Dallas Dell Inc. said Monday it will recall 4.1 million notebook computer batteries made by Sony Corp. because they can overheat and catch fire.
Round Rock-based Dell negotiated conditions of the recall with the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, which called it the largest electronics-related recall ever involving the agency.
A Dell spokesman said the Sony batteries were placed in notebooks that were shipped between April 1, 2004, and July 18 of this year.
"In rare cases, a short-circuit could cause the battery to overheat, causing a risk of smoke and/or fire," said the spokesman, Ira Williams. "It happens in rare cases, but we opted to take this broad action immediately."
The battery packs were included in some models of Dell's Latitude, Inspiron, XTS and precision mobile workstation notebooks. Dell planned to launch a Web site overnight that would describe the affected models. Williams said the Web site would tell consumers how to get free replacement batteries from Dell.
Rick Clancy, a Sony spokesman, said the companies have studied problems with the battery packs intensely for more than a month, after getting reports of about a half-dozen fires or smoking laptops in the United States.
Lithium-ion batteries have been around for about a decade and are used in devices such as cell phones and digital music players. Clancy said tiny metallic particles sometimes short-circuit the battery cells, adding that configuration in an electronic device can contribute to problems.
"But it begins with the (battery) cell, and we acknowledge that," he said. "That's why we're supporting Dell in this recall."
Clancy said Sony would help Dell pay for the recall, but neither he nor Dell officials would estimate the campaign's price tag or say how the companies would divide the cost.