How Battery Manufacturers Can Meet the Challenge of Current and Future Supply Chain Disruptions

In this article, UL provides some advice for battery manufacturers to deal with the enormous component shortage challenge that the electronics industry continues to face. Indeed, battery manufacturers must wait several months for delivery after ordering components. At the same time, the demand for lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries has risen sharply due to the automotive industry’s shift to electric vehicles as well as the growing demand for battery-operated consumer electronics.

The electronics industry has been faced with the enormous challenge of a shortage of components, creating a significant disruption in supply chains. According to the Electronic Component Industry Association (ECIA), an organization that provides resources and data analysis for the electronics industry regarding the electronic component supply chain, delivery times for some critical components have increased significantly over the end of 2021.[1]

Battery makers have to wait several months for delivery after ordering components, such as semiconductors and battery cells, to manufacture their products. The speed at which delivery times have increased was unprecedented before the COVID-19 pandemic.[2]

At the same time, the demand for lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries has risen sharply due to the automotive industry’s shift to electric vehicles as well as the growing demand for battery-operated consumer electronics and home appliances.

The importance of preparing for supply chain disruption

Component shortages can disrupt new product development, increase costs, lengthen the R&D cycle, and delay product launches around the world. Therefore, supply chain disruptions can be deeply disruptive during design and planning processes. Battery manufacturers need to be prepared for the unexpected to mitigate associated risks by quickly adapting to new situations.

A common practice is to use a universal circuit board design to provide room to replace current components with alternative parts from other vendors. For example, testing and certification of multiple product versions using alternate components can help mitigate the risk of supply chain disruption.

To solve component shortage issues, battery manufacturers need a reliable and expert partner in battery testing and certification.

Battery testing and certification solutions can help address component shortage issues

Altering construction or introducing component changes or alternatives into a battery product may allow a manufacturer to use alternate battery components. These changes may result in the need for reassessment or further assessment of the requirements of the applicable standards.

The worldwide shortage of microchips widely used by battery manufacturers to create complex protection circuits for battery cells continues to affect the battery industry. Manufacturers can consider alternative chips and cell sources and submit multiple battery variants for certification, evaluating them all in one project to save time. Manufacturers can reduce overall costs by reducing the number of samples and choosing a combined rating per UL 62133, the Standard for Secondary Cells and Batteries Containing Alkaline or Other Non-Acid Electrolytes – Safety Requirements for Portable Sealed Secondary Cells and for batteries made therefrom, for use in portable applications, and IEC 62133, which requires no further testing.

Manufacturers having difficulty obtaining IEC 62133-1 or IEC 62133-2 certified cells can request UL to conduct a combined battery and cell evaluation.

If UL certified cells per UL 62133-1 or UL 62133-2 are not available, UL can offer evaluation of the cell as an unlisted component per UL 62133-1 – Part 1: Nickel Systems or UL 62133- 2 – Part 2, Lithium Systems, reporting separately on non-UL listed components for cells. Cells certified to UL 1642, the standard for lithium batteries, are acceptable in place of cells certified to UL 62133-2. Likewise, cells certified to UL 2054, the standard for household and commercial batteries, are acceptable in place of cells certified to UL 62133-1.

Keep in mind that alternate designs may require shipping testing. Lithium (lithium-ion and lithium metal) batteries, primary and secondary, are fully regulated dangerous goods when transported and prepared in accordance with Transportation Association Section IA, IB or Section II regulations international airline (IATA). Therefore, battery manufacturers seeking transport testing for these batteries under the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, ST/SG/AC.10/11/Rev.7 and other amendments under subsection 38.3 must submit them to the required tests as defined in that subsection.

Alternate versions of li-ion batteries containing different types of cells or protection components, for example protection ICs, MOSFETs and fuses, will be subjected to the same required tests as the batteries initially evaluated.

The battery testing and certification process doesn’t have to be daunting, as these UL customer case studies demonstrate:

Case Study 1

The main Type A microcontroller integrated circuit (IC) was used in the battery management system (BMS) since the initial battery evaluation in 2010 was not available. So the manufacturer decided to use a different version of the same microcontroller, type B, but in a different surface mount device (SMD) BGA (ball grid array) package. The layout of the printed circuit board (PCB) needs to be redesigned to accommodate different IC packages. After successfully verifying the battery’s technical documentation, original and new schematics, and PCB layouts, UL has determined that the redesigned version can be added to the existing UL Certification and CB Test Certificate and Report test without additional testing.

Case Study 2

Three versions of a Li-ion battery have been designed and manufactured. Each version had the same mechanical construction and BMS protection, but each was fitted with a different type of li-ion cell (A cell, B cell, C cell). Each battery variant had to be tested according to the T.1, T.2, T.3, T.4, T.5 and T.7 tests, which are typical transport test criteria according to UN 38.3. Additional T.6 and T.8 cell tests for cells not transported separately from the battery may be deemed necessary.

Please note that each scenario is reviewed with UL experts on a case-by-case basis to find the appropriate solutions based on the specific facts and circumstances.

Why UL for Battery Testing and Certification

UL, the world leader in safety science, has decades of experience in battery testing and certification. UL can support manufacturers with deep industry knowledge and technical expertise on battery testing and certification, helping to overcome market challenges and gain rapid global market access.

[1] ECIA Component Lead Times Report, January 2022.

[2] ECIA Component Lead Time Report, January 2022.