Lenovo recalls ThinkPad notebook PCs with faulty Sanyo batteries

By Sarah Falson

RALEIGH, USA: Only months after recalling 526,000 faulty Sony-branded lithium-ion batteries worldwide in its notebook computers, Lenovo – an IBM subsidiary – has found a similar problem with some Sanyo-made batteries found it its ThinkPad R, T and Z Series models.

Lenovo sold the Japan-made batteries with new notebook computers or as optional or replacement batteries for consumers affected by the Sony battery upset in August, September and October last year, which began when one user found his Lenovo ThinkPad T47 notebook emitting heat and smoke while at a Los  Angeles airport.

The same strain of Sony battery then had to be recalled from Toshiba, Dell, Sharp, Sony, Fujitsu and Apple notebooks worldwide, though only some models ended up being sold in Australia.

However the latest Lenovo recall is affecting 208,000 users worldwide – around 100,000 in the USA and 108,000 in other countries, including 1,200 in Australia, according to Lenovo Australia director of communications, Heather Jones.

Jones said that  when the affected Lenovo ThinkPads were sold in Australia, Lenovo didn’t have a retail presence and was selling its computers online. Accordingly, and with the small number of units sold in Australia compared with those in the USA, Jones sees the problem as "containable."

"It fairs well for consumers in Australia, with such a small number sold. It’s a fairly containable risk, but we still like to be extra careful. Consumers can call 131 426 to organise their replacement battery, or they can go on to our website at www.lenovo.com/batteryprogram Further, if they are using a ThinkPad computer, it will automatically detect what battery they are usind," she said.

Consumers who bought a notebook in the ThinkPad R60, R60e, T60, T60p, Z60m, Z61e, Z61m, or Z61p Series between November 2005 and February 2007 are being offered replacements free-of-charge from Lenovo. These models will incorporate either a 6-cell or a 9-cell battery; only the 9-cell batteries with the part number FRU P/N 92P1131 are being recalled.

Thinkpad owners who purchased their notebook before November 2005 but acquired a replacement battery pack for their faulty Sony model last year are also being offered free replacements, as the Sanyo batteries which were purchased by Lenovo as an alternative to the faulty Sony model now turn out to be faulty too.

Lenovo in the USA has heard four reports of Sanyo batteries overheating and damaging the Lenovo notebook. One instance caused further property damage, though minor, and another caused the owner minor eye irritation.

If the battery in the laptop is struck forcefully on the corner, such as from a direct fall to the ground, the battery pack can overheat and pose a fire hazard. Lenovo has made sure the public is aware that the defect is not due to a battery cell malfunction – which was touted as the problem with some of the six manufacturers involved in the original Sony recall last year – but instead it is the Sanyo batteries used inside the computer’s battery cell. 

The company recommends that, until a replacement battery arrives, if users need to transport their ThinkPad notebook PC or “use it in a manner that may subject it to a strong external impact”, they you should turn off the system, remove the battery, and power the computer only by plugging in the AC adapter and power cord.

“Lenovo apologises for the inconvenience caused by these issues. Shipment of quality products always has been and continues to be the foremost concern,” said a notice on Lenovo’s website.

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