Four years ago, an Asiana Airlines cargo plane, Asiana Flight 991, went down near the southern South Korean island of Jeju. Sanyo Electric’s lithium-ion batteries turned out to have been on board the plane.
On July 28, 2011, the plane crashed into the waters about 130 kilometers west of Jeju around 4:11 a.m. en route from S. Korea’s Incheon International Airport to Shanghai Pudong International Airport in China.
“A fire likely broke out on or near pallets containing dangerous goods. The fire rapidly escalated into a large uncontained fire, and this resulted in the crash,” said the Korean Aviation and Railway Accident Investigation Board (ARAIB), under the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT).
Noteworthy is that there were Sanyo Electric’s lithium-ion batteries for hybrid vehicles on board.
According to the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), the anode and cathode compartments (liquid electrolytes) are separated from each other by a thin membrane (or a separator) in lithium-ion batteries. Once the membrane is destroyed by an external shock, it can cause an explosion.
Since a fire broke out on UPS Flight 1307 on February 7, 2006, 36 aircraft incidents, related to batteries or battery-powered devices, have been reported, according to the MOLIT. Of them, 24 were related to lithium-ion batteries; 15 actually led to in-flight fires.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also has confirmed that a large quantity of lithium-ion batteries was on board UPS Airlines Flight 6 (a Boeing 747-400), which crashed in Dubai in September 2010, killing the two crewmembers on board.
In July, Boeing, the world's largest manufacturer of aircraft, urged airlines to establish standards for the safe transportation of lithium-ion batteries and packaging technologies.
The Rechargeable Battery Association (PBA) also issued a similar statement, according to the Wall Street Journal. “There is a need for discussions on safety standards and failure criteria for lithium-ion batteries,” said the PBA.
Meanwhile, Panasonic announced on April 1, 2011 that it had completed the process of taking over Sanyo Electric, which began in 2009, and would launch Sanyo Electric as its wholly-owned subsidiary.
“Though Panasonic had acquired Sanyo Electric, we cannot confirm what had happened before the takeover,” Panasonic told The Korea IT Times.
Panasonic has been taking up a whopping 40% of the world’s EV battery market.