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Battery Safety Standards Will Be Strengthened but Their Effectiveness Is Questionable
Strengthened Safety Standard
Battery Safety Standards Will Be Strengthened but Their Effectiveness Is Questionable
  • By Cho Jin-young
  • February 7, 2017, 03:00
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The Korean government will introduce a new regulation on batteries for smart devices to prevent a second Galaxy Note 7 incident.
The Korean government will introduce a new regulation on batteries for smart devices to prevent a second Galaxy Note 7 incident.

 

To prevent cases similar to the case of the Galaxy Note 7, the batteries of which erupted in flames from occurring again, the government will introduce a new regulation that forces companies to submit core parts of batteries before launching new smartphones. Another plan in the works will make it possible for the Korean government to examine overseas battery production processes of Korean and foreign companies that supply batteries to Korean smartphones.

The Korean Agency for Technology and Standards under the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy announced “nine improvement measures in three fields to prevent the recurrence of smartphone accidents” on February 6. The measure is designed to prevent a second Galaxy Note 7 incident.

The agency concluded that the ignition of the Galaxy Note 7 sparked off by its defective batteries. The Korea Testing Laboratory, which conducted the investigation, found that 233 batteries were defective and there was no problem with the design of the smartphone. This is the same conclusion as Samsung Electronics reached after checking 200,000 products and 30,000 batteries. With regard to the point that the number of its tested Galaxy Note 7 units was only one-thousandth of 200,000 units checked by Samsung Electronics, "Even though there was a limit to the investigation, but we are confident that our results are more accurate than Samsung Electronics’ probe," a representative of the laboratory.

The government announced that it would create regulations to tighten safety standards based on these results. First of all, the National Technical Standards Agency will add tests for overcharging, mechanical shocks, and vibration. Currently, Korea’s safety standards are similar to international standards and those of the European Union (EU). We will also strengthen international standards for safety standards for control over smartphone battery temperatures, etc. and regularly check manufacturers’ own test capabilities for smartphones. The government will consider a method to uncover defects that may occur after a certain period of time by applying the results of accelerated life test, which is conducted under harsher conditions than general conditions, to safety standards. Specific safety standards will be revised by April, after consultation with experts.

The battery is an electrical product subject to safety verification. It is difficult to find out defects in the production stage as safety standard tests are conducted before mass production. As a result, the management system was upgraded to safety certification, and factory inspection is carried out once every two years. In addition, high-density batteries for the latest smartphones and tablet PCs will be checked once every two years by October and provide a basis for requesting single cell samples which are core parts of batteries. These enhancements will be applied to mobile phones, notebooks and tablet PCs ahead of others.

The point is efficacy. Factory inspections target battery suppliers, not smartphone makers. Samsung SDI and China ATL supplied batteries to the Galaxy Note 7, which ended up as a disaster. According to strengthened standards, inspectors of domestic testing institutes should go to factories in China and examine the production process of batteries supplied to smartphones sold in Korea.

In particular, the latest smartphones will have a problem in competitiveness if only a part of their specifications is leaked. However, the government set new regulations that enforce the submission of core parts of batteries for the latest smartphones. An official of a battery company said, "It defies common sense for the government to force companies to submit key parts of the latest battery before it is released." If a new technical barrier to trade agreement (TBT) is created, the battery company should notify the World Trade Organization (WTO) of it and listen to the opinions of foreign companies. In this process, it is possible that foreign companies such as Chinese companies will resist it. "The United States and China are checking lithium-ion batteries rolled out of their factories," said a representative of the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards. "I think that companies will receive the measure only temporarily."