Apple recalls Sony-made PowerBook, iBook batteries

Apple and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on Thursday announced a recall of 1.1 million battery packs made for Apple’s PowerBook and iBook battery packs. Information on the recall has been posted to the CPSC’s Web site. Users who have batteries affected by this recall are entitled to a replacement battery, free of charge. Instructions are supposed to be available on Apple’s Web site (the URL was not working as Macworld posted this article).

Apple follows Dell in recalling the laptop computer batteries, which were manufactured using battery cells made by Sony Energy Devices of Japan. “These lithium-ion batteries can overheat, posing a fire hazard to consumers,” said the CPSC in a statement. Dell has recalled more than 4 million Sony-made battery packs.

In addition to the 1.1 million battery packs recalled in this program, the company and government agency indicate that another 700,000 battery packs sold overseas have the same problem.

“Apple has received nine reports of batteries overheating, including two reports of minor burns from handling overheated computers and other reports of minor property damage. No serious injuries were reported,” read the CPSC’s statement.

The batteries were used in 12-inch iBook G4, 12-inch PowerBook G4 and 15-inch PowerBook G4 systems and were sold between October 2003 and August 2006. The following units are affected by the recall:

Recalled iBook and PowerBook batteries

Computer Battery model # Battery serial numbers
12-inch iBook G4 A1061 ZZ338 through ZZ427
3K429 through 3K611
6C519 through 6C552
12-inch PowerBook G4 A1079 ZZ411 through ZZ427
3K428 through 3K611
15-inch PowerBook G4 A1078 and A1148 3K425 through 3K601
6N530 through 6N551
6N601

No other models are affected by this recall.

Users are instructed to remove affected batteries from their computers and use them with AC adapters until replacements are sent.

A separate statement issued by Sony accepts the findings of the U.S. CPSC and said that Sony anticipates no further recalls of battery packs using these particular battery cells.

“The recall arises because, on rare occasions, microscopic metal particles in the recalled battery cells may come into contact with other parts of the battery cell, leading to a short circuit within the cell. Typically, a battery pack will simply power off when a cell short circuit occurs. However, under certain rare conditions, an internal short circuit may lead to cell overheating and potentially flames. The potential for this to occur can be affected by variations in the system configurations found in different notebook computers,” said Sony.

Sony claims that additional safeguards have been introduced to its battery manufacturing process to prevent this from happening.

Editor's note: An error on the U.S. CPSC's Web site led to the wrong battery serial numbers being listed for the 12-inch iBook G4 batteries. Those numbers have been corrected.

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