Apple sounds laptop fire alarm in Sony battery recall

25 Aug 2006

Echoing a similar action by Dell in recent weeks, Apple Computer has recalled 1.8 million notebook batteries because of fears the power cells might burst into flames.

It is understood that Apple discovered nine incidents of batteries overheating, with two causing minor burns to Mac users.

Following Dell’s action 10 days ago to recall 4.1 million units over similar incidents of notebooks bursting into flames, this latest move by Apple brings to almost six million units being recalled. This is the largest product recall in the consumer electronics industry’s history.

The notebook batteries used by Dell and Apple were manufactured by Sony, the world’s second largest maker of rechargeable batteries.

It is estimated the recall could cost Sony as much as US$257m.

The recall has cast a spotlight on the use of lithium-ion technology, which consist of sheets of rolled up metal that sometimes contain loose particles that cause the batteries to short circuit.

Pressure to keep up with demand for rechargeable batteries for greater numbers of mobile phones, portable music players and notebook computers could mean that the delicate batteries aren’t being made to the proper standards.

As a result energy can be released rapidly in an uncontrolled fashion causing the devices to ignite.

The Japanese Government has ordered Sony and Dell to investigate the defects that caused the rechargeable batteries to catch fire.

By John Kennedy