Air Transportation Restrictions on Lithium Batteries

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The U.S. Department of Transportation’s HAZMAT office has new regulations regarding the transportation of Lithium & Lithium Ion (including Lithium Polymer) batteries. I talked with the DOT’s Hazmat Standards officer who helped draft the new regulation.

There have been restrictions in place since 2004. The new revisions added the inconvenience of having to carry-on your batteries, but the number of batteries you can carry remain unchanged for most people. . Here is the clarification as explained to me and verified in the actual regulation:

  1. Lithium & Li-Ion batteries not inside a device (equipment) cannot be in checked baggage. They must be in carry on bags. You may load a device with batteries (up to the size limit) and have it in checked baggage.
  2. All terminals on loose (spare)  batteries must be protected. - taped over, in individual packaging or plastic bag.
  3. Primary Lithium (non-rechargeable) batteries can be inside or outside equipment, but no more than the number of batteries required to power the device are allowed.
  4. Secondary Lithium Ion (rechargeable) batteries can be carried in quantity with some restrictions depending on the capacity of the battery. Strictly speaking, it is not possible to determine the Equivalent Lithium Content by looking at a battery pack or even by it's electrical specs. You need to know the number of cells inside and their amp/hr rating. So they are using these general guidelines:
    • Li-Ion Batteries up to 100WHrs are considered "small" batteries and there is no restriction on the number of batteries you can carry on (other than carry-on baggage weight & size).
    • Li-Ion Batteries between 100WHRs & 300 WHrs is considered a "medium" battery,  and only 2 can be carried on as spares. In addition, each device (camera, recorder, etc.) can contain one full load.
  5. These apply Per Passenger, so your traveling companions can each carry their limit.

Here is the text specifying exceptions for air passengers:

175.10 Exceptions.

(a) * * *

(17) Except as provided in ยง 173.21 of this subchapter, consumer electronic and medical devices (watches, calculating machines, cameras, cellular phones, lap-top and notebook computers, camcorders, etc.) containing lithium cells or batteries and spare lithium batteries and cells for these devices, when carried by passengers or crew members for personal use. Each spare battery must be individually protected so as to prevent short circuits (by placement in original retail packaging or by otherwise insulating terminals, e.g., by taping over exposed terminals or placing each battery in a separate plastic bag or protective pouch) and carried in carry-on baggage only. In addition, each installed or spare battery must not exceed the following: (i) For a lithium metal battery, a lithium content of not more than 2 grams per battery; or (ii) For a lithium-ion battery, an aggregate equivalent lithium content of not more than 8 grams per battery, except that up to two batteries with an aggregate equivalent lithium content of more than 8 grams but not more than 25 grams may be carried.