Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Center

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TylerDurden   100 GW

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Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Center

Post by TylerDurden » Apr 11 2012 11:20am


Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Center
By Melissa Burden, Doug Guthrie and Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News
April 11, 2012 at 11:42 am

Warren— General Motors Co. said a Wednesday incident at a battery lab in the General Motors Technical Center that seriously injured one person was unrelated to the Chevrolet Volt or any other production vehicle, but was related to "extreme testing on a prototype battery."

Four others were evaluated after reports of a lithium battery exploding at a battery research lab at the GM Tech Center.

"We are aware of an incident this morning about 8:45 a.m. in one of the laboratories at the Alternative Energy Center at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Mich.," GM said in a release. "Fire and emergency authorities were called to the scene. The building was evacuated. All employees have been accounted for. We are aware of five employees being evaluated on scene by medical personal and only one employee is being further treated.

The incident is still under investigation by GM and the Warren authorities. Any information or discussion of the nature of the work in the lab or cause of the incident is entirely speculative and cannot be confirmed at this time."

Warren Mayor James Fouts described the injury to the hospitalized worker as being serious. Fouts was in his office when he received a call about the explosion.

"I just want to say how very fortunate we are that only one person was seriously injured," said Fouts, who toured the site after the fire was extinguished. "There were 80 people in that building, but only one person received a possible concussion and some chemical burns, from what I've been told."

According to Fouts, the building housing the research lab received considerable damage.

"It was significant structural damage. Three very large windows were blown out and thick, fortified doors were forced open by the blast," Fouts said. "Our fire commissioner said the blast went straight up in the area where they test lithium batteries. The building was stuffed with personnel and equipment, but it was designed very well."

Fouts said he noticed a chemical taste in his mouth when he was at the blast site.

"I still have a bit of an aftertaste," he said.

Fire Commissioner Wilbert "Skip" McAdams said the cause of the blast hasn't yet been determined.

"We're not yet able to confirm that it was a batter per se, but it was in one specific lab in the advanced research building," McAdams said. "There's water damage to the building and OSHA will have to be called in because a person was injured."

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration was notified Wednesday morning about the incident and a safety officer was sent to the facility, said Elaine Clapp, a safety and health manager within MIOSHA.

"We have an open inspection," she said. "I can't give any details about the inspection while it's open."

Clapp said safety officers are assigned to investigate accidents in which employees are injured. She said the investigation, which could take several weeks to several months, will determine if GM violated any occupational, safety or health MIOSHA regulations.

According to Warren Fire Chief Dave Fredericks, firefighters searched for other fires that might have been caused by the explosion. A HAZMAT team also was called to the scene.

"We received a call at about 9 a.m. that a battery had exploded at the tech center," said Fredericks, regarding preliminary reports. "We responded and found two victims and a small fire. At this point, I don't know the extent of the injuries, but the more serious of the two was taken to St. John Hospital on Moross Road."

According to Fredericks, firefighters are searching for any other fires that might have been caused by the explosion and a HAZMAT team is at the scene.

A GM spokesman said the explosion took place in a battery research lab.

"We're aware of an incident this morning at one of our labs at the GM Tech Center that required a fire and emergency response," GM spokesman Greg Martin said. "All employees are accounted for, and we're trying to learn more details and we'll share them when we can."

Fredericks said his department has been called to the tech center on other occasions for small fires but this was the first response due to an exploding battery.

GM tests current and future battery technologies at the tech center.

The safety of GM's lithium-ion batteries came under scrutiny last fall after a crash-tested Chevrolet Volt caught fire nearly a month after a government test.In November, theNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a formal investigation after a second battery pack caught fire a week after a test.

NHTSA closed its investigation in January after finding no safety issue and after GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson testified before the federal agency. GM agreed to make voluntary improvements to the Volt battery containment system, including adding a new metal reinforcement and some new sensors. But GM insists there are no safety issues with lithium-ion batteries.

Last month, GM said it is replacing the 120-volt charging cords in most of the Volts it has sold since late 2010. A GM spokesman then said the new cords would offer more consistency in charging.

The automaker announced last month that it would temporarily halt production, beginning March 19, at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant that builds the Volt for five weeks to reduce inventory. Last week, GM North America President Mark Reuss confirmed the shutdown would be reduced by one week with stronger sales.

GM sold 2,289 Volts in March — its highest monthly figure to date.

Staff writer David Shepardson contributed.



From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/2012 ... z1rkVyBbYJ
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Ypedal   100 GW

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Re: Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Cente

Post by Ypedal » Apr 11 2012 11:30am

Daaamn..

Fume hood anyone ?

new rule, all techs are to wear non-metalic pocket protectors... :lol:
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Re: Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Cente

Post by neptronix » Apr 11 2012 8:29pm

Guess the next generation Volt won't come with turnigy nanotech :(
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Re: Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Cente

Post by jonescg » Apr 11 2012 10:16pm

Meanwhile in other news, a gas tanker has exploded in California. No lithium batteries were found on the scene...

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-04-09/abc-news/3939902

At 1:10.

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Re: Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Cente

Post by liveforphysics » Apr 12 2012 2:23pm

It was evidently A123 cells. This isn't the press A123 is looking for after making defective cells that got recalled for all the Fisker packs (and others).


http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/a123 ... sion.html/


http://www.greencarreports.com/news/107 ... a123-cells
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Re: Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Cente

Post by flathill » Apr 12 2012 4:36pm

As if a123 wasnt cooked already...

Damn maybe they really did need a fume hood. Maybe the environmental testing chamber wasnt vented and when they opened the door....BOOM

Also note there have been reports of squishy victpower cells
I wonder if the seal loss is related to the miscalibrated tab welder
Wouldn't think so but we don't know the full story

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Re: Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Cente

Post by neptronix » Apr 12 2012 4:39pm

BTW, they have said the gas that released from the cells ignited, and that the gas in question was hydrogen sulfide...

Is it possible for a lithium battery to vent any form of hydrogen?
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Lock   10 GW

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Re: Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Cente

Post by Lock » Apr 12 2012 7:03pm

neptronix wrote:BTW, they have said the gas that released from the cells ignited, and that the gas in question was hydrogen sulfide...
Is it possible for a lithium battery to vent any form of hydrogen?
Wouldn't need to be hydrogen involved... plenty of other stuff in these secret sauces:
http://www.crcnetbase.com/doi/abs/10.1201/b11292-5
Lithium-Ion Batteries
Chapter 4. Electrolytes for Lithium-Ion Batteries
Alexandra Lex-Balducci, Wesley Henderson, and Stefano Passerini

Lithium-Ion Batteries
Advanced Materials and Technologies

Jiujun Yuan, Xianxia Liu, and Hansan Zhang
CRC Press 2011

4.1 Trends in Electrolytes for Lithium-Ion Batteries: An Overview
Electrolyte materials and properties are key determinants of battery performance. Yet research into developing new electrolyte materials has received only a fraction of the attention devoted to cathode, and more recently anode, materials. This may be due, in part, to the historically long struggle required to identify an electrolyte composition which enabled the reversible cycling of the graphite anode and LiCoO2 cathode. Although lithium graphite intercalation compounds were discovered in the 1950s, it took decades to develop the mixture of ethylene carbonate (EC), a linear carbonate such as diethyl carbonate (DEC) and lithium hexafluorophosphate (LiPF6) which enabled the commercialization of Li-ion batteries by Sony in 1991. Current state-of-the-art electrolytes have a very similar composition: EC plus a linear carbonate, mixed with LiFP6 and selected additives to optimize the properties of the solid-electrolyte interface (SEI).
http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9923746
Material Safety Data Sheet
Diethyl Carbonate
Flammability of the Product: Flammable.
Auto-Ignition Temperature: 445°C (833°F)
Flash Points: CLOSED CUP: 25°C (77°F).
Flammable Limits: Not available.
Products of Combustion: These products are carbon oxides (CO, CO2).
Fire Hazards in Presence of Various Substances: Highly flammable in presence of open flames and sparks, of heat.
Special Remarks on Fire Hazards: May form explosive mixtures with air.
Special Remarks on Explosion Hazards: Vapors may form explosive mixtures with air.

Odor: Pleasant ethereal. Mild
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Re: Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Cente

Post by flathill » Apr 12 2012 7:33pm

The most ironic part is it was the pack for the Chevy SPARK

"Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said in an interview the explosion inside the lab blew out three of the building's exterior windows and an eight-inch-thick (20cm) door. The building will likely need extensive renovations, he said. "They had extreme testing going on," Fouts said"

So it wasn't when they opened the door. This the reason we don't fully seal our ammo cans full of lipo...
I wonder how the Leaf packs handle this. They are in a steel can that is watertight...

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Re: Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Cente

Post by kevo » Apr 12 2012 7:58pm

This is unfortunate news for EV adoption. :(
Thanks Justin of http://ebikes.ca for your amazing talents, dedication and contributions to ES!
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Re: Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Cente

Post by Ypedal » Apr 12 2012 8:03pm

kevo wrote:This is unfortunate news for EV adoption. :(
I dont think so, any news is good news applies, it brings EV's into the spotlight ... not the best news obviously but still gets people talking..

I'm sure there have been many accidents in gas gar prototyping in the past.. and it wont be the last .

Just plain stupid to be conducting such tests in a sealed enviroment, but i'm sure we dont have the whole story..
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Re: Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Cente

Post by liveforphysics » Apr 12 2012 9:53pm

flathill wrote: I wonder how the Leaf packs handle this. They are in a steel can that is watertight...

Fortunately, the cells they use are quite a bit safer. The packs also have blow-out panels on them aimed at the ground.
Each carcinogen vapor exposure includes a dice roll for cancer.

Each mutagen vapor exposure includes a dice roll for reproductive genetic defects in your children.

Each engine start sprays them into a shared atmosphere which includes beings not offered an opportunity to consent accepting these cancer experiences and defective genetics life experiences.

Every post is a free gift to the collective of minds composing the living bleeding edge of LEV development on our spaceship.

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Re: Prototype battery blamed in explosion at GM's Tech Cente

Post by Dauntless » Apr 13 2012 2:48am

Material Safety Data SheetFlash Points: CLOSED CUP: 25°C (77°F).
Meaning on an average Southern California afternoon, it's ready for ACTION.
Special Remarks on Fire Hazards: May form explosive mixtures with air.
Special Remarks on Explosion Hazards: Vapors may form explosive mixtures with air.

Odor: Pleasant ethereal. Mild
Pleasant ethereal. The smell of the afterlife. Those boys that write the MSDS must just have the most fun with their group readings. I rememer in Materials and Process, the talk of the SWEET SMELL OF BURNING POLYETHYLENE. If you can smell it, that means it's getting on your lungs.

So when we get this great battery chemistry advance, just how explosive will THAT be? I don't agree there's anything positive in bad reports. It just confirms what so many people are hoping to hear.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM MAGIC!
- Arthur C. Clarke

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