Army's Procurement of Batteries:

Magnesium vs. Lithium

NSIAD-85-124: Published: Sep 26, 1985. Publicly Released: Sep 26, 1985.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Army's decision to use the lithium sulfur dioxide battery rather than the magnesium battery, particularly addressing concerns about the cost-effectiveness and safety of the lithium battery.

GAO found that neither the magnesium nor the lithium battery constituted a safety hazard. Although the lithium battery had three failures and one personal injury associated with its initial use, it has been redesigned and no injuries have resulted since. Because corrective actions have been taken, only one safety incident associated with the use of the magnesium battery and no personal injuries have been reported. GAO found that the Army's decision to use the lithium battery was justified because of its capability to meet new operating requirements, increased operating capacity, better performance at low temperatures, and because of its smaller size. However, GAO could not conclude that the Army's decision was justified on the basis of cost. Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army have designated used lithium batteries as hazardous waste; therefore, their use would incur greater disposal costs. GAO also questioned the validity of Army cost comparisons because they were based on assumptions that did not reflect the Army's current procurement plans for lithium batteries.

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