Battery Test Methods and Specifications

Rechargeable Secondary Lithium-ion batteries are the most popular today because of their accessibility and reliability. They can be found in all kinds of consumer and industrial products. Despite their many advantages, though, they are at risk for to thermal runaway and short-circuiting that can cause catastrophic failure. 

Battery test standards, including by IEC, SAE, and UL, guide manufacturers at every stage of the design process. Various testing models exist to verify safe operation in real-world conditions for industries as diverse as automotive, aerospace, and health care. Due to the lithium-ion battery’s high energy density, tests encompassing short-circuiting, heat resistance, temperature cycling, and thermal abuse ensure that battery-powered products pose minimal risk during regular use.

Guides for environmental testing by test standard:

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Test Standards for Secondary Lithium-Ion Battery Cells or Modules

Any company that develops or manufactures lithium-ion batteries must ensure the final product complies with the standards that apply to them. Read on to learn about some of the most common lithium-ion battery testing standards.


UL 1642 – Standard for Lithium Batteries

Developed by Underwater Laboratories (UL), UL 1642 is the standard for all lithium batteries. Various battery test methods exist, including crush and puncture, but the two that manufacturers prioritize are the short circuit and temperature cycling tests.

  • Tests related to ESPEC products:

The purpose of the short circuit test is to assess how the battery responds to internal short circuits. If the battery’s safety mechanisms prevent thermal runaway, it will pass.

During temperature cycling, the battery is subjected to repeated cycles of extremely high and low temperatures. The test assesses the battery’s lifecycle to guarantee minimum safety, reliability, and longevity standards.


UL 2054 – Household and Commercial Batteries

UL 2054 pertains to all batteries used within household and commercial environments. It sets the safety requirements and test procedures, examining how batteries have been designed and constructed. These lithium-ion battery testing standards cover both primary non-rechargeable and secondary rechargeable batteries.

  • Tests related to ESPEC products:
    • Mold stress relief test at 70°C; heating test: 5°C/m to 150°C — Industrial Ovens

    • Temp cycling: 70 to 20 to -40 °C (30 min. transitions) — Global-N

During the mold stress relief test, the battery is placed inside a circulating-air industrial oven at 70C and left for at least seven hours. To pass, the battery must show no evidence of mechanical or structural damage.


IEC 62133 – Safety Requirements for Portable Sealed Secondary Cells

The IEC 62133 requirements were developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). These standards pertain to portable primary non-rechargeable and secondary rechargeable lithium cells and batteries found within portable electronic devices.

  • Tests related to ESPEC products:
    • Short circuit test at 55°C; Mold stress relief test at 70°C; Thermal abuse: ramp at 5°C/m to 130°C — Industrial Ovens

    • Temp cycling: 75 to 20 to -20°C (30 min. transitions) — Benchtop or Platinous

The thermal abuse test is another way to confirm a battery’s internal safety mechanisms. This involves placing the battery under extreme temperatures up to 130C and monitoring its response.


SAE J2564 - Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicle Rechargeable Energy Storage System (RESS)

The SAE J2564 standards were developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and are among the most recent lithium-ion battery testing standards. They are considered the benchmark for manufacturers conducting abuse tests for batteries and capacitors within electric and hybrid vehicles.

  • Tests related to ESPEC products:

The thermal stability test simulates different operating conditions under which electric and hybrid vehicles may be exposed. Cycles may be introduced alongside gradual heating and cooling. Throughout the test, thermal response, electrical performance, and internal safety features are monitored.

SAE J2464 standards also require a thermal shock test, which involves dramatic changes to the battery’s operating conditions. In this case, temperatures fluctuate from 70C to -40C using 15-minute transitions. Again, testers monitor the battery’s performance, safety features, and physical integrity.

Thermal Shock

IEC 61960 - Secondary Lithium Cells and Batteries for Portable Applications

IEC 61960 standards were designed for secondary lithium batteries and cells in portable applications. These standards also apply to different types of secondary batteries, including those found within consumer electronics and medical devices.

  • Tests related to ESPEC products:

The discharge performance test assesses a battery’s ability to continuously deliver power under various conditions. Tests include simulating different discharge rates, including reaching its end-of-discharge voltage as defined by its intended use.

IEC 62660-2 - Secondary Lithium-Ion Cells for the Propulsion of Electric Road Vehicles - Part 2: Reliability and Abuse Testing

IEC 62660-2 standards refer specifically to the performance of lithium-ion cells in electric vehicles.

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During the thermal test, batteries are placed in a testing chamber, and the temperature is raised at 5C per minute to a maximum of 130C. These tests reveal how the battery responds to different temperatures.

During the temperature cycling test, the battery is placed in a chamber where the temperature is decreased from 85C to -40C at 1C per minute. Furthermore, another cycling test is needed under electrical operation, starting at 65C and finishing at -20C to simulate real-world conditions.

Finally, IEC 62660-2 standards mandate a capacity discharge test focusing on lithium-ion cell capacity and discharge performance. Cells are discharged at specific rates, starting at -20 and finishing at 45C. Testers monitor the voltage, current, and capacity during the discharge.

UN/DOT 38.3 - UN Manual of Tests and Criteria 4th Revised Edition Lithium Battery Testing Requirements

Developed by the United Nations (UN), UN/DOT 38.3 battery test standards are commonly referred to within the transportation industry. Due to the potentially hazardous nature of lithium batteries, these lithium-ion battery testing standards assure carriers that relevant products are safe to transport.

  • Tests related to ESPEC products:
    • Temp cycling: 75 to -40 °C (30 min. transitions) — Global-N

Central to these standards is temperature cycling. These tests expose lithium batteries from -40C to 75C using 30-minute transitions.

Throughout the test, metrics like voltage, current, and electrical performance are monitored. Batteries that pass this test must fulfill specific criteria, such as the absence of deformation and leakage.

Battery Safety and Compliance

Lithium-ion batteries are found in everything from smartphones and vapes to intricate medical devices and energy storage in our electrical grids. Due to their prevalence, guaranteeing the safety of these batteries is critical to preventing environmental damage, fires, and explosions.

At the heart of safety, globally recognized and adopted battery test standards like those listed above provide uniform compliance worldwide, offering clarity to manufacturers, regulators, and the public. The greatest advantages of compliance include preventing safety incidents and protecting consumers from harm.

Advancements in Battery Technology

Keeping up with advancements in battery technology is crucial for ensuring safety, performance, and reliability. But what are some of the most influential breakthroughs that have resulted in the major changes to lithium-ion battery testing standards?

Solid-state batteries prompted one of the biggest changes because they involve replacing ordinary liquid electrolytes. Furthermore, the role of advanced lithium-ion chemistries, such as lithium-air and lithium-sulfur batteries, created the need to design new tests to evaluate such chemical makeups.

Meanwhile, the automotive industry has started switching to high-energy-density batteries to improve the range of EV vehicles. This has quickly led to innovations, whereby these batteries are also now found within portable electronics to increase their lifespans.

At the end of the day, every advancement in battery design prompts the need for new standards to address things like changing chemistries and new thermal management systems.

Charge/Discharge testing

Power cycling, or ‘charge/discharge testing’ of batteries puts varying loads to stress the batteries’ capabilities. Battery performance is measured during a charge or discharge, and then tracked over the repeated cycling of the battery to determine loss of performance. Published standards require this testing at ambient temperatures.

Most manufacturers do these performance tests at hot and cold temperatures, to determine changes in capacity in extreme conditions. Since this testing is specific to the company, its customers, or use case, there is no published test requirements, unless they make the capabilities part of the battery’s specifications.

In the majority of cases, this performance testing is managed by a specialized test system. ESPEC chambers can communicate with these devices regarding the current test temperature condition required, along with other operational data.

Global Battery Standards and Regulations

Although there are global approaches for enhancing the safety of lithium-ion batteries, different regions have their own regulations. In some cases, such as in China, additional national regulations may require compliance alongside globally recognized standards.

UL, SAE, IEC, and UN standards are recognized among developed nations in North America and Europe. However, countries within the EU also impose other regulations, such as the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive.

Battery Testing Techniques and Equipment

Performance, safety, and compliance are the hallmarks of successful battery testing. To provide the rigorous testing required by national and international standards, manufacturers must have the equipment to conduct various tests. Such equipment includes:

  • Environmental test chambers
  • Digital multimeters (DMMs)
  • Battery analyzers
  • Power cycling equipment (charge/discharge)
  • Impact, nail, and crush testers
  • X-ray machines

Environmental test chambers produce the conditions required to conform to standards where heat or cold is applied. Testers can then use other kinds of equipment to monitor different performance metrics and deformation of the batteries.

Challenges in Battery Testing

Comprehensive testing is complex due to the intricate nature of modern batteries and the diversity of their commercial and industrial applications. Some of the key challenges manufacturers must overcome include:

  • Diversity of today’s battery chemistries
  • Evolving battery technology
  • Safety concerns
  • Testing standardization
  • Time constraints
  • Testing costs
  • Operation in diverse environments, especially extreme heat and cold

Future Trends in Battery Development

Battery development is a priority for manufacturers in every industry. However, despite the advantages of revolutionizing consumer and commercial electronics, there are challenges regarding standards.

As mentioned, standards must ensure safety, reliability, and performance without inadvertently blocking innovation.

Some examples of the trends already influencing testing standards include: 

  • Advancements in solid-state batteries
  • New high-energy-density batteries
  • Advanced anode and cathode materials
  • Wearable batteries
  • Next-generation flow batteries

New testing standards must reflect new materials, mechanisms, and environmental conditions. Without updates, manufacturers are unable to innovate accordingly.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do the tests in these standards risk failure of the battery and create a dangerous situation?+

Yes, these tests are aimed at proving the safety and reliability of the battery, and a failed test may result in a battery that leaks or explodes. From UL1642:

“Important Test Considerations: Some lithium batteries are capable of exploding when the tests described in Sections 10 – 19 are conducted. It is important that personnel be protected from the flying fragments, explosive force, sudden release of heat, and noise that results from such explosions. The test area is to be well ventilated to protect personnel from possible harmful fumes or gases.”

What measures are taken to ensure the impartiality and accuracy of battery testing?

Impartiality and accuracy are central to solidifying trust among the public and relevant stakeholders. This is why manufacturers use independent testing laboratories and collaborate with third-party certification bodies with long track records of successful adherence to transparent standards.

Can the same testing standards be applied to both small consumer batteries and large industrial batteries?

Generally, no. Different standards are required because batteries have different internal mechanisms, including safety features, and function under very different conditions. For example, industrial batteries will likely be subject to extreme heat that wouldn’t be a factor in a consumer setting.

How do battery testing methods vary for different applications, such as for smartphones versus electric vehicles?

Battery testing methods are defined based on a specific battery's unique characteristics, performance metrics, and safety rules. This is why smartphone batteries may be tested to assess their ability to handle numerous discharge cycles reflecting daily charging. In contrast, EV batteries are tested to ensure they can endure thousands of cycles over many years.

What are the differences between laboratory testing and field testing of batteries?

Batteries undergo both laboratory and field testing. Laboratory testing is designed to create controlled and repeatable environments that can precisely control aspects like temperature and humidity. On the other hand, field testing offers unpredictable conditions for batteries to reflect the scenarios consumers may be operating in.

How do testing standards address the rapid charging capabilities of modern batteries?

Testing standards address the new capabilities of modern batteries by defining specific protocols that factor in thermal management, current, and voltage. These separate standards address batteries under fast-charging conditions.

What is the impact of extreme environmental conditions on battery testing and standards?

Most of the standards from UL, IEC, SAE, UN only target extreme conditions for safety, to avoid failure. The manufacturer needs to remember to focus on performance and long-term quality of their product when exposed to extreme temperatures. This is one of the core applications of ESPEC chambers, to simulate these conditions and provide feedback to the product team.

How are emerging technologies like wireless charging affecting battery testing protocols?

Emerging technologies like wireless charging add new considerations, including alignment tolerance, foreign object detection, and electromagnetic compatibility. These concepts are often not reflected in legacy testing standards and protocols, meaning that ongoing updates are required, placing an immense burden on manufacturers to keep up.