New Li-ion transport rules challenge battery makers, customers

New Li-ion transport rules challenge battery makers, customers

Technology News |
By Rich Pell

The regulations from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) came into force into force at the beginning of April after only three months and restrict the amount of charge and the number of battery consignments that can be carried. Lithium-ion batteries now have to carry no more than 30% charge, which is leading some manufacturers to add new product numbers for batteries that can be shipped by air.

“The current status is that we are transitioning at the moment,” says Alex Stapleton, product manager for power packs at battery maker VARTA Storage in Germany. “The transport regulations change in April and we are under heightened restrictions as the batteries have to be charged at 30% or less where previously it was common for a 45% to 60% range for transport and storage. That’s had quite a profound effect.”

The transportation documentation and declaration of conformity for shipping has to include the part number of the battery, so VARTA is adding new part numbers for batteries with a lower charge. These documents are included in the Design Library launched earlier this week.

“In our industry part number changes are taken very seriously so we would always be informing people in advance of the changes,” says Stapleton. “For example the EasyPack SLIM battery has a 12-digit part number that’s integrated into the design library and when we make changes we take a lot of care to inform the supply chain when the changes happen. The reason it’s important is it’s wrong to assume that everyone wants a product at 30% – some want batteries charged up to 50% and will ship them by sea.”

“The bottom line is we are moving all our products so they can be shipped by air – it’s not complete yet, we have only 3 or 4 products so far and the declaration of conformity is clear about that,” said Stapleton. “We are changing our part numbers to be clear about that as well and that will filter through in the next three to four months.

There are also limits on the consignments with only one package per consignment carrying batteries, and these can’t be shipped on planes that carry passengers.

 “It can be tricky navigating new legislation such as this and there are new challenges to consider such as shelf life and confirmation of state of charge,” says Michele Windsor, marketing manager at UK battery maker Accutronics. “Further safety measures stipulated in the new regulations state that external boxes and packaging must pass a 1.2-m drop test and meet criteria to protect against damage, shifting, or the release of contents in order to assure that the packaging is suitable for air transport, and Li-ion batteries may no longer be shipped on passenger air craft and may only be transported via cargo craft.”

UK broadcast battery supplier PAG points out that Li-ion batteries cannot be carried as hold luggage unless the battery is attached to the camera or the equipment it powers, and while an individual may take an unlimited number of Li-Ion batteries that have capacities of 100 Wh or less in hand luggage, there is a limit of two batteries per person with capacities up to 160 Wh. However, larger batteries over 160 Wh cannot be taken as hand luggage or checked-in under any circumstances and so have to be shipped as cargo.

All this is creating more paperwork. PAG recommends putting each battery in a plastic bag with tape over the contacts and carrying a copy of the Air Transportation Certificate they supply with each battery.

To promote the changes IATA has also produced a pamphlet and a poster.

Related articles:
Li-ion batteries banned as cargo on passenger planes
Lithium battery cargo poses ‘catastrophic’ risk on planes, warns FAA
Ban Li-ion battery shipments on passenger planes, says UN
New Li-ion battery turns on/off depending on temperature

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