First envisioned by British chemist M. Stanley Whittingham, in the 1970s, the lithium-ion battery has today become a major fixture of our technology-driven world. Thanks to their power, rapid charge, and efficiency, lithium batteries are now found in the vast majority of modern mobile devices and electronics. While lithium-ion batteries have helped to transform society over the past three decades, there are some dangers associated with these batteries that are important to understand.
So, can you ship batteries? The short answer is yes, but it’s not that simple. To protect public health and safety, businesses and independent resellers must comply with various restrictions on shipping lithium batteries either in the United States or abroad. Read on to learn more about the best practices for packing lithium batteries, how they’re shipped, and the types of electronics that typically contain these types of batteries.
Can You Ship Lithium Batteries?
You can ship lithium batteries through approved couriers so long as you adhere to certain standards and restrictions. Since the Department of Transportation (DOT) designates lithium batteries as potentially dangerous, some lithium batteries have more stringent shipping requirements than others. For example, the shipment of defective lithium batteries by air or to international destinations is strictly prohibited. Some of the approved couriers who can ship approved lithium batteries include USPS, FedEx, and UPS. You can review DOT’s comprehensive shipping guide online to dive deeper into restrictions on shipping batteries that contain lithium-ion cells.
Can You Take Lithium Batteries on a Plane?
Due to some incidents involving lithium batteries on aircraft, people often ask: Can you fly with lithium batteries? The short answer is yes, but there are several restrictions.
You may only bring lithium batteries onto an aircraft so long as you keep them in a carry-on bag and not in checked luggage. This includes any loose or spare lithium batteries for devices like cameras, laptops, or vape pens. However, it’s important to note that any loose or spare batteries should be properly packaged in separate plastic bags before traveling on a plane. In addition, the FAA recommends isolating the terminals of lithium batteries using tape to help mitigate any risks of short-circuiting during the flight.
Are All Batteries Lithium?
Not all batteries contain lithium-ion cells. For example, standard alkaline batteries such as disposal AA or 9V batteries are composed of manganese dioxide and zinc. Other types of batteries include carbon zinc, silver oxide, and zinc-air batteries, such as those used in wristwatches. Most batteries are clearly labeled and easy to identify.
What Has Lithium Batteries?
Lithium batteries are found in many electronic devices people use daily, including laptops, tablets, smartphones, and portable power rechargers. These types of batteries can also be found in sophisticated medical equipment like defibrillators and hearing aids. Larger, more powerful forms of lithium batteries are also used to power electric vehicles or store large amounts of electricity for solar energy systems.
Do iPhones Have Lithium Batteries?
All iPhones contain lithium batteries. The design and capacities of iPhone batteries vary depending on the model. While removing an iPhone battery at home is possible, doing so will void the warranty on the device, potentially damaging the device in the process.
Do iPads Have Lithium Batteries?
Just like iPhones, all iPads are powered by lithium batteries. The battery of an iPad can also be difficult to remove, and an Apple technician usually does this. After reaching a full charge, an iPad battery will typically power the device for a maximum of 10 hours, depending on usage, before it requires recharging.
Do Laptops Have Lithium Batteries?
Laptops are another common device that relies on lithium batteries for power. These batteries are typically easy to remove and replace. Unlike iPads or iPhones, it’s possible to provide power to a laptop without a battery by using the AC power cable. However, removing the power outlet from a laptop that doesn’t contain a battery will immediately power down the device.
Considerations when shipping laptops with lithium batteries
When shipping a laptop with a connected lithium battery, it’s important to ensure the packaging is strong enough to sustain the rigors of transport. The package must also be appropriately marked with the right UN code that indicates the type of lithium battery being shipped and whether or not the battery is connected to the laptop. You can find a summary of these UN codes and what they mean on the International Air Transport Association website. You should also take measures to ensure the laptop is protected from liquids during transport. The best way to do this is to place the laptop in a static-proof bag before packaging.
How to Ship a Lithium Battery
Understanding how to ship lithium batteries isn’t difficult, but there are a few important rules to keep in mind. First, all lithium batteries intended for shipment must pass UN 38.3 testing requirements. In addition, any loose lithium batteries shipped by air must be in a state of charge (SOC) 30% or lower than their full capacity. Before shipping one or more lithium batteries, take some time to follow these additional essential tips.
Inspect the Battery
Before shipping batteries like these, take some time to check the labels. Lithium batteries shipped via a ground courier cannot exceed a 300-watt-hour maximum, and, as previously mentioned, recalled or damaged lithium batteries are entirely prohibited from air shipment. To ship damaged lithium batteries by ground freight, the package must be properly marked with a Class 9 hazard label and the corresponding UN shipping label.
Carefully Package the Battery
Since lithium batteries are potentially dangerous, you must take great care with packaging. If you’re only shipping one battery, make sure the terminals are covered with tape and have no way of moving around inside the package. The battery should also be adequately protected from impacts or moisture.
Select a Courier
Once the package is ready for shipment, it’s time to take it to a courier to handle your battery delivery. When shipping batteries USPS, FedEx, DHL, or UPS, make sure the individual understands the contents of the package so they can create the appropriate battery shipping label and shipping documents. If you’re uncertain about the regulations concerning shipping lithium batteries with FedEx, USPS, or through another courier, it’s a good idea to ask for guidance or have the shipping professional inspect the contents of the package before shipment to ensure safety.
How to Pack Batteries for Shipping
It’s important to ensure lithium batteries are safely packaged in compliance with DOT Hazardous Materials Regulations. Failing to comply with these regulations can result in a hefty fine of up to $27,000. Follow these steps to prepare lithium batteries for shipment.
If Possible, Keep Batteries in the Original Packaging
It’s always best to keep lithium batteries in the manufacturer’s packaging. Next, the batteries should be well-insulated with packing material like bubble wrap to prevent any movement of the contents during transit. Take care to ensure the batteries are insulated from impacts from all sides of the box. If you can’t do this, then you should package the batteries in separate static-proof bags and cover the terminals with tape.
Prevent the Batteries from Contacting One Another
If shipping lithium batteries in their original packaging isn’t possible, you should place each battery in a separate static-proof bag and cover the terminals with tape. Doing this will ensure the batteries do not react with one another during transport.
Use a Sturdy Box
Finally, be sure to use a strong, preferably unused, shipping box. This box should have rigid sides that protect the batteries from any impacts during transit. Shipping lithium batteries in bubble mailers or envelopes is never a good idea.
How to Store Loose Batteries
You should always store loose batteries with the same care as when packing them for shipment. Remember, various environmental factors can cause lithium batteries to become hazardous. Observe these tips to store batteries long-term safely.
Keep Loose Batteries in a Dry, Climate-Controlled Environment
You should always store batteries in a place free of moisture or extreme temperature fluctuations. Never expose loose batteries to the elements. Any damaged or corroded batteries should be recycled following EPA guidelines.
Store Different Types of Batteries Separately
Avoid storing batteries of different capacities or ages in the same container. Instead, take some time to organize batteries according to type. Doing this can help mitigate any dangers of the materials interacting.
Prevent Metal From Contacting Stored Batteries
You should never store batteries near materials that can conduct electricity. This includes metal scrap or electronic equipment. Don’t forget to close the terminals of stored batteries with tape as well.
Shipping Lithium Batteries FAQs
Understanding the process for shipping lithium batteries can initially seem a little challenging. With so many regulations governing the shipment of lithium batteries, it’s not unusual to have a few questions. Here are a few answers to common queries people tend to have about the process.
How much does an AA battery weigh?
The typical AA battery weighs about 0.08 ounces or just over 2.26 grams.
Does a charged battery weigh more?
Although a charged battery contains more mass than an uncharged battery, the net weight of the battery will remain the same.
Does it cost more to ship lithium-ion batteries?
In many cases, yes, largely due to the increased care needed to safely ship lithium batteries.
Can you ship batteries internationally?
Batteries installed in an electronic device can be shipped internationally, but individual lithium batteries cannot be shipped to international destinations. You can find additional information online regarding USPS lithium battery shipping guidelines.
Do you need to be certified to ship lithium batteries?
If your profession involves shipping lithium batteries or cells by ground or air, you must complete required DOT and IATA training in order to comply with agency regulations. Eduwhere’s IATA lithium battery training will fully prepare you for any contingency of transporting batteries whether by truck or aircraft. This training is especially important for employees who work in shipping and receiving.
After learning how to properly document, mark, label, and package shipments for transport, you will become confident in your ability to properly manage the shipping of lithium batteries. You will find out what restrictions are in place for air transport and gain knowledge of how to proceed in emergency situations.
You will learn not only about the regulations concerning lithium batteries, but also about other types of batteries classified as hazardous, such as wet batteries (lead-acid, lead-alkali, non-spillable); dry batteries (alkaline, Ni-Cd, etc.); and vehicles and equipment powered by batteries.
At Eduwhere, we provide comprehensive training courses on IATA, DOT, and EPA regulations pertaining to the shipment of potentially hazardous materials like lithium batteries. To learn more, review our transportation and shipping courses online today.