Lithium-Ion Batteries FAQs

Our lithium-ion FAQs detail frequently asked questions and tailored answers related to the safe use of lithium-ion batteries

What is the biggest cause of lithium-ion batteries exploding?

Lithium-ion batteries are more likely to catch fire or explode if they are not disposed of, stored, or charged correctly. Damaged lithium-ion batteries and batteries not bought from reputable suppliers are also a safety risk.

How common are lithium-ion battery fires?

In 2023, the London Fire Brigade reported 70 e-bike, 14 e-scooter and 35 other lithium-ion battery fires. In London, e-bike fires have risen by 60% since 2022.

Fires involving electric vehicles are far less common than petrol and diesel car fires. In 2022 there were 3.8 EV fires per 100,000 cars compared to 68 fires per 100,000 petrol and diesel vehicles.

How toxic are lithium battery fumes?

Lithium-ion battery fires can emit toxic fumes including hydrogen fluoride, phosphoryl fluoride and phosphorus pentafluoride. Gases can cause swelling and fluid build-up in the lungs, and severe skin burns.

Can lithium batteries catch fire when not in use?

Yes, the risk of fire is from the energy in the charged lithium-ion battery. However, a fire is very unlikely to occur unless a battery is damaged or has been stored or disposed of incorrectly.

Why is it important to dispose of lithium-ion batteries safely?

48% of waste fires a year are thought to be caused by lithium-ion batteries, posing a threat to people, animals and the environment and costing the UK economy over £20 million a year.

What is the safest type of lithium-ion battery?

The lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery has the most stable chemical structure, making it less prone to overheating and thermal runaway. This type of battery is used in electric vehicles (EVs).

Why are lithium ion battery fires hard to put out?

Lithium-ion battery fires are challenging to extinguish because the internal temperature can rapidly increase (this is called ‘thermal runaway’), causing a chain reaction that generates more heat and can lead to explosions.

The chemicals in lithium-ion batteries can burn at high temperatures and release flammable gases, making traditional fire extinguishing methods like water or foam ineffective and potentially dangerous.

Re-ignition is common because the heat generated can persist and reignite even after the initial fire is put out.

Is it okay to store lithium-ion batteries fully charged?

Storing lithium-ion batteries fully charged is not recommended. It is advisable to store lithium-ion batteries at around 40-60% charge in a cool, dry environment.

When a lithium-ion battery is stored at a high state of charge, the electrodes are under more stress, which increases the likelihood of thermal runaway and fire.