Acculon Energy

The Evolution of Safety Standards & the Regulatory Environment for Li-ion Battery Systems with David Ginder

Join us this week for an exclusive Q&A with distinguished battery safety expert & our Director of Engineering, David Ginder, to discuss the current changes in battery safety standards & the effects on markets like Off-Road Industrial that are transitioning to electrification. 

Contact: Betsy Barry
Communication Manager

Today, we are speaking with Acculon’s Director of Engineering, David Ginder, who has 25 years of lithium battery experience in stationary, mobile, and aerospace applications. David is also an expert on UL safety standards and certification. He is an active member of numerous UL Technical Panels (STPs), and a US delegate to the International Electro-Technical Commission (IEC). Not only has David written and reviewed a wide range of regulatory standards for energy storage systems, but it is no understatement to say that when it comes to Li-ion battery safety, his expertise is in a class of its own.


Q1: Can you please introduce yourself and provide an overview of your experience and expertise in safety standards, specifically in the lithium-ion and sodium-ion battery module and pack space?

David: With 39 years of industry experience, I began my lithium-ion experience in the mid-1990s in the space and defense market. The past 14 years of my career have been dedicated to lithium battery development and testing in the stationary and mobility markets. In 2012, I started my safety standards endeavors in Technical Committees with UL 1973 followed by UL 9540, 9540A, 2580, and UL 2271. I am a US delegate to the IEC SC21A committee, as well as NFPA 855, and Telcordia with GR3150, and GR1089 for the Telecom Market. 

General Landscape:

Q2: How would you describe the current landscape of safety standards for lithium ion and sodium ion battery modules and packs? What are the recent trends or developments that have significantly impacted safety considerations in the design and manufacturing of advanced energy storage systems?

David: As a safety expert in the field of battery technology, I can attest to the significant advancements and heightened scrutiny surrounding safety standards in recent years. We’re witnessing a remarkable increase in the meticulousness of failure analysis, testing methodologies, and functional safety considerations, particularly in modules and packs.

The involvement of regulatory bodies like OSHA has become more pronounced, underlining the critical importance of adhering to stringent safety protocols. Material development has also been a focal point, with a concerted effort to enhance heat absorption capabilities and introduce lightweight barriers. Intumescent materials and foam solutions have emerged as integral components in battery safety strategies.

One noteworthy trend is the movement towards harmonizing safety standards across different market segments, both within the United States and globally. This harmonization effort encompasses aligning standards from organizations such as UL, CSA, and the IEC, facilitating smoother compliance and ensuring a consistent approach to safety practices.

An intriguing development in standards evolution is the specific inclusion of sodium alongside lithium in safety protocols. Previously, lithium standards dominated the discourse, but now, sodium has been granted distinct attention in recognition of its unique safety considerations. Regulatory frameworks governing hazardous materials transportation, such as the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, have been updated to incorporate sodium ion testing alongside lithium segments. This inclusion, notably in Section 38.3, underscores the necessity for comprehensive safety testing across all relevant materials.

As new cell chemistry technology emerges, “for off-highway/off-road markets, […] higher energy batteries must be kept safe since these industrial & consumer products are operated by people, & it is not only property damage at stake in a thermal runaway event, but also human lives.”

– David Ginder,
Director of Engineering

David: Innovations in technology have also played a pivotal role, with the advent of state-of-the-art systems enabling early detection of battery issues. These advancements empower systems to preemptively shut down operations, mitigating the risk of thermal runaway events and enhancing overall safety protocols.

A significant milestone in this regard is the introduction of the new UN3292 classification for sodium, akin to the existing classifications UN 3480 and UN 3481 for lithium. This classification signifies a concerted effort to address the unique safety considerations associated with sodium-based batteries, ensuring robust safety measures are in place throughout the transportation and handling processes.

Overall, these developments underscore a collective commitment to advancing battery safety standards, leveraging technological innovation, regulatory oversight, and industry collaboration to foster a safer operating environment for battery technologies.

Evolving Technologies:

Q3: As battery technologies evolve, how do you see safety standards adapting to accommodate innovations in lithium-ion and sodium-ion battery designs? Are there specific challenges associated with emerging technologies, especially in off-highway/off-road markets?

David: The slow pace of standards evolution has been picking up over the past few years. As more and more states and local governments slam the door shut on non-regulated batteries for various consumer products, the standards (like UL) have to quickly adapt and make sure they incorporate the most up-to-date industry requirements and recommendations. This adaptation has been coupled with harmonization across standards for lithium battery modules and packs, namely the stringent single-cell fault tolerance testing, and most recently impacting e-bikes and e-scooters. In fact, certifying to certain standards like UL 2271 is now required by some of the larger cities in the US for companies that want to sell products and applications that fall under the domain of standards like UL 2271. These new laws are enlisting National Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL) to try to minimize aftermarket knockoffs that were not tested and that pose significant safety risks to consumers.

In reference to innovations, you are now seeing proposed changes in these standards starting to address the families of chemistries within the battery cells. For example, sodium-ion batteries are now referenced in UL standards.  As many know, not all lithium-ion and sodium-ion batteries are the same and should not be treated the same. Additionally, there are very high watt-hours-per-kilogram aspects with new chemistries driving even higher energy density. However, there is always a downside: higher Wh/kg typically means much larger and more violent releases of stored energy in a cell failure. This makes controlling thermal propagation a more difficult task. For off-highway/off-road markets, these higher energy batteries must be kept safe since these industrial and consumer products are operated by people, and it is not only property damage at stake in a thermal runaway event, but also human lives.

I feel the current challenge with emerging technologies is twofold within the “safety” realm. The first entails deceptive advertising of a “safe” battery that simply has not undergone adequate testing to warrant any kind of safety statement. The second is the rush to be first to market, which pushes new technology out into the marketplace with minimal testing in an NRTL and in the field. 

Public Perception:

Q4: In recent years, there have been incidents related to battery safety. How do these incidents influence the ongoing development of safety standards, and what lessons can be learned from them?

David: If I were looking for one word it would be awareness.  Emergency responders are becoming quite aware of the hazards of lithium-ion batteries and the dangers associated with them.  There have been incidents in the past when responders had no idea what they were dealing with and how to attack the problem. Not knowing that lithium batteries generate their own oxygen during the decomposition of the electrolyte and cathode material, also releasing hydrogen and other explosive gasses when systems were opened by unsuspecting responders, explosions occur which have injured quite a number of people, some extremely serious. These safety risks are no longer unknown variables outside of the industry, which is why you see these incidents being talked about regularly in today’s news outlets. It is no coincidence that safety standards like UL 2271, which regulates micromobility products like e-bikes, were updated with more stringent requirements at roughly the same time that some local governments were legislating safety standards to reduce the risk of fires caused by these products.

Regulatory Environment:

Q5: How have global regulatory bodies contributed to shaping standards in the battery industry? Are there differences in safety regulations across regions and internationally that impact manufacturers and end-users?

David: The EU is really driving the regulatory environment for batteries as we move to electrify more and more products.  There are actually two main global regulatory bodies that are shaping the regulatory environment of the battery industry at the moment: 1) The creation and harmonization of the standards themselves through the International Electro-Technical Commission (IEC) and 2) The new EU regulations for battery sustainability.

  1. IEC: For years, the IEC has been working on standards for Europe, similar to the UL and CSA  specifications in the US and Canada, respectively. These IEC committees are called Technical Committees (TC) and the Subcommittee TC contributors are from more than 170 countries, coordinating the work of over 30,000 experts. This includes distinct harmonization between the IEC, UL, and CSA, which ensures a truly global approach to safety standards across industry segments.

  2. EU Regulations: The new EU regulations, while safety standards per se, will have a significant impact on the electrification of both on-road and off-road battery systems.

The European Parliament is pushing to ban the sale of new internal combustion engines for cars by 2030. If electrification is to be a truly sustainable transition, the sheer volumetric increases of raw materials require taking a system-level approach to ensure sustainable material sourcing, efficient battery production, and effective end-of-life processing.

In 2023, the European Directives were amended and adopted requiring digital information to be shared between parties on the sustainability of batteries.  This will be a QR code on every battery that contains the new Battery Passport to be implemented by February 1st of 2027.  Every battery sold in the EU over 2kWh must have a battery passport. So let’s take a 10,000ft view of what a battery passport consists of. A battery passport requires input suppliers of battery material through recyclability. Requirements throughout the supply chain the input required include:

  • Mining and refining companies

  • Cell and battery producers

  • Vehicle brands

  • Battery servicing, refurbishing, and recycling companies

Battery passport information shall include:

  • Identification of the battery in the form of a unique identifier

  • Basic characteristics of the battery including type and model

  • Statistics on performance and durability must also be updated over the battery lifecycle by parties conducting repair or repurposing of the battery

The impact of the battery passport cannot be overstated and even this cursory, 10,000 ft overview shows the stringent nature of this new regulation. But even before 2027, there are other aspects of the new EU regulations that will impact the battery industry, such as the carbon footprint requirements that will be phased rolled out in 2025. This regulation requires that a carbon footprint calculation be done for each battery, including recycled content percentages and supply chain due diligence that takes human rights into consideration.

All in all, the new global regulations are going to be a huge administrative burden to establish and maintain. Any changes to the product content must then be updated in the Battery Passport.  If any link within the supply chain refuses or cannot provide its data, it will be banned from providing batteries to the EU. 

You may be asking, why is this important to US suppliers building products within the US?  Simple, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) requires validation of supplier content to receive the tax incentives associated with the IRA and the battery passport provides all the needed information for this compliance. I think it is not an understatement to say that the EU regulatory landscape in particular is going to set standards that reverberate here in the US, as well as abroad.

As we wrap up our latest conversation with safety expert David Ginder, we’ve delved into the crucial realm of battery systems in the electrification space, gaining a deeper understanding of the unique safety challenges in these cutting-edge technologies. 

As the world rapidly transitions towards electrification, David’s expertise reminds us of the paramount importance of prioritizing safety at every stage of design, development, and deployment. His emphasis on rigorous testing and UL certification, global regulatory environments, and proactive risk management serves as a cornerstone for the industry’s evolution towards safer, more sustainable energy storage solutions.

Thank you David for sharing your invaluable knowledge and perspective!