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DETROIT – Compact Power Inc., the North American subsidiary of South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd., is using new lithium-ion battery components in an effort to prevent hybrid-electric vehicle fires and high-temperature explosions stemming from unstable battery constructions.

On display at the 2007 SAE International World Congress here, CPI’s new Li-ion batteries aim to avoid the recent problems associated with small-format Li-ion cells in personal electronics, which were the subject of massive recalls last year due to potential fires resulting from excessive high-temperature operation.

“CPI is in the business of developing large-format Li-ion batteries for HEVs and we have successfully addressed the (safety) concerns,” says CPI CEO Prabhakar Patil.

“Our battery technology is among the most advanced in the industry, providing the safety and performance required in automotive applications as confirmed by cell- and pack-level testing.”

Among CPI’s improvements are safer chemical compositions, improved separator materials and stronger battery casings.

By using unique manganese-based cathode chemistry, with additives for improved durability under high-temperature conditions, the Li-ion cells have proven through accelerated testing they are capable of achieving more than 15 years of service in automotive environments, the company says.

In addition to its high power density and low cost (due to abundant supplies of manganese), CPI’s battery chemistry is recognized for not releasing oxygen at elevated temperatures, which potentially could fuel an existing electrical fire.

Separator materials between the cell membranes and electrodes have been improved, as well, the company says.

This development has the benefit of protecting the cell from an internal short circuit, which could lead to dangerously high temperatures within the cell that could engulf the battery pack – and potentially the vehicle – in flames.

Also new is a laminated cell casing in place of a conventional metal can, which potentially could rupture under extreme conditions.

The new laminate is far more forgiving than metal, CPI says, allowing for greater safety if an HEV is involved in a serious crash.

“(Battery) safety (now) is a non-issue,” says CPI Engineering Director Martin Klein.

“We now are concentrating on perfecting the balance of power and energy within the cell.”