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Battery scare as Lenovo recalls laptops

Worldwide recall for 208,000 models

Months after joining other PC vendors in a massive recall of faulty laptop batteries, Lenovo has found a different problem with some models, and will recall 208,000 laptop batteries worldwide.

Lenovo made the move after five customers complained their batteries overheated after they had dropped or hit the laptops. The defect caused minor eye irritation for one user, and damaged the property and computers of the others, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The recall affects the nine-cell, extended-life version of a battery pack manufactured by Sanyo. Lenovo sold the packs between November 2005 and February 2007 as an option in certain versions of ThinkPad notebook PCs in the R series, T series and Z series model lines, the commission said. The faulty packs have the part number FRU P/N 92P1131.

Buyers of those PCs had the choice to purchase either a standard six-cell lithium-ion battery pack or longer-endurance nine-cell packs, said Lenovo spokesman Ray Gorman.

The problem occurred with the pack, a box designed in tandem by Lenovo and Sanyo that holds the battery cells. That is a different fault than the metal shards that contaminated battery cells made by Sony, causing some batteries to overheat or catch fire and leading to the recall in 2006 of millions of laptop batteries used by nearly every PC vendor.

"We have isolated the cause of failure, and have redesigned and strengthened the battery pack that caused it," Gorman said.

Sanyo said the pack had met all its specifications and internal testing standards, and that the failures occurred only after "a strong external impact to the battery pack of a specific notebook PC model from a certain angle”.

Sanyo will help pay for the recall, but the terms are confidential, Gorman said. The financial impact on both companies is not yet clear, although the recall covers less than two percent of the particular models sold by Lenovo during the period, including 100,000 laptops in the US, he said.

Lenovo will manage the recall, collecting customers' faulty packs and replacing them with free new ones from Panasonic or Sanyo. Lenovo builds ThinkPad PCs with batteries from Panasonic, Sanyo or Sony. Only Sanyo battery packs have this defect, and Lenovo plans to retain the company as a supplier, Gorman said.

Lenovo advised customers who own one of the eight affected ThinkPad models to immediately remove the battery, and continue using their PCs only by plugging in the AC adapter and power cord. The models include the R60 and R60e series, T60 and T60p series, and Z60m, Z61e, Z61m and Z61p series.

The company is providing details on exchanging the faulty battery packs on its website.


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