More details are filtering in about yesterday's explosion at the General Motors Technical Center battery research lab in Warren, MI.

First, the number of people injured has climbed to five, with one taken to the hospital and four treated at the scene. The local deputy fire chief said none of the injuries were life-threatening. The fire department also told the local mayor that it was fumes from hydrogen sulfide that caused the explosion, but GM declined to comment on that aspect. We learned yesterday that a battery under "extreme testing" caused the explosion.

According to The Detroit News' David Shepardson on Twitter, "Chemical gases from the battery cells were released and ignited in the enclosed chamber. The battery itself was intact" and, "All areas of the Alternative Energy Center except for the battery lab and adjacent offices will operate normally on Thursday."

Unnamed sources have told the media that it was a prototype battery pack made by A123 that caused the fire. Fox News says that pack was being tested for use in the Chevy Spark EV and other all-electric vehicles. Batteries made by A123 were recently involved in a $55-million replacement effort in the Fisker Karma.


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      Spec
      • 3 Years Ago
      Oh Jeez. A123's LiFePO chemistry is one of the safest ones available. But as many has pointed out, anyway that you store a massive amount of energy can be dangerous.
        Roy_H
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Spec
        But being an experimental battery, it probably wasn't LiFePO. I am sure A123 is looking into other chemistry as well.
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      That is a bit of a surprise if it is A 123's highly stable lithium iron chemistry. Perhaps they are experimenting with NMC to up the energy density.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sounds like a Thermal Runaway test that really ran away from them. Sh*t happens when you're performing "extreme testing." I just sucks that A123 is having their name dragged through the mud on this. It really doesn't matter who made the battery in question, but the media is going to latch onto this one and ride it for all it's worth to get ratings. Especially the outlets with an agenda against anything remotely "green" or "alternative" in nature. They say there's no such thing as bad publicity. I disagree.
      amtoro
      • 3 Years Ago
      Talking about Faux news... how long will it be until their mouth pieces start screaming to the world "Spark EV's batteries explode at GM" with a total disregard of these being prototypes under development?
      Human
      • 3 Years Ago
      Fox News says that pack was being tested for use in the Chevy Spark EV and other all-electric vehicles. ----------------------- ...because theyre such a source of accurate data about reality? (please dont ever link to this false info machine again. Thanks)
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Human
        You know, i've complained endlessly about ABG basically being a mouthpiece for FOX news and i've gotten nowhere. My best recommendation to you is to install an ad-blocker if you wish to continue to read this site. ABG in the past year has started this tradition of posting everything negative about alternative cars they can find. By visiting the site and loading the ads, you are feeding the beast.
      PR
      • 3 Years Ago
      Still more yawn. In the real world, EV's will be safe, and will not have anymore injuries or deaths in accidents than their gas counterparts. This fire is only interesting in a scientific context, not so much in an automotive context of people driving EV's in the real world. If anything, the higher weight of the battery packs will LOWER the injuries and deaths of EV drivers compared to the same car with a gas engine. More mass has this affect in car vs. car collisions. Also, as Tesla always says, removing the engine from the front of the vehicle allows them to create a vastly improved frontal impact crush-zone that will greatly improve the survivability of a frontal impact. On top of that, batteries that are placed lower in the vehicle will decrease the chances of roll-over. Roll-overs are a leading cause of injuries and deaths. I'll leave the technical discussion to all the folks who find the science experiment side of this incident to be very interesting. Because from the actual real-world EV-driving side, this is a non-story.
        Anne
        • 3 Years Ago
        @PR
        "If anything, the higher weight of the battery packs will LOWER the injuries and deaths of EV drivers compared to the same car with a gas engine. More mass has this affect in car vs. car collisions. " Nope. More weight = more kinetic energy Try: lower center of gravity = more stability
          Anne
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Anne
          Sorry, missed the roll-over part
          PR
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Anne
          Yes, more weight == more kinetic energy. So when two objects of different weight collide, the object with more weight has more kinetic energy. More kinetic energy means that the heavier object sees less deceleration force than the lighter object. Because of this, the larger object is slowed down less than the smaller object. The more abrupt the car slams to a stop, the more powerful the moment of inertia is on your body. In other words, you hit the dash/airbag/steering wheel/seat belt harder (more force) the faster your car is brought to a stop. Adding to the vehicle's weight will give your vehicle MORE kinetic energy that will mean that when you hit another car, that car will be slowed by your car more than the other car slows your car. All bets are off of course if you hit a solid stationary object like a cliff wall. So between two cars with equal safety features, the car with the most weight will generally win due to having more kinetic energy.
      Maddoxx
      • 3 Years Ago
      The U.S. government has funded A123 with $279 million from the department of energy. The company laid off 125 workers in December of 2011 as demand for partner Fisker's automobiles has been slack.[4] New news: DETROIT, April 11 (Reuters) - A123 Systems Inc has been given two more years to fully tap a $249 million grant from the Obama administration to encourage advanced battery development and create jobs in the United States. The lithium-ion battery maker now has until December 2014 to use the U.S. Department of Energy grant earmarked to build an A123 battery factory in Michigan. The DOE and A123 agreed to extend the contract last week, A123 said in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Wednesday. A123 won the grant in 2009 and had until the end of this year to tap the grant in
        PR
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Maddoxx
        What is your point? The US government also funded the oil extraction that led to the Gulf Oil Spill, through zero-royalty Gulf extraction contracts, zero-cost loan guarantees for the oil companies to fund their project, etc... Are you trying to imply some sort of connection between gov't funding and accidents that happen everywhere in every sector of industry?
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 3 Years Ago
      Okay, i could see how this happened. Add an ignition source to a flammable gas being released by a battery and you get major kaboom. I guess lifepo4 can release hydrogen sulfide, so that makes sense. But it's real hard to get lifepo4 to produce gasses. This would be like a gas tank opening up.. the vapors near the tank would be flammable, that's a no duh.. It would have not been headline news if a gasoline container blew up. What a perfect storm for anti bailout, anti electric, anti GM republican pundits. The timing during elections could have not been better.
        amtoro
        • 3 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        "Dang... nail in the coffin of A123." Not necessarily. If what they say is true, it was a Prototype battery... that is what prototypes do, they fail, do not work, or, as in this case, released gasses under testing. Research and development puts prototypes to the test to address as many causes of failure as possible before the product is handed over to the production department.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @amtoro
          Standard MO for the OEMs is to have the suppliers do the testing and provide the results then do the testing themselves because they don't trust their suppliers.
          Spiffster
          • 3 Years Ago
          @amtoro
          Shouldnt A123 be testing prototype batteries themselves? Unless they are simply providing the cells, not the packs, which is probably the case I suppose...
      marcopolo
      • 3 Years Ago
      @2WM Careful, you are beginning to show signs of DF's obsessive personality disorder! Positive news and negative news, is all news ! What part of ABG's motto; "up-to-the-minute environmentally-friendly (or egregiously unfriendly) car news, reviews, high-quality photos and commentary about living green". is so hard for you to comprehend? If you want only a fan site, there are plenty of those to select from......
      Maddoxx
      • 3 Years Ago
      DETROIT, April 11 (Reuters) - A123 Systems Inc has been given two more years to fully tap a $249 million grant from the Obama administration to encourage advanced battery development and create jobs in the United States. The lithium-ion battery maker now has until December 2014 to use the U.S. Department of Energy grant earmarked to build an A123 battery factory in Michigan. The DOE and A123 agreed to extend the contract last week, A123 said in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Wednesday. A123 won the grant in 2009 and had until the end of this year to tap the grant in full.
      Spec
      • 3 Years Ago
      I guess the Chevy Spark is really living up to its name. Heey-oooooh!!!
      brotherkenny4
      • 3 Years Ago
      Does anyone think what the fire department told the local mayor was correct? Hint, H2S is not a product on any normal Li ion battery melt down. If it is true, this is obviously not the phosphate chemistry.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 3 Years Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        Could have been lithium sulfur, but i've not heard of A123 experimenting with anything like that. Isn't phosphorous related to sulfides, or is a form of one itself? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphorus#Sulfides ( i am not a chemist. )
        JakeY
        • 3 Years Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        Hydrogen is a common vent gas in batteries (the hydrogen is from the organic solvent in the electrolyte). Hydrogen Sulfide can also be a component of that vent gas, because many types of lithium salts used in electrolyte contains sulfur. You don't need to have sulfur in the anode/cathode. From what I hear, it is the vented gas that exploded, not the batteries. They must have been doing some pretty extreme stress tests because cells don't normally vent gas (esp. in an amount that can injure people when it ignites). When you overcharge lead acid batteries for example, they can generate hydrogen sulfide.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          JakeY: Many thanks for the information. Are you a chemist? I am wondering if you would have any insights that you would care to share about the direction of batteries - higher density, NMC, solid electrolyte or whatever?
          JakeY
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          @Spec That's quite possible (since lead acid batteries are frequently used for UPS purposes and a fire department may have frequent contact with that, esp. in a commercial/industrial area), but I would expect the fire department to have had a positive reading on a hydrogen sulfide detector before saying something like that. Of course such a detector could have false positives. @DaveMart Not a chemist, just a BEV enthusiast. I just happened to have the information on electrolytes from doing some previous research on battery chemistry to settle an argument about rare earth metals in lithium batteries.
          brotherkenny4
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          LiBOB (LiB(C2O4)2) and LiPF6 are the most common electrolyte salts. Perhaps ionic liquid electrolytes, but that is still unusual. More likely a cathode, and only if the non-technical people are stating things correctly. Lead acid has sulfuric acid. The point I was making was that for typical chemistries sulfur is not present. What that means is that this is likely an experimental chemistry, and perhaps not indicative of the safety aspects of A123 typical cell. Granted, the way this technical stuff gets reported by the non-technical press, and the general paranoia on the part of the companies regarding facts, means it's likely to remain largely speculation by both you and I, regarding what really happened. Although, I am sure there are many people without technical ability who can and will leap to the conclusion that li ion batteries are unsafe based on this single incomplete piece of information. Fortunately for us too, these folks get to vote using their same superior methods for information analysis.
          JakeY
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          @brotherkenny4 Besides from the more common ones you mentioned, there's also these types of lithium salts (which contain sulfur): Lithium (bis)trifluoromethanesulfonimide, LiN(SO2CF3)2, Li TFSI Lithium tris(trifluoromethanesulfonyl)methide, Li C(SO2CF3)3, Li Methide Lithium trifluoromethanesulfonate, LiCF3SO3, Li Triflate Page 13 from here: http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pdfs/TA/149.pdf High voltage electrolytes (like the one used by Envia) may also contain sulfones (which as sulfur as a core component) as a solvent: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/pdfs/merit_review_2011/electrochemical_storage/es113_amine_2011_p.pdf It could be possible it was a lithium sulfur battery, but as I said, the electrolyte is also a very probable source of sulfur.
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          @JakeY But do you think that the fire department is so well versed in various different chemistry mixes of Li-Ion batteries? I suspect they just (incorrectly) applied their knowledge from hundreds of fires involving lead-acid battery explosions.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        I think brotherkenny4 may be correct. The fire department may have just said 'hydrogen sulfide' because that is the gas they know comes out of car batteries. But it comes out of standard lead-acid batteries. The FD probably gave an incorrect statement that was just based on what they usually see not what actually happened in this case.
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