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Shipping Lithium Batteries
International Regulations for the Transportation of Lithium Ion Battery Packs
New regulations governing the shipment of lithium batteries are coming into force. They involve testing the cells to ensure safety during transpiration.
In Dec'00 the United Nations (UN) passed a recommendation relating to the safe transport of all Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) cells and batteries. Subject to product testing, the legislation allows for some ' smaller ' Li-Ion batteries to be transported as normal cargo. However some ' larger ' Li-Ion batteries are to be regarded as Class 9 - Hazardous Goods.
In January 2003 new regulations affecting packaging, labeling& testing of cells & new packs came into effect. From January 2005 the regulations will apply to all packs including any pre-2003 designs.
Interaction and Implementation
The UN makes recommendations which are adopted by global regulatory bodies including International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and individual countries pass enabling legislation.
The effect of the new rules is that the various transport agencies are in progressively implementing the UN recommendation.
Individual governments (including the EC) are believed to be progressively passing adoptive legislation.
- Shippers - have to ensure that all the documents required for product shipment are in place.
- Cell Manufacturers - need to test ' qualifying ' cells, otherwise goods will be classified Class 9
- Pack Assemblers - must test all new designs immediately
- Pre 2003 designs need to be tested before 2005 otherwise goods will be classified as Class 9
To Qualify as Small Batteries
The exception to Class 9 is that cells & batteries below a specific equivalent weight of Lithium can be shipped as normal cargo. The maximum 'equivalent weight ' allowed is defined as 1.5 grams per cell and / or 8.0 grams per battery pack.
The ' equivalent weight ' is calculated as follows:-
Equivalent Lithium = Cell Capacity (Ah) x 0.3 grams
For example 1.8Ah x 0.3 x 2 cells = 1.08 grams
- Normal Cargo - Under the new legislation once tested, shipments can be shipped as normal cargo providing they are packaged, labeled and documented to the new procedure
- Class 9 Cargo - under the new legislation all cells and battery packs above this limit must still pass the required test and be shipped as Class 9.
- Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) - not affected
- Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) - not affected
- Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) - exclusions
- Batteries carried for personal use
- Batteries installed within equipment
Self Certification by suppliers is permitted and most cell suppliers have, or are in the process of completing the required testing. Battery pack assemblers have also initiated testing of new products
In order to ship as normal cargo the cells and batteries must pass a series of tests. If engineering models and prototypes need to be shipped prior to completion of the tests then they must be shipped as Hazardous Class 9 Materials.
- Test 1 - Altitude Simulation - simulates air transport under low pressure conditions.
- Test 2 - Thermal - assesses the integrity of the cell's seal and the internal electrical connections of the battery.
- Test 3 - Vibration - simulates vibration during transport.
- Test 4 - Shock - simulates possible impacts during transport.
- Test 5 - External Short Circuit - simulates an external short circuit condition.
- Test 6 - Impact - simulates an in-transit impact.
- Test 7 - Overcharge - simulates an in-transit impact.
- Test 8 - Forced Discharge - evaluates the ability of a rechargeable battery to withstand a forced discharge condition.
NOTE- The above tests need to be carried out on both the bare cells and assembled battery packs except tests 6 & 8 which only apply to the cells and test 7 which only applies to the assembled battery pack.
See also UN Shipping Regulations for Lithium Batteries