Laptop vendors seek better battery standard

Following a massive battery recall, a group of laptop manufacturers plan to announce a new standard for making lithium ion batteries

A group of laptop vendors and battery manufacturers plans to announce a standard for making safer lithium ion batteries by June 15, 2007, in an attempt to recover from a massive series of battery recalls in recent months.

The new standard will cover "process requirements, quality control and assurance" for all forms of rechargeable lithium ion battery cells, from prismatic to cyllindrical and pouch, according to the Association Connecting Electronics Industries, known as IPC.

At an Oct. 12 meeting at IPC offices in Bannockburn, Illinois, the group also voted to name Lenovo Group executive Anthony Corkell as chairman of this IPC Lithium Ion Battery Subcommittee. Corkell, Lenovo's executive director of standards and quality engineering, will report to a larger IPC standards board run by John Grosso, Dell's director of supplier engineering and quality.

The group did not list specific changes it was requiring, and Corkell did not respond to requests for comment. But lithium ion technology is already well-established, so the new standard will probably focus on process controls and quality assurance, said IPC spokeswoman Kimberly Sterling.

The group first convened in September, after batteries made by Sony Energy Devices short-circuited and caught fire. In August, PC vendors including Dell and Lenovo had worked with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall about 8 million batteries and offer free replacements.

Other vendors involved in the recall include Apple Computer, Fujitsu, IBM and Toshiba, but it is unclear whether any of those companies participated in the meeting. Even the battery manufacturer itself -- Sony -- may not have attended, raising questions about who would actually follow the new standard when it is published.

IPC declined to provide a roll of attendees. "All I can tell you is that the major laptop manufacturers were well represented," Sterling said.

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