Boeing 787 lithium-ion battery failures: UL experts assist NTSB investigation

Lithium-ion batteries pack a lot of power into a small space. This advantage allows airplane manufacturers to replace massive hydraulic systems with lightweight electronics and improve fuel economy. This conversion is termed MEA or “more electrified aircraft”. Examples of MEA include the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350. While these high-tech batteries rarely fail, when they do, the consequences can be severe.

On 7 January 2013 at Logan Airport in Boston, one of the lithium-ion batteries on a Boeing 787 experienced an uncontrollable increase in temperature and pressure, so-called “thermal runaway”. This was followed by another similar event ten days later in Takamatsu, Japan. These events culminated in the temporary grounding of the Boeing 787 fleet by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  The temporary grounding was lifted by the FAA in late April, 2013.

As a result of these incidents, UL initiated discussions with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) which led to a contract in August 2014, to carry out a post-incident investigation focused on probable cause and assessment of the certification process. One result of the effort was the issuance of a recommendation letter by the NTSB, providing an informed safety strategy to the FAA. This five-part “Safety Recommendation” urged the FAA to take action and implement certification testing for lithium-ion batteries used on commercial airplanes.

The research conducted by UL developed new and innovative forensic testing procedures at the cell, battery and battery-system level that revealed key factors related to the failures. The resulting recommendations include the development of cell-level internal short circuit (ISC) tests, in which manufacturers can evaluate thermal runaway and ISC behavior. With the goal of improving cell, battery and system-level safety performance, enhanced safety standards developed and implemented by independent, third-party experts like UL could help provide confidence in new technologies.

UL is committed to the safe introduction of technology into society. This investigation underscores the importance of involving an independent safety expert at an early stage of the design process.

J. Thomas Chapin, Ph.D., Vice President Research, Corporate Fellow, Underwriters Laboratories

For more details on the investigation, read NTSB’s Safety Recommendation to the FAA.

Read the results of the NTSB/UL investigation in the “Boeing 787 battery incident report”.

Review the extensive investigations by UL posted in the NTSB Public Docket.

Please contact Tom Chapin for further information on lithium-ion battery safety and performance, or on the ongoing NTSB investigation.


New standards for energy storage systems promote safety and confidence for wide scale adoption

Energy storage systems (ESS) play an increasingly important role in meeting global energy needs – and they are a key component in harnessing the full power of renewable energy sources. ESS enable utilities to improve grid resiliency and stabilize fluctuation, and allow private facilities to gain the benefits of capturing energy as it is produced. Driven by government incentives and practical motives, a wave of rapid growth is occurring in this market.

To support the safe and sustainable deployment of ESS, UL published UL 9540 Safety of Energy Storage Systems and Equipment. UL 9540 addresses a wide range of storage technologies for grid interactive, standalone and multi-mode applications. The new standard integrates requirements and builds upon critical technology safety specifications, providing the most comprehensive review framework for ESS safety. Certification to the requirements of UL 9540 provides assurance to the market that the ESS has been designed, developed and verified for safe installation and operation.

Other standards and codes are also considering changes to address ESS. The National Electrical Code (NEC®) will consider a new Article on ESS and DC systems for the 2017 edition. IEEE and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) TC 120 are also looking at the development of requirements to address different aspects of ESS design and performance.

This emerging framework of regulations, led by UL 9540, supports the industry’s growth and encourages the best practices. Proactive standardization allows for the safe implementation of ESS on a larger scale and sets the stage for a new degree of sustainable success in the industry. In leading this work, UL effectively advises global clients looking for the best ESS solutions.

Laurie B. Florence, Principal Engineer for Large Format Batteries, Fuel Cells and Capacitors, UL Energy & Power Technologies

For further information on ESS standards and implementation support, please contact Laurie B. Florence.


UL 1703 goes beyond typing of modules to fire classification of PV systems

UL 1703 helps ensure the safety of rooftops through photovoltaic (PV) system fire classification ratings. By 2016, many locations will require PV systems to comply with UL 1703. The State of California, however, has decided to adopt the standard in its version of the International Building Code even earlier, starting on 1 January 2015.

Despite this quickly approaching compliance deadline, some uncertainty remains regarding the difference between the “typing” of modules and the “fire classification” of PV systems.

PV modules can be tested and receive a “type” according to their construction and module-only fire performance characteristics. When these modules are put together with PV roof mounts and installed on a roof, however, fire resistance performance can vary dramatically, e.g. the space between PV module and roof can act as a chimney to feed a fire with oxygen. UL classification of PV systems, therefore, rates how the system performs as an integrated whole.

Until October 2016, modules can continue to be rated independently. As jurisdictions increasingly require PV systems be rated as noted above, however, the module-only rating will no longer be sufficient. To significantly reduce the amount of testing needed to comply with the PV system fire classification ratings, PV modules can be independently rated to a specific “fire performance type,” which groups modules that are constructed in a similar manner and demonstrate similar performance when subjected to the module-only fire tests.

In order to help ensure wider product applicability, module manufacturers will benefit from having their products tested to one of the 15 module types. When rack manufacturers test a system consisting of their mounting structure in combination with one of the module types, their mounting structure in combination with any modules of that same type rating will maintain its PV system fire classification.

Christopher Flueckiger, Principal Engineer Renewable Energies, UL Energy & Power Technologies

Watch the free webinar “UL 1703 PV Fire Test: What it is and what it is not” (registration required)

Read a full article by John Taecker, Senior Regulatory Engineer at UL Energy & Power Technologies, on achieving code compliant PV installations in The Code Authority

For more information on UL’s services related to fire testing of PV modules and systems, please contact Christopher Flueckiger.


DEWI (a UL company) first agency to perform LVRT testing in India

The future of sustainable energy relies on the stability of the grid. As renewable energy sources increase dramatically worldwide, decentralized energy production must also contribute to grid stability. In order to ensure security of supply, transmission system operators have established so-called “grid codes” with critical values and control characteristics.

An important focus of these requirements that affect wind power generation is low voltage ride through (LVRT) capability. LVRT is the ability of wind turbines to continue supplying energy when grid voltage dips, ensuring uninterrupted connectivity. This counteracts the negative effect that weak grids can have on the operation of wind turbines.

To address this negative influence on a growing market, the Central Electricity Authority of India (CEA) issued grid connectivity standards for wind and solar generating stations in 2013. They stipulate that wind power stations connected at the 66 kV voltage level and above must verify LVRT capability starting from April 2014.

DEWI, a UL company and independent measuring institute, is leading the way for LVRT testing in this growing market. After the CEA grid connectivity guidelines were issued, UL-DEWI became the first agency in India to complete an LVRT test for a large turbine manufacturer.

Siddharth B. Naik, Business Manager – Wind Services, UL India

For further information on UL-DEWI in India, please contact Siddharth B. Naik.


Safety, accuracy and communication protocol testing for energy meters installed in India

Automation and smart devices are gaining momentum in India. The country has made major investments to improve the efficiency and coverage of national power distribution. As a result, the need for energy meter testing is set to expand rapidly.

To participate in this dynamic energy market, UL India has invested in a new facility for energy meter testing. According to the requirements of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), energy meter testing must be carried out in BIS accredited labs in India. All utilities seeking to implement energy meters must submit test reports from a BIS accredited lab to demonstrate compliance with national standards of safety, accuracy and communications protocol.

IS 13779 (based on IEC 62053) covers testing compliance on insulation properties, accuracy requirements, electrical requirements, EMC requirements, as well as mechanical and environment property requirements. UL safety testing to IS 13779 should be available in India from March 2015 or earlier.

IS 15959 (based on IEC 62056), to which every energy meter in India must comply, addresses communication protocol testing. It establishes a shared language for all meters and readers (DLMS) despite differences in their internal firmware, enabling seamless communication across various interfaces.

The UL India lab expects to receive BIS accreditation by January 2015. The lab is fully equipped to test energy meters for the mandatory compliance categories, paving the way for wider and harmonized energy meter implementation.

J. Shashi Shekar, Business Manager, Power & Controls, UL India

For further information on energy meters and testing in India, please contact J. Shashi Shekar.


UL introduces its regional managers from around the globe

UL Energy & Power Technologies leadership is focused on delivering locally tailored solutions to help manufacturers expand their market reach. Now present in all major markets, today UL introduces the regional General Managers for AP (Asia Pacific), the Americas and EULA (Europe, Latin America & Africa).

Wesley Kwok heads Asia Pacific
Wesley Kwok is responsible for Japan, Korea, Greater China, ASEAN, South Asia (including India), the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. Wesley has been with UL for 19 years and has five years of experience in regional operations. He enriches the region with his specialized expertise in renewable energies and power technologies.

Wesley Kwok is UL’s Asia Pacific lead in all stakeholder relationships such as with standards associations and industry consortia and the key contact for major customers in industrial automation and renewable energy. Wesley is based in the UL Hong Kong office.

Contact Wesley Kwok, Asia Pacific General Manager, UL Energy & Power Technologies

Willy Fiallo heads the Americas
Willy Fiallo is responsible for market growth and the division’s P&L in the United States and Canada, and partners with EULA General Manager, Edvard Jensen, on Latin America. Willy Fiallo’s 26 years in regional and global management, international operations, engineering and sales enrich the region’s capacity to access international markets. His achievements include successfully launching and managing global operations, developing new regional markets and the development and implementation of important global projects.

Willy Fiallo leads all relationships with business partners and major customers in renewable and traditional power generation, storage and distribution. He is based in UL’s office in Northbrook.

Contact Willy Fiallo, Americas General Manager, UL Energy & Power Technologies

Edvard Jensen heads EULA
Responsible for market growth and the division’s P&L in Europe, Latin America and Africa (EULA), Edvard Jensen has seventeen years of experience in regional and global programs, business management and international product management. His expertise enriches the region’s capacity to access international markets. One of his success stories involved the integration of global cross-functional teams to establish and implement new customer-focused solutions, and thereby enhance UL’s capabilities both locally and abroad.

Edvard Jensen leads all stakeholder relationships with business partners and major customers in industrial automation, power and controls, renewable energy technologies and the broader energy sector. He is based in UL’s office in Copenhagen.

Contact Edvard Jensen, EULA General Manager, UL Energy & Power Technologies


UL is constantly developing and publishing standards, see what’s new

UL is at the cutting edge of standards development. The company has 120 years of experience accelerating the safe introduction of technology into society. With thousands of standards, outlines and subjects in the UL catalogue, there are countless revisions and updates going on all the time.

For instance, UL has recently updated a series of standards in the field of electric vehicles. They include UL2202, UL2231-1, UL2231-2, and UL2594  among others, which  are safety standards for electric vehicle and charging equipment, as well as UL 2580 and UL 2271, which are standards for batteries used in electric vehicles.

To access information on UL Standards, see the UL standards information pages

Register here for “What’s New” to receive e-mails twice a month indicating the new published UL standards, outlines and proposals.

UL Enhanced Mark

UL has begun introducing an enhanced version of its iconic UL Certification Mark, as well as a UL Certification Badge, to help manufacturers, regulators and retailers move more quickly and effectively in today’s 24/7 global marketplace. The enhanced UL Certification Mark enables companies to bundle multiple certifications for multiple geographies into a single mark. The Mark also includes a unique identifier providing access to more information about a product's Certification. Learn more about the UL Enhanced Mark at the Marks Hub.

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