Panasonic this week announced a voluntary recall of batteries due to fire and burn hazards. The battery packs being recalled were used in one of its rugged tablets. In total, the company is recalling 280 thousand battery packs, after over a dozen of them encountered critical failures.

Panasonic has discovered that some of the hot-swappable battery packs used in some of its rugged Toughpad FZ-G1 tablets (Mk1, Mk2 and Mk3-series) can short circuit after a prolonged use in extreme temperatures. The company said it had received 16 reports of combusted battery packs between March 2017 and April 2017, including 12 from customers in North America, one from a client in Japan and one owner from Australia. Panasonic plans to provide a free replacement battery to owners of affected tablets.

Panasonic recommends owners of the Toughpad FZ-G1 systems (Mk1/2/3 versions only) to first identify whether they have a potentially affected tablet SKU (find the list here) by checking the backside of their tablets. If the SKU is affected, owners are asked to remove the battery and see whether this is indeed one of the models affected (FZ-VZSU84U, FZ-VZSU89U or FZ-VZSU96U) by removing the accumulator and checking its reverse side.

Owners of systems featuring the battery packs are advised to download a firmware utility from Panasonic’s website that reduces charging from 4.2 to 4.0 volts and lowers the peak operating settings of the accumulator. After the new firmware is applied, customers are asked to contact Panasonic using a special email address or by phone, which will then arrange them a new battery (no need to return the old one).

As makers of portable electronics are trying to make their products thinner and lighter while increasing capacity of their batteries to prolong their autonomous life, the number of problems with batteries has increased in the recent years. Since exploding, overheating or combusting batteries can damage property and/or cause injuries, manufacturers of notebooks, tablets and smartphones take them very seriously and recall hundreds of thousands of battery packs every year.

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Sources: Panasonic, The Japan Times.

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  • HomeworldFound - Sunday, May 21, 2017 - link

    The industry started to go down the Hydrogen road. Insert cartridges/tanks of hydrogen and woosh. I'm not sure that'd be much safer. Imagine crashing a car with a full tank of hydrogen. Reply
  • basroil - Sunday, May 21, 2017 - link

    "Imagine crashing a car with a full tank of hydrogen."

    It's actually a hell of a lot safer, and well tested too:
    1) Hydrogen can't pool below your car, which is why car fires are so deadly when gas tanks rupture. If it isn't hot enough to ignite the H2, it will harmlessly diffuse into the wind (and it's 10^10000000 x safer for the environment)
    2) Hydrogen is already a gas, so there is no risk of a BLEVE event. Worst comes to worst your car becomes a flamethrower for a minute or so, no risk of explosions.
    Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Monday, May 22, 2017 - link

    -- It's actually a hell of a lot safer

    all true, but scale's a problem. there are a number of auto/building scale energy storage/generation techs that might help. not so much for the mobile form factors.
    Reply
  • philehidiot - Tuesday, May 23, 2017 - link

    Ah, didn't think about it already being a gas and that alone being safer. My instinct is that to transport enough of it to be practical you'd need it liquid but equally any release into the external environment would immediately render it into a gas and as you say, cool flamethrower rather than shrapnel delivering mini bomb. Reply
  • philehidiot - Monday, May 22, 2017 - link

    --The below may represent moderately inebriated babbling. Interpret with caution--

    Not sure if it's more or less dangerous than petrol (although almost certainly not as safe as diesel) given the increased energy density of hydrocarbons and the incredibly low flash point of ordinary petrol (probably "gas" to you, I'm British) which I think is about -40C. That's of the reasons hydrogen won't take off in it's current form - a lot of the engineering challenges have been sorted (such as it making pipes brittle) but the simple fact is that hydrocarbon based fuel has a higher energy density and so you go further on a tank. When someone cracks storing hydrogen in a denser way, creating it without massively polluting and also ensuring it's safer to transport than petrol then we might be on to something. In the mean time, we're stuck with making good ole gasoline as efficient and non polluting as possible.

    Personally I ride a motorcycle as my only means of transport and I find having a tank of stuff that explodes once it hits anything ~250C, atop an engine that probably has sections topping that temperature (do correct me if I'm wrong) placed between my legs to be an excellent way to travel in safety and comfort. Sarcasm aside, I actually get quite stressed and feel very unsafe when I have to drive a car and I've had a licence for that longer than I have a bike. I can't stand the detachment you get and I need to know what's going on beneath me - a bike tells you what the tyres are doing and so on whilst a car just feels numb, disconnected and unsafe. Plus I park exactly where I want to be, which is great for a cripple like me.

    Dunno how I managed to switch onto to talking about bikes there...
    Reply
  • HomeworldFound - Monday, May 22, 2017 - link

    Either way it works man. Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Monday, May 22, 2017 - link

    -- That's of the reasons hydrogen won't take off in it's current form

    and there's another reason: the laws of thermodynamics, which boil down to, "you don't get more energy out than you put in, and the best you can do is break even". more simply: creating free hydrogen (you can't lift it from the ground), and cooling it to liquid consumes far more energy, globally, than ends up in the tank. the advantage of petrol(s) is that the energy to create a litre of the stuff amounts, mostly, to just lifting it from the ground. cracking towers consume energy, but each level emits a different product, so the net energy cost per crack (is that a proper image?) is much less than the energy embedded in the product.
    Reply
  • philehidiot - Tuesday, May 23, 2017 - link

    Yeh you're bang on. Currently hydrogen is generally extracted using natural gas and high pressure steam. The energy put in to extract this is way way way in excess of what you get out when you burn it to propel a car. If we are to do it on a large scale, it's gonna be sea water and electrolysis using nuclear power to even start being better for the environment than petrol. The efficiency of hydrogen as it is currently produced, combined with crappy energy density is just sickening. As I'm sure you're well aware. Reply
  • cekim - Sunday, May 21, 2017 - link

    Companies (and their engineers) sometimes either:
    a. Make honest mistakes - you can't travel in time to know how things perform over years without waiting years in many regards. You also can't predict with 100% accuracy what manufacturing tolerances will really be - you'll find out later.
    OR
    b. (more often) underestimate the creative stupidity of their customers.

    Rarely do they publicly comment on "b" (aka: "the customer is always right"), but when you dig into things more often than not (not always, but often), you find that the product was adequately designed, but misused.

    So, if you want leading edge tech, you have to deal with some risk. If that risk is too great or you don't trust the company to make ethical trade-offs, don't buy. Market forces are a beautiful thing.
    Reply
  • HomeworldFound - Sunday, May 21, 2017 - link

    The battery industry makes far too many mistakes. It went from exploding phones to an exploding factory/manufacturing plant. Things go wrong but in something so volatile I would make damn sure my potential explosive products didn't contain metal shavings or detonate when warm.

    This is an industry that needs to be as close to perfect as possible.
    Reply

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