Safe batteries

Harmonization of safety requirements for batteries is underway

By Claire Marchand

Batteries are used in numerous devices and their safety determines the lifespan and faultless operation of countless products. With converging technologies and the advent of horizontal standards comes the need to regularly review, compare and update the standards that define safety requirements in order to ensure that testing and conformity assessment processes are coordinated. This is what is currently happening for the standards issued by IEC TC 108 and IEC SC 21A.

IEC TC 108 is working closely with IEC SC 21A to harmonize the safety of batteries

Coordinated test requirements

There are currently four IEC International Standards involved in this harmonization process.

Three of these standards are developed by IEC TC 108, which has responsibility for the safety of electronic equipment within the field of audio/video, information technology and communication technology:

  • IEC 60065, Audio, video and similar electronic apparatus - Safety requirements
  • IEC 60950-1, Information technology equipment - Safety - Part 1: General requirements
  • IEC 62368-1, Audio/video, information and communication technology equipment - Part 1: Safety requirements

The fourth standard is issued by IEC SC 21A, which has responsibility for secondary cells and batteries containing alkaline or other non-acid electrolytes:

  • IEC 62133, Secondary cells and batteries containing alkaline or other non-acid electrolytes - Safety requirements for portable sealed secondary cells, and for batteries made from them, for use in portable applications

While both IEC 60065 and IEC 60950-1 provide normative lists of component standards for use when testing and evaluating end products, there is no mention of IEC 62133 in the current editions of these two standards. As a consequence, end products that come within the scope of IEC TC 108 cannot be tested against the requirements specified by IEC 62133.

Both committees have established a formal liaison relationship and work closely together in a  joint working group to update and develop meaningful, value-added, and coordinated safety requirements to the appropriate standards for cells, packs and end products. They are currently jointly revising and preparing new editions of the above-mentioned three standards.

Revisions underway

The revised IEC 62133 is currently at the CDV (Committee Draft for Vote) stage. The document (21A/481/CDV) has received strong support from the P-members (Participating members), with 16 voting in favour and one abstaining. As a result, SC 21A will soon issue an FDIS (Final Draft International Standard) for the next edition of IEC 62133, which is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2012.

TC 108 is in the process of developing the next editions of IEC 60065, 60950-1 and 62368-1 and has recently issued CD (Committee Draft) 108/455/CD. Annex M of the CD deals with batteries and was prepared taking into account the comments received on a previous CD containing similar requirements. Comments received on 108/455/CD will be reviewed at a meeting in October 2011, with the anticipation that a CDV will result from that meeting. While 108/455/CD is specifically targeted for the second edition of IEC 62368-1, TC 108 has agreed to include the same technical content regarding batteries in the next editions of IEC 60065 and 60950-1.

Enabling testing

As a result of the above, it is anticipated that the next editions of IEC 60065, 60950-1, and 62368-1 will contain normative references to IEC 62133, as well as other battery standards, as appropriate.

A safe and practical decision

Since manufacturers continue to produce batteries for high-tech products covered by IEC TC 108, and testing laboratories need to provide assessments of their safety, the IECEE CMC (Certification Management Committee) made the practical decision, at its 2010 annual meeting, to exempt batteries used in high-tech products from the need to comply with IEC 62133, until new editions of the standards are published. Reviewing the situation at its 2011 meeting and responding to a request from TC 108, the CMC agreed to continue with this exemption. This has no impact on the safety of those batteries, as they still need to comply with the standards issued by TC 108.

It is anticipated that batteries that are in compliance with the next edition of IEC 62133 will also be required to comply with the next editions of the three TC 108 standards mentioned above.

laptop2 IEC TC 108 is working closely with IEC SC 21A to harmonize the safety of batteries
IBM_X200_laptop_battery Laptop batteries are to be harmonized in the next editions published by TC 108 and SC 21A
rechargeable battery iStock_000000834278Small TC 108 and SC 21A are also working together to harmonize safety requirements for recharcheable batteries