A Cell Phone Lithium Ion Battery Overheats and Catches Fire on an Airplane

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 3rd, 2011

Week in Review

It looks like the Chevy Volt isn’t the only thing with a lithium ion battery catching fire (see iPhone 4 Explodes Midflight on Australian Airline by Lauren Effron posted 11/28/2011 on Good Morning America/Yahoo! News).

While on Australian flight Regional Express ZL319 Friday, a passenger’s iPhone 4 (not the iPhone 4S, which is Apple’s latest model) suddenly started “emitting a significant amount of dense smoke, accompanied by a red glow,” according to a Regional Express statement.

The plane, which was flying from Lismore to Sydney, was in the midst of landing when the incident occured. “In accordance with company standard safety procedures, the flight attendant carried out recovery actions immediately, and the red glow was extinguished successfully,” according to Regional Express’ statement…

Exploding Apple products are rare, but explosions have happened in the past, mostly related to the devices’ lithium ion batteries overheating.

The European Union launched an investigation in 2009 after multiple instances of iPhones and iPod Touches exploding or catching fire midflight were reported in the U.K., Holland, France and Sweden.

Apple also  recalled its first-generation of iPod nanos sold between September 2005 and December 2006 because the battery would overheat and “pose a safety risk,” according to the company’s website.

These fires are rather rare.  And they usually happen when the device is being used.  So the smoking and bursting into flames is readily detectable.  Not so with a car parked in a garage.  And these electric cars have far bigger batteries than our cell phones.  Which means there are a whole lot more chemicals to overheat and burst into flames.

A recent Chevy Volt fire has been blamed on the car battery cooling system.  Probably just a minor defect and nothing to really worry about.  At least not as much as wondering whether or not if you have enough of a charge to make it back home.  But it should be noted that cell phones don’t have cooling systems.  Apparently because they’re not as much a fire hazard as the lithium ion batteries in these electric cars.

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