Batteries have become indispensable devices in our everyday lives: so many items we use on a daily basis rely on battery power to function. Ensuring that they are safe to use throughout their life cycle is more important than ever.
Battery technology has hit the headlines recently because of the flammable properties of Lithium-ion (Li-ion). During 2018, around 23 electric energy storage accidents at utilities in South Korea were reported due to battery-provoked fires. Short circuits, overcharge, over-discharge, mechanical damage and high temperatures can lead to thermal runaway, fire, and explosion in the batteries.
IEC International Standards and Conformity Assessment (CA) Systems are therefore more crucial than ever to establish and test the safety specifications and performance requirements for batteries, whether lead-acid, nickel-cadmium (NICad) or, indeed, Li-ion. IEC TC 21 is one of several IEC technical committees preparing standards for cells and batteries.
The work of IEC TC 21 is divided into two distinct areas covering different battery technologies. Subcommittee 21A has the task of preparing standards for batteries with alkaline electrolyte, such as NiCad or nickel–metal-hydride, and TC 21 focuses on batteries with acid electrolyte called lead-acid. Both share the work on Li-ion batteries.
IECEE (IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components) is one of the four CA systems administered by the IEC. It runs a scheme which tests the safety, performance component interoperability, energy efficiency, electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), hazardous substances, etc. of batteries, chargers and charging stations.
EV growth and batteries
According to a forecast by the International Energy Agency, the number of EVs on the world’s roads will increase from 3 million to 125 million by 2030. In 2018, IEC TC 21 published several important documents, including a second edition of IEC 62660-2 which is part of the IEC 62660 series on secondary Li-ion cells for the propulsion of EVs.
IEC 62660 has three different parts: the first deals with performance testing, the second with reliability tests and the third with safety requirements. The purpose of IEC 62660-2 is to provide a basic reliability and abuse testing methodology for Li-ion cells which can be used in a diverse range of automobile battery packs and systems.
Lead acid can easily be recycled
IEC TC 21 also publishes a wide number of lead acid battery specifications. While this technology is still predominant because it is cheaper and safer than Li-ion for now, lead acid batteries are being phased out in a number of applications. “Lead has a bad reputation. Just see the coverage around the fire at Notre Dame de Paris and the lead oxide dust levels it generated,” says TC 21 Chair Herbert Giess .
“But what people often don’t know is that lead-acid batteries are 98% recyclable. They are recycled both in the US and Europe, using well mastered processes.”