AIR - ROAD - SEA - SAFETY
Because lithium batteries are designed to provide high levels of power, the electrical energy in these batteries is significant, meaning that such batteries can sometimes generate a great amount of heat if short-circuited. In addition, the chemical content of lithium batteries may catch fire if damaged or if improperly designed or assembled. For these safety reasons they are classified as dangerous goods and special transport regulations apply.
All Lithium batteries (LiBa) are classified as dangerous goods. For simplicity we will classify them as small (common consumer batteries that you'll find in mobile phones, laptops flashlight etc) which have a maximum cell power of 20 Wh (or 1g of Lithium) or battery power of 100 Wh (or 2g of lithium). Large LiBa are cells and batteries that exceed those limits.
That brings us to cells and batteries, which we must understand. Battery means two or more cells which are electrically connected together and fitted with devices for use. Cells are a single encased electrochemical unit (one positive and one negative electrode) which exhibits a voltage differential across its two terminals. Regardless of what the name would imply in transport a single-cell battery is considered a cell.
Now the fun really begins
Once we know that we are dealing with cells or batteries we have to determine what type. There are two types. Lithium Ion or Lithium Metal the "power" of Ion batteries is measured in Watt Hours (Wh) and batteries produced after 2009 must be marked with the Wh rating. Correction, the transport industry uses Wh while the consumer industry is using mAh (milli ampere hours) further confusing shippers, airline staff, and passengers. The "power" of metal batteries is determined by the weight of Lithium content measured in g (grams)
The next step is to determine how your batteries are shipped / packed. We have 3 options.
Batteries Alone Must be shipped on Cargo Aircraft, strict regulations. Many airlines have further restriction. Lithium Ion batteries must also be shipped at 30% State of Charge (SoC)
Batteries contained IN equipment 2 cells or 4 batteries per box and max 2 boxes per shipment = no labelling or documentation requirements but must be packed in a suitable box in such a manor that prevents accidental activation of the device. Any amount over is more regulated with labels/marks and proper documentation.
Batteries packed with Equipment Regardless of amount you will need proper packaging, labels/marks and proper documentation or statement on awb
Nearly all Lithium batteries are required to pass section 38.3 of the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria (commonly called UN 38.3 tests) the serious battery produces do follow these and produce safe batteries, but they also more expensive. The real threat to the safety of all of us is the counterfeit batteries, commonly seen in e-cigarettes. There are weekly news reports of people being badly burned from e-cigarettes and most (if not all) is due to batteries not tested in accordance with UN 38.3
Next time you go Online to buy a spare battery for a product buy the type recommended by the manufacturer of the product. The little more they cost is a small price to pay for your safety, and if you bring that counterfeit battery into the public (like an aircraft) your safety becomes everybody's safety.
"Safety Is Everybody's Business"
Are you confused yet?
You are not alone, thousands of Lithium Battery shipments are stopped daily at airport around the world, partly due to the complexity of the regulations and partly because people don't think they apply to them, and to be honest some outright don't care. Having been part of the Lithium battery world since the start, few know better than us how to keep your Lithium Battery shipments moving.