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Compliance with Codes and Standards Relating to Lithium-Ion Batteries: A Manufacturer’s Perspective

Jim McDowall

For several years starting around 2010, deployment of lithium-ion-based energy storage systems proceeded largely unencumbered by codes and standards. More recently, however, codes and standards bodies have been racing to catch up with deployments. These developments have taken on increased urgency in light of numerous incidents, including battery fires in South Korea and a recent explosion at a facility in Arizona that left firefighters injured. We have seen several standards issued and updated by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and more stringent storage-related requirements built into US fire codes. The fire-code requirements have now been consolidated in NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, with the intent of making compliance with that standard mandatory in future releases of the fire codes. At the same time as the national picture is becoming clearer, we are starting to see the appearance of even more restrictive state-level requirements, as demonstrated by recent modifications to the New York State Fire Code. This paper provides an overview of the development of these codes and standards, and the challenges faced by manufacturers having to address this rapidly evolving situation. These challenges are exacerbated by recent trends to products with significantly higher energy density. The influence of these documents on system design is discussed, particularly in relation to fire-suppression systems (FSS).

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