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Fujitsu recalls 287,000 batteries

Are any laptops safe?

Fujitsu's recall of defective batteries will affect 287,000 laptop PCs, including 63,000 in Japan, the company said yesterday.

Fujitsu last week became the fifth recent PC vendor to recall batteries using lithium-ion cells made by Sony A manufacturing defect can cause those cells to short circuit, overheating and in some cases catching fire.

So Fujitsu has asked both users of certain notebook PCs and dealers with unsold computers in their inventory to return the affected batteries, said Sean Nemoto, investor relations manager for Fujitsu.

Dell started the rush when it announced on 14 August it would recall 4.1 million batteries, following complaints from a handful of customers that their PCs had burst into flames. Other vendors quickly followed, including Apple, Toshiba, Lenovo, IBM and Fujitsu. Together they have recalled 7.9 million batteries.

Sony has been pushing vendors to recall its batteries even in the absence of customer complaints. Sony said today that it was working with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall any remaining defective cells in notebooks worldwide. The move will not affect other types of consumer electronics that use lithium-ion cells, such as cameras and music players.

Laptop vendors insist that the number of actual fires is very small, amounting to just fractions of a percent compared to the many millions of batteries recalled. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has counted 47 incidents of smoke or fire coming from notebook computers from January 2001 to August 2006.

Sony and the vendors continue to debate whether the fault lies solely in battery cell manufacturing, or also in the design of notebook PCs. Sony designs its batteries to shut down after a short circuit, but in certain occasions they will continue to overheat. "The potential for this to occur can be affected by variations in the system configurations found in different notebook computers," the company said.

HP said on Monday that its customers had not experienced any overheated batteries thanks to redundant safety features used in HP notebooks. "Because of HP's PC system configuration, HP notebooks using Sony battery cells are not prone to overheating issues that have recently been observed," the companies said in a joint statement.

However, other vendors insist their designs are also safe. Dell's recall is careful to state that "only the described batteries are subject to this recall and not the notebook computers themselves."


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