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Lithium Battery Shipping Regulations

International Air Shipment
If you are involved in buying, selling or shipping lithium primary, lithium ion or lithium polymer cells and batteries (Lithium Batteries) you need to understand the latest regulations that apply to shipments of these batteries. There are regulations which became effective on 1/1/03 for the international air shipment of all Lithium Batteries. As a result, all lithium batteries require testing in order to comply with these international shipping rules.

Shipment By Common Carrier Within The US
Substantial changes were made to the lithium battery regulations found at 49 CFR 173.185 of the U.S. hazardous materials regulations as a result of the final rule published by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on August 7, 2007. These changes included significant reformatting of 49 CFR 173.185 and the addition of several new special provisions. Although they went into effect on January 1, 2008, the U.S. government printing office (GPO) has not published an official bound version or made available on line the newly formatted version of 49 CFR 173.185. Therefore, PRBA has prepared an unofficial version of 49 CFR 173.185 and accompanying special provisions that apply to lithium batteries in the U.S. hazardous materials regulations.

Testing Requirements
All shipments of lithium, lithium ion, and lithium polymer batteries are regulated by a number of different transportation organizations depending on the location and mode of transportation. Each of those organizations have agreed that no* Lithium Batteries may be shipped without having passed a series of tests defined by the UN Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods.
  * There are exceptions for shipping small quantities of prototype batteries with express permission of the regulatory agency.  

The series of UN T8 tests are:

  1.     Altitude test to simulate air transport under low pressure.
2.     Thermal test to verify cell and battery seal integrity under rapid and extreme temperature changes.
3.     Vibration test to simulate vibration during transport.
4.     Shock test to simulate possible impact sustained during transport.
5.     Short circuit test to simulate an external short circuit.
6.     Impact test to simulate impacts (Only required for cells).
7.     Overcharge test to evaluate how well the battery withstands an overcharge (Only required for rechargeable Lithium
8.     Forced discharge test to evaluate how well the cell tolerates a forced discharge (Only required for cells).

  See the documents below for more details on these topics.

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