A woman’s headphones exploded on a commercial flight this year, an elderly couple’s laptop almost destroyed their home, vapor cigarettes have exploded with such violence that one user’s teeth were knocked out, hover boards have melted a Jeep yes, melted ha!) and burned others homes. So are our electronics out to destroy humans? Not quite. These problems have all been caused by lithium ion batteries overheating or rupturing inside these devices.
So..after all these years why are we now seeing this problem?
Some people have asked me if our devices have become too power hungry for current battery tech and some have even questioned modern engineering practices. The fact is lithium ion batteries are safe if manufactured properly. Engineers haven’t hit a wall in battery safety nor have these types of batteries suddenly become fire hazards. Major brands manage battery charging and discharging so well that you have little to worry about while using your Beats, Surface, Google Phone, or other popular devices. I know… I’m saying they’re safe but people are getting blown up…So then what’s going on?
The simple answer is Americans have become addicted to cheap tech. We all want the newest gadget but at the cheapest possible price and we know exactly where to turn to get our fix. Amazon, eBay, and ecommerce has presented a direct to consumer opportunity for overseas tech pushers to cash in. Off brand electronics are the new cash cow for overseas “factories” and producing them cheap is priority. This means unregulated consumer electronics – utilizing the lowest quality parts possible – are being cranked out at a record pace.
This includes…you guessed it, lithium ion batteries.
The most expensive component of any electronic device is almost always the lithium battery. Safe and reliable lithium ion batteries aren’t cheap. I spent years purchasing thousands of batteries from overseas suppliers and when I would source these products I had two options: buy cheap or buy authentic. The authentic batteries were on average 10X higher in cost versus their copy counterparts (that’s not a typo). Luckily for us it wasn’t a core revenue channel but in the case of these overseas manufacturers; buying authentic isn’t viable. This leads to volitile knock off batteries finding their way in to a growing number of discount gadgets; unregulated and untested.
So who’s to blame?
I don’t necessarily blame the consumer; it’s common for us to feel safe when using products that we purchase. We have organizations in the United States that ensure safety standards are met. The CPSA, FCC, and UL all provide standards that must be met in order to provide consumers with products. Buyers are accustomed to this protection even if they are unaware of the groups that protect them. However with the rise of ecommerce anyone can sell anything online, wether it meets U.S. Safety standards or not.
So what can you do? To start never buy off brand electronics from mall kiosks or online retailers. If your purchasing items online take some time to read the reviews and when it arrives in the mail ensure it’s the brand that was listed when you purchased it. Also if you need to buy a new battery for your laptop spend the extra $40-$50 on a name brand replacement.
If you’re having trouble choosing I recommend Anker brand for replacement batteries. They create replacements for almost every device from laptops to cellphones.
I’d love to hear any personal disaster stories and see any photos you may! If you’ve experienced battery woes connect with me!