BU-704: How to Transport Batteries

Know the hazardous material rules and lithium content when carrying batteries.

Unresolved airplane crashes that were likely caused by batteries catching fire onboard during flight include the Asiana Airlines 747 near South Korea in July 2011, a UPS 747 in Dubai, UAE in September 2010 and a UPS DC-8 in Philadelphia, PA in February 2006. These events prompted changes to the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria in how batteries are certified for transport under UN 38.3.

Safety prompted authorities to tighten the rules when transporting batteries. Although lithium batteries get the most attention, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that based on records from 1991 to 2007 it was only a factor in 27 percent of all incidents. Lead acid, NiMH, NiCd and alkaline are also to blame. Reports say that short circuit, a preventable problem that can be solved with better packaging, is the largest problem. Figure 1 shows unprotected cells that can cause an electrical short by touching; propagation can create a chain reaction releasing a large amount of energy.

Coin Cells Figure 1: Unprotected batteries.

Much blame goes to faulty. Regulatory authorities recommend putting small batteries into clear plastic bags and placing them in a firm box with good padding. Limit the content per box.


Lead Acid

Spillable lead acid batteries are regulated as dangerous goods under Class 8, controlled by UN 2794. These batteries are considered dangerous goods because of the possibility of fire if shorted. Furthermore, an acid spill can cause personal injury and property damage. Figure 2 shows the HAZMAT Class 8 label that is commonly seen on trucks. The shipping rules are simple, well established and make common sense.

When transporting Class 8 goods, note that a vehicle can only carry one type of hazardous material. Stack batteries upright on a wooden pallet, place honeycomb cardboard between layers and limit stacking to three layers per pallet. Wrap the pallet with shrink-wrap to improve stability. Add the “Corrosive” label, UN 2794 identification number and mark: “Wet, filled with acid.” Provide bill of lading with description of hazardous material, company and shipper’s name. Figure 3 shows do’s and don’ts.

Figure 2. Class 8 label indicating corrosive substance

Battery Pallet

Figure 3: Do’s and Don’ts of shipping batteries by ground. Protect batteries from short circuit by placing cardboard insulator pads between layers and shrink-wrap. Failure to comply can lead to fines.

Some wet, non-spillable sealed lead-acid batteries grouped under UN 2800 are exempt from Class 8. The battery manufacturer must declare how a battery is regulated on its associated Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and most AGM (absorbent glass mat) batteries can be shipped under the simpler UN 2800 directive. MSDS contains information on the potential health effects of exposure to chemicals or dangerous substances and on safe workplace procedures when handling chemical products.

Different rules apply when shipping damaged batteries. A lead acid battery is considered damaged if the possibility of leakage exists due to a crack or if one or more caps are missing. Transportation companies and air carriers may require draining the batteries of all acid prior to transport. Place damaged batteries in an acid-resistant container and add soda ash to neutralize any acid that might spill. Separate damaged and intact batteries.

Nickel-based Batteries

Nickel-based batteries have no transport limitations; however, some of the same precautions apply as for lead acid in terms of packaging to prevent electrical shorts and safeguard against fire. Regulations prohibit storing and transporting smaller battery packs in a metal box. If there is a danger of an electrical short, wrap each battery individually in a plastic bag. Do not mix batteries with coins and house keys in your pocket.

Lithium-based Batteries

The largest changes in shipping directive are with lithium batteries, and with good reasons. Li-ion is the fastest growing battery chemistry and already in 2009, 3.3 billion Li-ion were transported by air. Safety is an ongoing concern, and an airline-pilot union asked the FAA to ban lithium batteries on passenger aircraft. This came into effect in 2016 and lithium batteries are now shipped in cargo airplanes only.

Lithium batteries can only be transported after passing UN 38.3 testing requirements. In spite of these precautions, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recorded 138 airport and air incidents between 1991 and 2016 involving lithium batteries. They involved smoke, heat and fire related to battery-operated devices such as e-cigarettes, laptops and mobile phones. Some incidents occurred before takeoff and the batteries were removed from the aircraft. Battery fires in flight were extinguished with halon type fire extinguishers and water, by placing the damaged device in a thermal battery containment bag that some airlines carry. Failing batteries in the cargo hold that were inadvertently checked into luggage required emergency landings.

Not all incidents are reported to the FAA, but the number of reported incidents is up from 2015. Recorded failures in 2016 alone involved 13 e-cigarettes, four laptops, seven mobile phones/tablets and seven spare batteries. E-cigarette incidents increased notably, while mobile phone and laptop events remain moderate considering the number of such devices in use.

Since 2008, lithium batteries can no longer be placed in checked baggage; they must be carried onboard. Air travelers are reminded of how many batteries they can carry with a portable device and as spares. Quick access to a fire extinguisher enables putting out a fire in the cabin should one take off. A coffee pot served as the fire extinguishing device for a flaming laptop battery in one reported incident. This is not possible with a burning battery in the cargo hold. 

Transported lithium-based batteries are divided into two types: The rechargeable lithium-ion is primarily found in mobile phones and laptops; the non-rechargeable lithium-metal with added restrictions because of its high lithium content is used in sensing devices as well as in some consumer grade AA, AAA and 9V formats. Airlines allow both types as carry-on, either installed in devices or carried as spare packs as long as they don’t exceed the following limitation of lithium or equivalent content:

The lithium content of a lithium-metal battery is printed on the label. Li-ion, on the other hand, uses equivalent lithium content (ELC) that is calculated by multiplying the rated capacity (Ah) times 0.3. For example, a 1Ah cell has 0.3 grams of lithium. A modern 18650 cell with a capacity of 3.3Ah contains about 1 gram. The 8-gram limit permits a 26Ah battery, or 95Wh (Ah multiplied by the Li-ion cell voltage of 3.6V equals Wh). The 18650 is a standardized Li-ion cell of 18mm in diameter and 65mm in length, and is used in laptops, power tools and other devices. Most laptop batteries are in the 60Wh range.

While regulations limit the Li-ion battery to no larger than 100Wh, each passenger is allowed to carry two spare packs of 160Wh each, not exceeding 320Wh in total. The airlines recommend placing each battery in a clear plastic bag to prevent electric short. Batteries that are contained (non-removable) within a device and are not easily removable are exempt from the rules. These include electric watches, smartphones and laptops but not power tools with interchangeable battery packs. (See BU-704a: Shipping Lithium-based Batteries by Air.)

All lithium batteries are considered to be dangerous goods and transporting them requires compliance with Class 9 directives. However, exemptions are made when shipping these batteries in small quantities. Personnel transporting lithium batteries commercially must be trained. Organizations such as iHazmat or the International Compliance Center (ICC) educates shippers and packers in the handling of dangerous goods consistent with to International Air Transport Association (IATA) requirements and issues a certificate of compliance to those participants who pass a written examination. Those not familiar with these restrictions often ask some of the following questions:

Q: Must consumer-type lithium-ion batteries always be shipped under Class 9?
A: No. Most Li-ion in consumer products are less than 100Wh and an exemption is made here but CAUTION labeling is required.
Q: What quantities can I ship outside of Class 9?
A: Cells with a maximum rating of 20Wh and not exceeding 8 in quantity, or 2 batteries with a maximum rating of 100Wh each as part of Section II. (See BU-704a: Shipping Lithium-based Batteries by Air.)
Q: When does Class 9 apply?
A: Lithium-based batteries classified under Section IA and IB.
Q: Must lithium-ion batteries be tested for shipment?
A: Yes, all Li-ion must be tested according to UN 38.3. Exceptions are made for prototypes and testing purposes. Refer to CFR 49 173.185 (e) for requirements regarding the shipment of cells or batteries that have not been tested to the requirements to UN 38.3.

Since 2016, lithium batteries can no longer be carried in passenger aircraft as cargo. Transporting them are organized by Packaging Instructions (PI) numbers. The most common designations include:

PI 965 Loose Li-ion cells and packs (UN 3480)
PI 966 & 967 Li-ion with/in equipment (UN 3481)
PI 968 Lithium-metal cells and battery packs (UN 3090)
PI 969 & 970 Lithium-metal with/in equipment (UN 3091)

Each PI is further divided into Sections representing IA, IB and II (Roman numerals). IA is most stringent, and for simplicity this article lists the less restricted packaging first:

Carry-on Maximum 100Wh, passenger can take 2 spares up to 160Wh each, not exceeding 320Wh. No check-in allowed.
Section II Shipment of small Li-ion in low numbers. These can include up to 8 cells not exceeding 20Wh each and up to 2 packs not exceeding 100Wh each at a total weight of 2.5kg. Batteries must be at 30 percent state-of-charge (SoC) for shipment. Persons preparing such shipment is exempt from dangerous goods training, but must be provided with “adequate instruction.”
Section IB Shipment of small Li-ion products in larger numbers under Class 9 dangerous goods. Similar to Section II with a 10kg cargo limit per package. Batteries must be at 30 percent SoC. Training and certification is mandatory.
Section IA Larger Li-ion products under Class 9 dangerous goods. Cells can be larger than 20Wh and battery packs can exceed 100Wh, but the package limit is 35kg. Batteries must at 30 percent SoC. Training and certification is mandatory.  (See BU-704a: Shipping Lithium-based Batteries by Air.)

See also http://www.iata.org/whatwedo/cargo/dgr/Documents/lithium-battery-guidance-document-2017-en.pdf, entitled “2017 Lithium Battery Guidance Document.”


Be mindful when traveling by air

Shippers and passengers must be aware that batteries are not the only dangerous good banned on an aircraft as cargo or in checked luggage. Travelers often put the safety of other passengers in danger by checking in or bringing on board banned items. Figure 4 illustrates some of these forbidden goods. The Australian Civil Aviation and Safety Authority (CASA) remind travelers to declare potentially dangerous goods. Check dangerous goods under CASA if uncertain what is allowed.

Banned Items

Figure 4: Banned consumer goods on an aircraft. If uncertain what items are banned, check “dangerous goods” under CASA or other websites.
Source: Daily Telegraph

Mishaps remind travelers of the importance to observe safety bylaws. In 2014, the captain of a Boeing 737 aircraft declared “Mayday” after observing heavy white smoke billowing from the cargo hold of the plane during an external pre-flight inspection. Emergency crew uncovered 28 batteries in a checked transit case, 6–8 of which had been destroyed by fire. The report said that an electrical short in a battery started the fire after the passenger declared that no batteries were in the transit case. Under civil aviation laws, passengers failing to declare dangerous goods face penalties of up to 7 years in prison. Figure 5 illustrates the remains of the charred content.

Cargo Fire

Figure 5: Exploded transit case. CASA examines the remains of checked luggage after a battery caught fire before take-off. The dangerous goods were not declared. Shipping of lithium-based batteries is regulated under UN 38.3.
Source: Daily Telegraph

Regulations are only as good as actual adherence to the rules. Shipment of dangerous goods can be circumvented by deliberately mislabeling batteries. There are reported cases where Li-ion was marked with NiCd, a chemistry that is not classified as dangerous goods. In other cases, lithium-metal with strictest requirements was listed as more benign Li-ion. Battery chemistries are difficult to identify and the offense may go undetected. Tightening rules only makes sense if they can be administered policed with reasonable ease; imposing rules that are too stringent will invite lawbreakers. Only purchase lithium batteries that come from a reputable company. Check that the batteries meet the UN Manual of Test and Criteria requirements.

Use Common sense when carrying Batteries
Avoid storing and transporting small batteries in a metal box. Do not carry batteries with coins and house keys in your jeans. Batteries can short circuit and release high amounts of energy, especially lithium systems. While a household alkaline may get hot when shorted, lead acid will draw high current for a few seconds, heat up and possibly spill. Lithium-ion is most treacherous especially when fully charged. An unprotected Li-ion cell or battery pack continues to draw high current that can lead to a violent self-destruction and injury through heat exposure and venting with flame.

Up-to-date information on Shipping Lithium Batteries by Air is available on http://www.iata.org/training/courses/Pages/shipping-lithium-batteries-tcgp52.aspx.

Disclaimer: While every effort was made to ensure that the information contained in this publication is accurate, the publisher of Battery University does not warrant or guarantee accuracy and completeness; nor does the publisher take responsibility for errors, omissions or damages that may arise from this information. These guidelines are for informative purposes only. Refer to International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations when shipping lithium metal or lithium ion batteries or cells: http://www.iata.org/whatwedo/cargo/dgr/Pages/lithium-batteries.aspx.


Last Updated 2017-02-17

*** Please Read Regarding Comments ***

Comments are intended for "commenting," an open discussion amongst site visitors. Battery University monitors the comments and understands the importance of expressing perspectives and opinions in a shared forum. However, all communication must be done with the use of appropriate language and the avoidance of spam and discrimination.

If you have a suggestion or would like to report an error, please use the "contact us" form or email us at: BatteryU@cadex.com.  We like to hear from you but we cannot answer all inquiries. We recommend posting your question in the comment sections for the Battery University Group (BUG) to share.

Or Jump To A Different Article

Basics You Should Know
The Battery and You
Batteries as Power Source


On May 16, 2012 at 4:21am
Walter van Praag wrote:

I was wondering how to estimate the Estimated Lithium Content (ELC) of Lithium Polymer batteries.

I am hoping to fly with a 36V 10Ahr Lithium Polymer battery which if it was a Li-Ion battery would be 28.8gms of ELC, over the allowed limit by 3.8grms! With the Lithium Polymer batteries being more efficient I assume we get more power from less ELC and perhaps the ELC of my battery is under 25grms!

There are four of us travelling for www.coughing4cf.com, a 5000km charitable electric-assisted bicycle ride for Cystic Fibrosis from Vietnam to Singapore.


On June 19, 2012 at 2:14am
Brendon Franklin wrote:

Thanks for helpful guideline. I think for battery transport associates are finding this entry beneficial for them.

On October 16, 2012 at 6:22pm
Tim wrote:


I am about to start importing Lithium battery powered products from China and have been trying to find information about how much charge will be lost between the factory and here. However, I can only seem to find articles to do with the dange of transporting batteries.

Are you able to help me with how much Lithium battery charge I can expect to be lost during both air and sea freight, assuming it is fully charged when it leaves the factory?

Thank you for your help.

Kind regards,

On January 18, 2013 at 3:28am
Anonymous wrote:

Li-Ion cells lose about 1 - 5 % of their charge per month.
Manufacturers ship them at 40% charge, because that’s the level where they age least. You won’t get fully charged cells from China, as this makes no sense.

On June 10, 2013 at 12:35am
Brian S wrote:

There is no elemental lithium in a lithium battery. The lithium salts used in lithium batteries are not particularly dangerous. One of them is actually also used as a prescription drug. The key to lithium batterys’ success is two-fold: higher voltage/cell and high-density cells.

Since lithium salts are used, unaltered from the mining process (except drying), it is the in the form of the most ultra-fine granular particules that can be rolled in many microscopically thin layers to form a very high-capacity battery!

The danger is not from the lithium. It’s from the battery’s ability to store energy as an extremely dense electric charge and potential. The danger of lithium batteries should therefore always pertain to electrical, not chemical, charateristics!

Whereas, sulfuric acid can instantaneously blind a person, and lead-acid batteries do periodically do that to people, lithium batteries cause fires that are the direct result the stored energy in them. The mass of the lithium is practically irrelevant. One tiny battery can start a big fire!

On June 29, 2013 at 8:27am
Helenjerry wrote:

When people think of automobiles they often think of a vehicle that can transport itself. If an automobile needs to be moved form one point to another, most people would assume that someone would drive the car to the place it needed to be. While this is the case in most situations, sometimes auto shipping services need to be used to transport vehicles. While some people may scoff at these services, there are actually many benefits to using auto shipping services to transport a car.

On July 16, 2013 at 3:49pm
Tim wrote:

Can anyone point out in the transport regulations where batteries are exempt when they are non-removable (e.g. ipad) !?!?


On October 7, 2013 at 1:10am
brad nicholson wrote:

safety precaution of transporting of Dangerous goods must be process properly, thanks for sharing it, that’s why we DG Air, https://dgair.com.au/ we follow steps of safety first.

On October 7, 2013 at 4:41am
Maria wrote:


Has anybody know what is the ideal Temperature to transport Li-Bat (by air).

I have found the ideal storage temperature, but I also need this info..


On December 5, 2013 at 9:11am
vivek kumar yadav wrote:

Hi I am planing shift from varanshi to Mumbai I having a inverter battery which is around 24 I want to parcel throw Indian railways is it possible

On April 21, 2014 at 6:44pm
Steve Gothard wrote:

It seems stupid to put 200 Kg of Lithium batteries in bulk on a wooden pallet that is made of cheap wood and nails and ship them on board an aircraft like they did on MH 370 If the pallet collapses a nail from the pallet could easily puncture a cell and start a fire.  Lithium batteris in bulk should only be shipped on a plastic pallet with padding to dampen the vibration and change in G-forces while manuvering the aircraft.

On July 17, 2014 at 4:07am
Nicola Bissett wrote:

Can any tell me or point me to the regulations for shipping lithium batteries in bulk by sea and road freight?  most of the restrictions appear to be about the air freight of goods but not sea.  i remember reading that although the regulations are issed for air freight that imminently they will be issued for sea freight as well

On August 3, 2014 at 9:57am
kondal goud M wrote:

we have purchased Byte 3 Battery tester from Megger.
The catelouge always refers measurement of impedance with base values.
Is base value to betaken as average impedance of most cells or is it defined as per AH of battery. When we measured it was 200mohms for 400 ah battery of 2v. so is the basevalue of 400ah battery 200 mohms?

On September 1, 2014 at 11:56pm
Murali wrote:

I want to transport Nickel cadmium Aviation battery, by Air.  The battery doesnot contain acid.  I want to know the UN No.  and ID No and Packing class. could any one help me

On September 5, 2014 at 12:28pm
JBL wrote:

It looks as though there is no UN number for NiCd batteries.  See US D.O.T. Title 49, Subtitle B, Chapter I, Subchapter C, Part 172, Subpart B, Section 172.101 for a table including UN Numbers:


Borrowing from a Sanyo NiCd material safety data sheet:

SANYO sealed Nickel Cadmium batteries are considered to be “dry cell” batteries and not subject to hazardous materials (dangerous goods) regulations for the purpose of transportation by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) or the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The only DOT requirement for shipping Nickel Cadmium batteries are contained in Special Provision 130 which states, “Batteries, dry” are not subject to the requirements of this subchapter when they are securely packaged and offered for transportation in a manner that prevents the dangerous evolution of heat (for example, by the effective insulation of exposed terminals) and protects against short circuits.”

A similar requirement is contained in 49 CFR 173.21(c) of the U.S. DOT hazardous materials regulations.
The IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations contain a similar requirement in Special Provision A123 that states,
“This entries applies to Batteries, electric storage, not otherwise listed in Subsection 4.2 – List of Dangerous Goods. Examples of such batteries are alkali-manganese, zinc-carbon, nickel-metal hydride, and nickel cadmium batteries. Any electrical battery or battery powered device having the potential of dangerous evolution of heat that is not prepared so as to prevent a short-circuit (e.g. in the case of batteries, by the
effective insulation of exposed terminals; or, in the case of equipment, by disconnection of the battery and protection of exposed terminals) is forbidden from transport.”

Failure to comply with these requirements may result in substantial civil penalties.

On September 16, 2014 at 3:14pm
Kathryn Lofton wrote:

Want to ship package weighing under 4 pounds by Flrst Class International Airmail USPS to India. Would like to include four 1.5 volt LR44 alkaline button batteries. Have reviewed USPS site regarding conditions for mailing to India as well as UPS shipping guidelines. So far unable to find any specific prohibition. Would place original package in ziplock plastic bag inside recyclable bubble plastic mailer with other approved items. Anyone able to site approval or prohibition for this?

On September 17, 2014 at 8:59am
Adam T wrote:

Has there been any findings/studies in to if fully discharged Lithium batteries (either installed in equipment or as bulk cargo etc) have been found to be more dangerous than fully charged ones when carried for Air Transport?

On March 4, 2015 at 1:00pm
Randy Frey wrote:

I’m sending a pod of belongings BY SEA to Hawaii from Los Angeles in a few weeks. I will be including a few power tools and about 3-4 rechargeable lithium batteries. Are there any regulations regarding this type of shipment?

On April 6, 2015 at 11:37am
Hmmmm wrote:

I think this is a typo?

“In summary, 14.4 x 4 = 57.6Ah”

It should be “14.4 V x 4 Ah = 57.6 Wh”

On July 23, 2015 at 1:11pm
Gary Taverrite wrote:

I have a client that is starting to make LI batteries as an energy storage device.  They are going to be about the size of a regular lead automobile battery.  How are those protected and packaged during shipping?  Which regulations do I need to follow?

On October 9, 2015 at 9:45pm
Rand Beyers wrote:

Transporting industrial batteries for forklifts under a Class D license. Is this legal?

On October 9, 2015 at 9:51pm
Rand Beyers wrote:

Most of the batteries are a minimum of two thousand pounds and some of them are over 4000 pounds

On November 24, 2015 at 12:04pm
Joki wrote:

I want to ship my electric bike through KLM cargo and I wonder if it is possible. My bike has a Li-Lithium battery 48 V. Please answer me soon. Thanks

On November 30, 2015 at 11:05am
Sean wrote:

  My sister crowdfunded the URB-E scooter (she has MS) and we had it shipped to a friend in the US to check so we wouldn’t be making a return from the UK. The URB-E is to provide her with mobility due to her illness but I’m not sure IF the battery can be shipped - even on cargo planes. The Urb-E has a 36v 10Ah (360Wh) lithium ion battery. Can this be shipped cargo if appropriately packed? If so, can you give me the specifics of the packaging & warning symbols that are required.

On March 2, 2016 at 6:08am
john coker wrote:

Good Day Sales,
  Advise if your company stock SEALED LEAD ACID BATTERIES and ready to ship.
We are in the market for 12V 75 Ah 100Ah or more.

On June 10, 2016 at 7:29am
Chris wrote:

Ive got a customer interested in taking an adapted segway (for a wheelchair user) over to Rio for the Paralympics. Its got (2) 390Wh LI batteries packed within a product. Is cargo their only option?

On July 21, 2016 at 6:39am
Barb Yankie wrote:

I purchased a replacement battery for my computer. I installed it and left it plugged in for 16 hours. It still is not charged enough to even turn on the computer. What can I do now?

On August 3, 2016 at 7:12pm
Bob wrote:

I am sorry but I am having a hard time understanding since english is my second language. My question is, besides the lithium inside of batteries from Laptops, cellulars, etc, how much additional lithium can I carry, in my carry on luggage, 8 or 25 grams?

Thanks so much and cheers from Mexico City smile

On September 4, 2016 at 12:58am
Charles wrote:

I’d like to reiterate Maria’s (4:41AM) question: Has anybody know what is the ideal Temperature to transport Li-Bat (by air).

Do these batteries fare better in cooler air transport environment as opposed to warmer?
Specific answer from experts only please.

On October 19, 2016 at 11:04am
Philip wrote:

Does anyone know of any companies in the Boston, MA area that are able to handle packaging and preparing certified docs for international shipping Li-Ion batteries via FedEx Express?

On October 26, 2016 at 6:12am
Zsolt Pinter wrote:

I would like to get information about transporting already damaged Li-Ion batteries. is there any norms about this?

On October 31, 2016 at 7:12pm
Aleksei wrote:

Does anyone know of a company in the Singapore for international shipping Li-Ion batteries 280Wh?