The battery saga is far from over. Apple joins once again the ranks of the notebook manufacturers that have to recall their batteries because of the fire risk.
Apple has to recall about 1.8 million batteries due to overheating problems and seconds Dell which had to recall 4.1 million batteries in a program which will cost Dell a lot of money.
In April, Apple had another recall battery program meant for their 15-inch MacBook Pro notebooks. The program was started not because the risk of fire but for performance reasons.
Notebooks affected by the recall include pre-Intel based iBook G4 and PowerBook G4 computers sold from October 2003 through to August 2006. In a statement concerning the batteries on its website Apple said: “Apple has determined that certain lithium-ion batteries containing cells manufactured by Sony Corporation of Japan pose a safety risk that may result in overheating under rare circumstances.”
Just about every major PC company uses Sony’s battery cells in a portion of their notebook batteries. Dell and Apple are one of the largest notebook manufacturers and this problem puts Sony in a bad light.
To defend itself, Sony said that the problems are confined to Dell and Apple and no other company will have problems. The interesting thing is that last week Sony insisted that only Dell is having problems. No mention of Apple.
The other notebook manufacturers stated that they are not affected by these problems and the users shouldn’t worry.
Hewlett-Packard said that it “has no plans to recall notebook battery packs in conjunction with either the Aug. 24, 2006 Apple notebook battery recall or the Aug. 14, 2006 Dell notebook battery recall. HP has been in contact with Sony, the manufacturer of the battery cells in question, and Sony has communicated that HP should not be impacted by these recalls.”
The same with Lenovo which said that it relies on a different technique for packaging and charging the cells and that Sony assured Lenovo Dell’s and Apple’s problems won’t happen to them.
Sony said that the recall arises because, on rare occasions, microscopic metal particles in the recalled battery cells may come into contact with other parts of the battery cell, leading to a short circuit within the cell. Typically, a battery pack will simply power off when a cell short circuit occurs. However, under certain rare conditions, an internal short circuit may lead to cell overheating and potentially flames. The potential for this to occur can be affected by variations in the system configurations found in different notebook computers.
Because of these problems which draw so much attention, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission started its own investigation and Sony is under their microscope.
Will the problems stop after Dell and Apple will end the battery recall program or other surprises will arise?
To prevent this kind of things to happen, four of the leading laptop makers are to meet to discuss the formation of manufacturing standards for lithium-ion batteries.
Apple, Dell, HP and Lenovo hope to have agreed a standard by July 2007 that will prevent the kind of problems that recently led to Dell having to recall more than four million Sony-made batteries and Apple starting the recall program.
John Grosso, Dell’s director of Supplier Engineering and Quality, said that it has taken so long to agree the need for battery standards because of concerns over issues such as intellectual property rights.
“We’ve just got to realise that we’re not talking about IP, we’re talking about process control,” he said.