What Causes Batteries to Explode?

Li-ion batteries have almost twice the energy of other rechargeable batteries. They produce an energy density of up to 160 watt hours per kilogram. (1) 

All this power comes from three components: a positively charged cathode of metal oxide; a negatively charged anode of graphite; and a liquid electrolyte, a solvent made of lithium salts. (2) The lithium salts allow an electric charge to flow between the cathode and anode. (3) 

In these batteries, the cathode and anode must not come into contact. This is accomplished with a permeable polyethylene separator “as little as 10 microns thick,” according to Consumer Reports. This makes the separator delicate. (4) 

Thermal Runaway Causes Fires

When the separator is breached, “it causes a short circuit, which starts a process called thermal runaway.” (5)

In thermal runaway, “The chemicals inside the battery begin to heat up, which causes further degradation of the separator. The battery can eventually hit temperatures of more than 1,000° F. At that point, the flammable electrolyte can ignite or even explode when exposed to the oxygen in the air.” (6)

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Exploding Batteries in Vapes

Some of the most frequently publicized battery explosions occur in electronic cigarette products called e-cigarettes or vapes

“The combination of an electronic cigarette and a lithium-ion battery is a new and unique hazard,” says a U.S. Fire Administration report. (7) 

“Between January 2009 and December 31, 2016, 195 separate incidents of explosion and fire involving an electronic cigarette were reported by the U.S. media. These incidents resulted in 133 acute injuries. Of these injuries, 38 (29 percent) were severe,” the report continues. (8)

In one such case, a 17-year-old who wanted to quit smoking, switched to electronic cigarettes. The device exploded in his mouth, tearing a hole in his gums and leaving severe burns around his lip. (9) 

The U.S. Fire Administration has determined, “It is likely that the number of incidents and injuries will continue to increase… Since the current generation of lithium-ion batteries is the root cause of these incidents, it is clear that these batteries are not a safe source of energy for these devices.” (10)

Role of FDA 

Li-ion batteries in e-cig and vape devices fall under the oversight of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA is responsible for regulating electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). This category includes: (11)

  • Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or e-cigs). 
  • E-cigars. 
  • E-pipes. 
  • Hookah pens. 
  • Vapes.
  • Vaporizers.
  • Vape pens.

Exploding Batteries in Hoverboards

Meanwhile, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is tasked with regulating hoverboards and other products containing Li-ion batteries having the potential to catch fire or explode. 

Hoverboards are motorized self-balancing scooters. One of the hazards with hoverboards is many rely on Li-ion batteries for power. These batteries can overheat posing risks for smoke, fires, and possibly explosions. Since they first appeared on the market in 2013, the CPSC has received reports of over 250 accidents involving hoverboards overheating or igniting. (12) (13)

For example, the CPSC cites a house fire in where two young children died after a fire was started by a hoverboard. A CPSC Safety Alert adds, “CPSC has reports of 13 burn injuries, three smoke inhalation injuries and more than $4 million in property damage related to hoverboards.” (14)

Hoverboard Recalls for Fire Hazards 

Recalls of hoverboard products are common. As recently as March 2023, Jetson Electric Bikes recalled 53,000 of its 42-volt Rogue. In 2021, a recall of 237,300 units was issued for Razor USA’s GLW Battery Packs sold with Hovertrax 2.0 Self-Balancing Hoverboards for fire and explosion hazards. (15) 

In 2017, there were at least nine separate hoverboard recalls. This included the January 2017 recall of 1,000 units of Sonic Smart Wheels Self-Balancing Scooters/Hoverboards by Dollar Mania, due to fire and explosion hazards. (16) (17)

Hoverboards are illegal in New York state. New York considers these to be motor vehicles and they cannot be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. (18)

Risks and Injuries Caused by Exploding Batteries

Serious injuries can result from exploding batteries, no matter the device they are used in and can require hospitalization.

Some of the injuries from exploding batteries: (19)

  • Burns.
  • Death.
  • Loss of a body part.
  • Smoke inhalation. 

“From January 1, 2021, through November 28, 2022, CPSC received reports of at least 208 micromobility fire or overheating incidents from 39 states, resulting in at least 19 fatalities, including five associated with e-scooters, 11 with hoverboards and three with e-bikes.” (20)

If you or a loved one suffered an injury from a battery explosion, contact us today to understand your legal rights.

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Can You Prevent Batteries from Exploding in Your Devices?

There are a number of steps you can take to help prevent batteries from exploding in your devices. These include: (21) 

  • Change batteries if they get wet or damaged.
  • Charge devices on clean, flat surfaces where they are clearly visible. Keep them away from flammable materials and fumes or vapors, such as gas.
  • Don’t use the wrong batteries; use only the recommended batteries. Don’t mix charge levels or use a combination of old and new batteries.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations for use and care.
  • Never charge devices overnight.
  • Never leave a device unattended while charging.
  • Protect your devices from extreme temperatures.
  • Use devices with safety features.
  • When traveling, especially by air, learn how to pack and store your devices and batteries properly.

You may not be able to prevent all batteries from exploding. Yet, there are still ways to minimize the risks of injury. Some of these are: (22)

  • Don’t overcharge devices.
  • Minimize distractions, such as cell phones. while using your device. 
  • Use one plug per socket.
  • Stop using the device when it shows signs of overheating.
  • Use the device only for the purpose it was intended.

Who Qualifies for an Exploding Battery Claim?

Injuries from an exploding battery can have a lasting impact on you in many aspects of your life. These include past and future income, recovery time, long-term physical consequences, and medical expenses.

Understanding if you have a legal claim after an exploding battery injury is important in determining your next steps. The most decisive factor in filing a claim is if you were injured through no fault of your own. 

In other words, you were injured despite the fact you:

  • Followed the manufacturer’s instructions for use and care of the device.
  • Used the device only for the purpose it was intended.
  • Took commonsense steps to minimize risks of injury.

Filing a Lawsuit 

In spite of your best efforts to avoid risks, if you were seriously injured, you may want to consider taking legal action. 

The first step in filing your lawsuit should be to hire an attorney to represent you. Your attorney should have experience in personal injury litigation

You need an attorney with knowledge of the law, as it applies to your situation. And you want someone who has genuine empathy for innocent victims of hazardous products.

Your attorney evaluates your case, explains your legal options, and investigates the circumstances of the incident when you were injured. Your attorney represents you in court or negotiates a settlement with the parties responsible.

Compensation in Exploding Battery Cases 

A successful lawsuit results in money paid to you for your injuries. Compensation for damages in an exploding battery case may include:

  • Economic losses, both past and future.
  • Medical expenses.
  • Physical and psychological impacts.
  • Property damage.

How W&L Can Help

W&L has an entire team of attorneys focused on personal injury cases. We have spent nearly 40 years helping victims gain justice from businesses for defective and dangerous products. When companies make or sell products presenting hazards to unsuspecting consumers, they need to take responsibility for their actions.

Some of our successes are: