Acculon Energy

Part I: A Conversation with David Ginder: The Evolution of Safety Standards & the Regulatory Environment for Li-ion Battery Systems

Join us for Part 1 of an exclusive Q&A with distinguished battery safety expert & our Director of Engineering, David Ginder. Today we’re discussing the current changes in battery safety standards & the effects on lithium & sodium-ion battery technologies.

Contact: Betsy Barry
Communication Manager

Today, we embarking on a 2-part interview 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 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.

“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 […].”

– 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.

Next week, we’ll post the 2nd part of our interview with David. Stay tuned!