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UPD Got an EE Power Bar with Your Broadband or Mobile? It Might Explode

Thursday, August 6th, 2015 (8:07 am) - Score 719
ee_power_bar

Publicity disaster ahoy. Remember when EE made waves by giving customers of their mobile and home broadband services a free portable Smartphone charger (“Power Bar“)? Remember when it kept running out of stock and that annoyed people? Well now some of them also explode, hurray!

The Power Bar is a 2600mah unit that takes approximately 4 hours to charge from flat to full and it’s also said to have a guaranteed life of 500 charges, but that’s all assuming it doesn’t first explode in your hands like an angry fire breathing dragon with big nasty claws.

At present well over 1.5 million Power Bars have been distributed into the wild, although a “very small number” of these have been involved in “incidents” where the battery pack is said to pose a “fire safety risk” (i.e. it might explode). The specific model code in question is E1-06 and there could be several hundred thousand of those already in circulation.

The operator is recalling all E1-06’s and apparently half of them have already been taken back, with affected customers receiving a £20 voucher to spend on accessories (you have to spend it in one transaction, so make sure to get your money’s worth) and we think that’s a better option than having your hand end up like this..

https://twitter.com/kemslie89/status/624600558494572544/photo/1

It’s worth noting that no battery is 100% safe and the Power Bar was a lithiumion one, much like you’d find in the back of your smartphone and so many other places, although as we’ve seen over the years these high energy density batteries can be volatile and sometimes even just poking such a battery with a knife is enough to set them off. Add in a manufacturing fault and the outcome of a mini fireball becomes a lot more likely.

Now before everybody points their finger at EE and moans, it’s only fair to say that this can and does happen to a lot of high-profile batteries. Over the years we’ve seen everything from high-end Laptops to iPhones explode and there’s no shortage of example videos on YouTube. EE is by no means unique and when you give away millions of devices then there are sure to be a few that go wrong.

At least now we can see where the “4GEE” name that EE so often uses comes from, it’s the sound you make right after a Power Bar turns your hand into bacon.

UPDATE 7th August 2015

Leaked documents seen by The Register appear to suggest that EE knew of several potential faults with their Power Bar’s before they were shipped and yet made no manufacturing changes to resolve them.

The documentation references concerns over the variable quality of battery cells, an overload risk from faulty cables and a fear that bars being charged on masse in shops might suffer “thermal runaway” and catch fire.

Meanwhile an EE spokesperson said they, “strongly refute any suggestion that safety concerns were ignored or dismissed without careful consideration. The product was subject to a rigorous testing process by our safety and products teams and all EE Power Bars meet EC electrical safety standards.”

Once again it’s worth pointing out that most Lithium-ion batteries could arguably be said to share similar risks.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar tonyp

    Modern batteries do seem to have problems. Remember the issues with laptop batteries some years ago? I have two Samsung smartphones which I often keep in the same shirt pocket. The older one sometimes gets very hot (and I mean excessively, burning hot) after I have used the other phone and popped it back in my pocket. Separating them seems to cure the problem though I have no idea of the cause. Li-Ion and LiPo seem to be the common factor. Pity RoHS/WEEE have outlawed NiCd (though justifiably I guess). I guess Lithium is used for Bipolar Disorder!

  2. Avatar DanielM

    these £4 (from ebay) devices are terribly unsafe.. do not use them

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