Lithium Batteries

Lithium batteries are widely used in various consumer electronics, medical devices, and as power sources for electric vehicles due to their high energy density

However, when it comes to air transport, lithium batteries are classified as dangerous goods due to the risk they pose in terms of potential fire hazards. This classification necessitates strict regulations regarding their packaging and transportation to ensure safety during flights.

Packaging Requirements for Lithium Batteries in Air Transport

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) provides guidelines for the packaging and transport of lithium batteries which include:

  • Strong Outer Packaging: Batteries must be packed in strong outer packaging that can withstand the rigors of transportation including UN specification packaging..
  • Protection from Short Circuit: To prevent short circuits, the terminals of batteries must be protected (e.g., by encasing them in non-conductive tape).
  • Inner Packaging: Batteries must be packed to prevent movement within the packaging that could lead to short circuits or damage to the battery casing.
  • State of Charge (SoC): For lithium-ion batteries, the state of charge must not exceed 30% of their rated capacity when shipped by air.

Previous Compliance Problems

Despite these regulations, there have been numerous instances where improper packaging or failure to adhere to guidelines resulted in safety incidents:

  • Undeclared Shipments: A recurring issue is the shipment of lithium batteries without proper declaration as dangerous goods. This practice bypasses necessary safety precautions, such as keeping these batteries away from flammable materials, posing significant risks during transport.
  • Exceeding State of Charge (SoC) Limits: There have been incidents where lithium-ion batteries were shipped with a state of charge greater than the recommended 30% of their rated capacity. This has led to cases of thermal runaway, a condition where batteries become overheated and can ignite.
  • Inadequate Packaging: There have been reports of lithium batteries being transported in packaging that does not comply with the required standards for air transport. Such packaging fails to sufficiently protect the batteries from damage, increasing the likelihood of fire.
  • Failure to Protect Against Short Circuits: Insufficient insulation of battery terminals to prevent short circuits has contributed to several safety incidents. Short circuits can lead to overheating and potentially cause fires.

Addressing these compliance issues involves continuous updates to transportation guidelines by regulatory bodies, alongside efforts to improve adherence to these rules among shippers, manufacturers, and airlines. Ensuring the safe transport of lithium batteries by air is a collective responsibility that necessitates vigilance, strict compliance with established guidelines, and ongoing education and awareness programs for all parties involved in the shipping process.