyinCanada Solo Diver Staff Member

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    Yes, that's one of my life premises and I've said the same often.

    But this thread is focused towards what are we going to do about lithium batteries in our lives. The consensus so far seems to be special charging cabinets.
     
  5. Popgun Pete

    Popgun Pete Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
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    Not totally trustworthy, but better than the red/green light clone charger on the left. The Nitecore has an LCD panel display that indicates charging rate, charging progress and evaluates if the cell is a dud or has become one. It will refuse to charge dangerous cells. The white no-name charger will cheerfully try to charge anything.
    USB Chargers.JPG
     
    KWS, undrwater and cerich like this.
  6. kelemvor

    kelemvor Big Fleshy Monster ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Largo, FL USA
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    What are you saying they didn't/can't figure out? Both companies still use lithium batteries in all their products. Both have good safety records. Ergo; they have "figured it out". Neither is going to go back to the obsolete ni-mh chemistry. They'll change when the water based graphene cells start to get mass produced, I'm sure.

    The problem isn't the lithium battery. Heck, it's safer than gasoline or diesel fuel or uranium as an energy source.

    As with anything, there is room for improvement. Lithium batteries are often used with no proper casing (as is the case with cell phone batteries). They rely on the device that the cells are installed into for physical protection. 18650 cells do have a minimal casing; although it would be nice if cells could be made with a stronger physical casing.

    Personally, I think you're wasting your time trying to move people back to a dead battery technology. Nobody is going to go out and buy an iphone 11 if it only has 1hr battery life or if it is the size of a 1980's car phone. Most people aren't going to go back to dive lights with butt-mount battery canisters and cables. It would be better to spend your time working towards a new technology as I mentioned above.

    As for safety on a boat with lithium goes... I think @Wookie got it right. No charging batteries where you sleep. Deal with suspect cells appropriately. Want to take it a step further? Use a proper bat-safe box for charging cells on a boat. I have one for charging cells in my house. If one of them catches fire, the box will contain the fire and filter out any dangerous fumes that are discharged.

    I think it would be a good move for the USCG or whoever makes 'da rules' to create a rule about where batteries can be charged and stored while on a boat. That should include devices with integrated batteries such as a laptop or cell phone. Maybe it should even include the boat's onboard battery bank location. Of course that won't help the other 90% of the world that isn't concerned with USCG regulations...

    Get a bat-safe box. They're not super expensive and will be far safer than that frying pan.
     
  7. martincohn

    martincohn Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: USA
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    Yup that genie is long out of the bottle and gone!

    Better battery chemistries are out there in development. They will eventually replace Li based chemistries, yup all of them. Problem is that the cheaper faster better today leads to problems tomorrow.

    Remember cheap, fast, or good. Pick 2.
     
    chillyinCanada likes this.
  8. Brian G

    Brian G Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Pittsburgh
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    The original premise of this thread was that lithium-ion batteries are too dangerous to use, thus we should stop using them. This would be along the lines of using hydrogen gas in dirigible balloons, which stopped once helium became more cheaply available. My argument is that lithium-ion batteries are not so dangerous that the risk can't be managed easily and cheaply. When I say the risk can be "managed" I mean "reduced such that the benefit/risk ratio is acceptable". The original post mentioned that alkaline or nimh batteries are safer. This is certainly true, but it is still a thing that you can use a 9V alkaline battery and steel wool to start a fire, so obviously not 100% safe. Nimh has an energy and power density approximately half of lithium ion, so reasonably bright yet compact lights can be designed around this chemistry. Alkaline are still pretty common for backup lights, but the brightness is limited to 200-300 lumens with fresh batteries, decreasing to half that after a few hours. If that brightness is acceptable, and a 3 C-cell light is compact enough, then that solution has an acceptable benefit/risk ratio (acceptable benefit/very low risk).
     
  9. Popgun Pete

    Popgun Pete Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
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    I have thrown them all out, but the "Ultrafire" 18650 batteries (default selection, there were no other choices) had no vented tops, so ergo they had no safety circuit in the battery itself. The simple chargers that plugged directly into the flashlight just had a red led for "on" and some had an instruction on a small piece of paper saying don't charge for over 8 hours or something like that as the number varied. That was it. Some of the chargers out of the box, they were crammed into an el-cheapo carry case with the flashlight and a power lead and a carry strap, did not even work and the led never glowed. By contrast quality cells were a fraction longer and there are two tiny vent holes diametrically opposed in the positive cap on the battery. However one cannot rule out those holes being a dummy on look-a-like fakes. Some rechargeables have lithium polymer cells, but they have lower power density and tend to be much safer and are generally in smaller devices.

    The problem batteries seem to be in the set 18650 AND lithium ion, although the fatter 26650 cell may also suffer from bad clones, they use the same chargers.
     
  10. dmaziuk

    dmaziuk Orca

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    My understanding is that if they have to vent, they may vent fire, i.e. vents don't make them "safe".

    FWIW half of my Ultrafires are now at the point where a fresh charge doesn't last long enough for a bike ride home in the evening, but they took a few years to get there. Using a nitecore charger with just the LEDs, no fancy display -- amazingly, no fires to date!
     

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