PRBA’s Lithium Battery Proposals Adopted by International Dangerous Goods Panel

The Rechargeable Battery Association said the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Dangerous Goods Panel (DGP) that met in Montreal earlier this month had adopted several proposals supported by the battery trade group, including changes that impact the shipment, packaging and labeling of lithium batteries.

"We are pleased that the DGP acted on a number of issues that are critically important to the battery industry. PRBA has advocated for strong international regulation of an industry truly global in its scope," said PRBA executive director George Kerchner.

"PRBA continues to support efforts aimed at harmonizing U.S. battery regulations with the more stringent international shipping and packaging requirements while expanding and improving the enforcement of existing U.S. regulations by the U.S. Department of Transportation," Kerchner added.

The DGP approved PRBA proposals that will:

* Facilitate the transport of "low production" and prototype lithium ion batteries, particularly large-format batteries being designed for hybrid and electric vehicles.
* Allow a smaller handling label on some battery shipping packages.
* Eliminate outdated and unnecessary limitations on certain liquid cathode lithium metal batteries.
* Improve the general packaging requirements for lithium batteries.

In other actions at the Montreal meeting, PRBA assisted Canada in winning DGP approval for changes that will allow passengers with medical needs to carry defibrillators powered by lithium ion or lithium metal batteries onboard aircraft and endorsed a proposal by the International Air Transport Association to ban the air transport of used lithium ion and lithium metal batteries being shipped for recycling or disposal unless approved by the appropriate air transport authority and airline.

The DGP also rejected proposals from the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Association that would have prohibited the transport of lithium metal batteries on both passenger and cargo aircraft and eliminated the existing exceptions for the shipment of small lithium ion cells, batteries and consumer products containing these batteries.

The members of PRBA power the consumer electronics revolution. We deliver a safe, efficient, and essential power source for portable electronic equipment such notebook computers, cell phones, power tools, PDAs, and MP3 players as well as hybrid and electric vehicles. PRBA members produce approximately 70% of the world’s lithium-ion cells and account for billions of dollars in annual worldwide sales. With more than 70 members, PRBA is widely recognized as the nation’s authoritative source for information on rechargeable batteries.

Lithium Ion FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Lithium Ion Batteries and Transportation Regulations

1. Must consumer-type lithium ion batteries always be shipped as Class 9 dangerous good?

No. Almost all small, consumer-type lithium ion batteries sold on the market today are provided an exception from dangerous goods regulations and thus do not require Class 9 labeling, marking, or packaging. Special Provision 188 of the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods Model Regulations and Special Provision A45 of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulation and ICAO Technical Instructions provide exceptions to these regulations for small lithium ion batteries that contain less than 8 grams of equivalent lithium content.

2. What are some of the typical uses for lithium ion batteries?

Small lithium ion batteries excepted from the dangerous goods regulations are used primarily in consumer applications. They are commonly found in cellular phones and laptop computers. Often these batteries are packed with or contained in consumer products when transported. These products do not require a Class 9 designation.

3. In what quantities are lithium ion batteries generally shipped?

Lithium ion batteries are shipped in large and small quantities. For example, a single package may contain as few as five batteries, while a pallet may contain more than 1,000 batteries. They also may be packed with or contained in equipment.

4. If most consumer lithium ion batteries are excepted from regulation, why do some packages of lithium ion batteries now contain a "Caution" marking and shipping papers carry similar information?

Manufacturers of lithium and lithium ion batteries began implementing a voluntary air transportation communications program (VATCP) in 2001 as an added step in assuring air transportation safety. Starting in 2003, these markings will be mandatory for packages containing more than 24 lithium or lithium ion cells or 12 lithium or lithium ion batteries that are excepted from the dangerous good regulations. These packages also must be accompanied by a document indicating that the packages contain lithium ion batteries and that special procedures should be followed in the event that the packages are damaged.

5. What is the difference between "lithium" and "lithium ion" batteries?

The biggest differences are that lithium batteries contain lithium metal and are not rechargeable. Lithium ion batteries, however, are not manufactured with lithium metal and they can be recharged.

6. Must lithium ion batteries be tested pursuant to the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria?

Starting in 2003, new testing requirements took effect that require testing for all lithium ion cells and batteries shipped internationally. In the U.S., UN testing requirements for small, consumer-size lithium ion cells and batteries have not gone into effect.

For international shipments, if consumer-size lithium ion batteries that contain less than 8 grams of equivalent lithium content pass the UN tests they are excepted from regulation and do not have to be shipped as Class 9 hazardous materials. However, there may be certain packaging, shipping paper, and marking requirements that apply to these shipments.

Lithium ion batteries containing more than 8 grams of equivalent lithium content that are shipped internatonally must be tested and shipped as Class 9 hazardous materials.

7. How is the "equivalent lithium content" for a lithium ion cell and battery determined?

Equivalent lithium content means, for a lithium ion cell, the product of the rated capacity, in ampere-hours of a lithium ion cell times 0.3. The total equivalent lithium content is expressed in grams (g). The equivalent lithium content of a battery equals the sum of the grams (g) of equivalent lithium content contained in the component cells of the battery.

Example: A lithium ion cell in a laptop battery pack may have a rated capacity of 2.2 ampere-hours. Applying the conversion factor of 0.3, a battery pack with 9 of these cells contains 5.94 grams of equivalent lithium content.

(2.2 x 0.3 x 9 = 5.94 grams of equivalent lithium content)

Lithium Ion Safety Statement
Statement from George Kerchner, Executive Director of the Portable Rechargeable Battery Association:

As the trade organization for companies that manufacture lithium ion cells and batteries as well as portable electronic products powered by lithium ion and other rechargeable batteries, PRBA – The Rechargeable Battery Association (PRBA) is committed to the highest quality and safety standards in product manufacturing. Our members are the leaders in the development of lithium ion technology and have also led in creating sophisticated manufacturing quality control and quality assurance practices, protective circuitry, and IEEE standards for communication between devices (such as computers or cell phones) and batteries..

Lithium ion batteries are used not just in portable consumer applications. They also are used in large format applications by the military, medical industry, and automotive industry. In fact, lithium ion batteries are now found in electric and hybrid vehicles. In order to meet this increased demand, it is expected that more than 2 billion lithium ion cells will be manufactured in 2006.

We are aware of a small number of incidents involving fires in batteries of this type. Based on the millions of lithium-ion batteries in use today and the exceptionally small number of cases in which a battery malfunction has occurred, we believe these batteries are safe and reliable when used according to manufacturers’ guidelines.

PRBA encourages everyone to visit our web site at for more information on lithium-ion batteries.