In May 2018, Wake D’Elia was using an electronic cigarette when the device’s battery malfunctioned and exploded, killing him instantly. The investigation later revealed that the battery was what’s called 18650, reports NBC news.
Following the growing number of fatal incidents, the Consumers Product Safety Commission (CPSC ) has issued a warning to people to not buy or use 18650 lithium-ion battery cells due to possible fire risk.
A 18650 is a slightly larger version of a AA battery and it is often used in a more heavy-duty commercial setting. “Robust cells that have a stainless steel can so they can withstand the rigors of outdoor power equipment,” says George Kerchner, executive director of The Rechargeable Battery Association, known as PRBA.
Lithium-ion battery cells can even power the Tesla model Model X and Model S vehicles. However, there are sellers that are listing custom battery packs for e-bikes and even electric cars using 18650 cells bought on the internet, reports The Verge.
Hence, the commission is working with e-commerce sites like eBay to take down listings of 18650 cells, which are sometimes used in vapes, e-cigarettes, flashlights, and toys.
“[T]hese battery cells may have exposed metal positive and negative terminals that can short-circuit when they come into contact with metal objects, such as keys or loose change in a pocket,” the agency wrote Friday.
“Once shorted, loose cells can overheat and experience thermal runaway, igniting the cell’s internal materials and forcibly expelling burning contents, resulting in fires, explosions, serious injuries, and even death.”
LG chem one of the companies that make 18650 cells have asked distributors of e-cigarette equipment in a late 2018 letter to stop selling them, warning that “individual consumer use and handling” could “lead to severe burns and disfigurement,” according to a report in The Atlantic.
Samsung and Sony also have also warned consumers against using the cells.