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The U.S. DOT advises that any spare batteries should be stored in a zip-lock bag or the factory packaging to prevent short-circuits.  (Source: U.S. Department of Transportation)
New rules limit lithium content in batteries carried on aircraft

New rules went into effect today that could affect travelers who carry portable electronics on flights. The new regulations limit the amount of lithium in luggage and carry-on items -- specifically with regards to lithium in batteries.

The new rules state that spare batteries cannot be packed inside checked luggage, but spare batteries can be carried on board in carry-on baggage. Those brave enough to check baggage with electronic devices inside can leave installed batteries in the devices.

The U.S. Department of Transportation does not specify how many batteries are acceptable for travel.  The Department states passengers can carry spare batteries for electronic devices and that the lithium content in all batteries must weigh less than 25 grams.

To help explain the strange equivalent lithium content rule, uses an example dividing the total amount of lithium as Watt-hours. The DOT claims lithium grams is roughly equivalent to 300 Watt-hours of battery time.

The popular Dell XPS m1330 notebook uses several different batteries. The 9-cell batteries, the largest available for the system, are rated at 85 Watt-hours. That would mean a pair of spare batteries for the notebook (170 Watt-hours) are well within the 25 gram (300 Watt-hours) total aggregate lithium content.   However, a passenger can only care the installed 9-cell battery with two spares before exceeding the 25g limit.

Devices that use lithium-metal batteries have a limit of two grams of lithium-metal per battery and according to almost all lithium-metal batteries used in consumer devices comply with that limit. However, devices with lithium metal-batteries over the two gram limit are barred from the aircraft entirely.

These new rules are due to the potential fire hazard posed by rechargeable lithium batteries. The massive recalls and wide spread reports of fires resulting from laptop batteries resulting in the massive battery recalls of 2007 sparked the new battery policies now in effect.

However, the FAA is very clear on why such strict limits must be imposed.  In a statement released yesterday, the Administration stated, "Safety testing conducted by the FAA found that current aircraft cargo fire suppression system would not be capable of suppressing a fire if a shipment of non-rechargeable lithium batteries were ignited in flight."

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Anyone find this stupid?
By tdktank59 on 1/1/2008 1:39:23 PM , Rating: 2
So does anyone else find this kinda stupid...

ive only heard of 3 batteries explode in my life... (or ignight). Ive heard of the chargers catching fire more often.

So what happens on those really long flights from LA to Japan or NY to Japan (w/e way it is i dont fly those but you get the idea) where you might have to do work for the 13 hours the trip is? 2 batteries just dont cut it...

Unlike the macbooks (pro) with the bulit in battery other laptops normaly draw a ton more power...

I know they are trying to prevent a once in a blue moon thing turning into a big thing with a plane crashing to the ground. but come on have you heard of a fire on a plane casue by Lithium batteries?

RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By Lifted on 1/1/2008 2:40:24 PM , Rating: 2
Long international flights usually have power outlets available for all or many of the seats.

RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By BikeDude on 1/1/2008 6:02:26 PM , Rating: 2

...but perhaps you implied business class?

RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By Lifted on 1/1/2008 7:00:50 PM , Rating: 2
I clearly over estimated the amount of airlines that had this policy as I aparently always fly airlines that have the option. I usually fly premium economy or business on long hauls anyway so it's never really an issue, but I always notice that it's either available to all economy seats or shared between a few on the flights I take. The option is available to you if you care that much about it, just choose an airline that offers it in economy, like American, Continental, etc. You're obviously going to get squat with airlines like United and the like.

RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By Alexstarfire on 1/1/2008 6:17:00 PM , Rating: 2
Not sure about you, but I know for a fact that when I flew from Atlanta to Taiwan that we had NO power outlets. Business or First Class might, but I can't afford that.

RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By spluurfg on 1/2/2008 10:49:48 PM , Rating: 2
Whether you have power sockets depends mostly on how old the plane is. Newer planes generally seem to have sockets on long-haul flights even in economy. Unfortunately it's pretty random whether the plane you end up on is old or new. I've even been on flights where there were power sockets on some, but not all of the economy seats, and short-haul domestirc economy flights that had more legroom and better entertainment systems than the connecting international flight. It's not very consistent.

As for batteries, it does make sense... for primary lithium batteries (non-rechargables), transporting them in bulk is strictly banned on planes, due to a few incidents where they caught fire in the holds of cargo planes. The fire suppression systems on board simply couldn't cope with them, since primary lithium battery fires are particularly nasty. Simple precautions like taping the contacts of batteries and keeping batteries in carry on baggage where possible makes a lot of sense -- if it's in the passenger compartment, at least you should notice a fire pretty quickly. Besides, the new rules only seem to affect those who are carrying quite a lot of spare batteries around.

RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By Samus on 1/1/2008 3:00:39 PM , Rating: 3
I'm with tank, this is really dumb. Battery explosions are extremely rare. About as common as a car exploding from a fuel pump short in the gas tank...and when's the last time you saw a car rolling down the street explode?

In the extremely rare circumstance that a battery on an aircraft explodes, it likely wouldn't cause anything but a containable gas release. There would be no cabin preasure loss, and worst case scenerio the gas would spread so everyone would have to put on their o2 feed masks until it was cleared out through the HVAC system.

A 747-400 (very large aircraft) can purge its cabin supply and recycle in about 10 minutes, in-flight, with no harm to passengers provided they are wearing their masks and don't mind getting a little chilly.

RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By Ratwar on 1/1/2008 5:25:44 PM , Rating: 1
So, let me get this straight, you really want to rely on 400 (or more) passengers to get their air masks on while there's a fire on someone's lap?

I'll let you in on a little secret, the FAA is hyper safety oriented for a good reason. Every time a plane crashes for any reason, there's a public outcry, and millions of dollar are lost (not to mention the 200 dead people). The regulations are what makes planes so safe.

RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By BikeDude on 1/1/08, Rating: -1
RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By PandaBear on 1/2/08, Rating: 0
RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By Alexstarfire on 1/1/2008 6:29:32 PM , Rating: 5
Because of how rare it is to have a battery explode, yes I would rely on the passengers being smart enough to put on their masks.

I haven't heard of any public outcry when a plane crashes, cept from the people who were related to the victims in some way. That's understandable though. If the plane crashed because someone was lazy and decided to skip maintenance checks or something, then that's call for a public outcry, but not because something completely random happened like a battery exploding.

They say it's no brain surgery, but even I don't understand what the hell these guys are talking about. I don't understand why we can't have spares just sitting out. From what I recall, the only batteries that exploded were the ones that were IN USE.

Airlines keep getting worse these days. They tell you to be at the airport 90 minutes early for a domestic flight, so I got my GF there about 90 minutes before her flight left. They had 2 people to process perhaps about 50 people, could have been more. Anyways, long story short is that she didn't make her flight and no one wants to pay for it, so it comes out of our pocket. That's just bad business practices. United Airlines isn't getting our business anymore.

How about they stop implementing stupid rules and regulations so that the common person doesn't get screwed over. If a terrorist really wanted to blow up a plane they'd be able to do it with relative ease. It's not like you couldn't just walk through the metal detector with a tube of "toothpaste" in your pocket. They don't force you to turn your pockets inside out or anything. No bomb sniffing dogs, or anything that detects explosive compounds. It's a freakin embarrassment and a waste of time. Only time they are gonna stop something is when the terrorist just happens to be blacklisted. Ohh, that's another thing. Some random people happen to have the same name as terrorist. Glad to know that they'll stop a baby from boarding a plane because he/she is blacklisted. Thanks for saving my live you retards.

RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By Christopher1 on 1/1/08, Rating: 0
RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By Alexstarfire on 1/2/2008 12:20:32 AM , Rating: 4
Too bad a lighter won't set off C4, you need an electrical charge for that. But you basically got my point. They can walk in with any number of explosives and no one would really stop them.

RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By walk2k on 1/1/2008 5:22:45 PM , Rating: 4
Of course it's stupid. It's the TSA, they are the king of stupid.

Such as, I have travel-size tube of toothpaste in my bag, but I can't carry it on unless it's in a ziplock baggie? The hell is that? Like I can't open a ziplock baggie in flight, if I really was making a bomb out of it??

Then they don't even know their own rules. I asked one lady if it's okay to carry on my toothpaste, she said "oh yeah just have it out in your hand when you go thru security", then I get to the gate with toothpaste in hand and that lady makes me throw it out.

Stupid is their middle name.

RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By eye smite on 1/1/2008 7:51:37 PM , Rating: 1
Sure it's stupid, and I can't think of many FAA mandates that don't seem stupid. I'm willing to bet though that this over cautious behaviour is probably why you don't see very many plane crashes each year.

RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By Christopher1 on 1/1/2008 8:00:52 PM , Rating: 1
No, the reason that you don't see very many plane crashes yearly is because plane maintenance people are very good at their work, there is so much redundency on planes (some can fly with only one engine working), etc.

Not because of thse stupid rules.

The only thing that this overcaution does is make people just ignore the really important and sane rules because they figure the TSA and FAA puts out so many stupid rules that all of them must be stupid.

By AlexandertheBlue on 1/1/2008 9:07:29 PM , Rating: 3
You are only partly right. Some of those "stupid rules" are why there are redundant systems.

RE: Anyone find this stupid?
By Keeir on 1/2/2008 12:31:10 AM , Rating: 2
Really? I can think of many FAA mandates and Airworthiness Directives that are not stupid. The thing to keep in mind with FAA mandates for Large Commercial Transports is that most of the aircraft are intended to last for 50,000-75,000 flight cycles. -70- years at 3 flights a day. Or 35 years at 6 flights a day.

FAA mandates and rules are ment to govern air travel in the macroscopic sense. Sometimes, these rules are for passenger PR, but most are based on risk assesments that look at riskes to planes flying far longer, far faster, and with a heck of alot more milage that your average automobile.

Are we missing thr MUCH bigger story?
By keh on 1/1/2008 3:18:18 PM , Rating: 2
Ummm, has anyone read the footnote under lithium ion batteries installed in a device being permitted for carry-on? It says "Whether in checked or carry-on baggage, ensure that the device remains switched off either by built in switch/trigger locks, by taping the button in the "off" position, or by other appropriate measures."
WTF?!?!? No battery operated devices will be permitted to be USED on planes anymore?!?!?

RE: Are we missing thr MUCH bigger story?
By twajetmech on 1/1/2008 4:25:21 PM , Rating: 1
As an Aircraft technician, it is irrelevant wheather any one person has had an experience with Li batteries, The fact remains that they can and have cased fires, causing massive recalls as of late, all of which is well documented in the news and what have you. Aircraft cargo fire surpression systems and the cargo hold itself are designed to surpress a typical cargo hold full of personal luggage (ie clothing) not fires caused by chemical reactions. 99% of all people flying should not be affected by the new ruling, how many people fly with a laptop and more than 2 spare batteries or more than a few spares for the camera, all of which is still permitted. I find it incredulous that the same people who find the ruling stupid, are also typically the first people to decry the airlines and FAA when a tradjedy occurs for failing to react.

RE: Are we missing thr MUCH bigger story?
By TomZ on 1/1/2008 5:08:54 PM , Rating: 2
I see your point, but remember there have so far only been a small number of fires associated with the literally billions of Li-ion batteries produced through the years. And Li-ion batteries have been on literally hundreds of millions of passenger flights without incident over the years as well.

So it's just common sense to conclude that the statistical probability of having a life-endangering fire aboard an aircraft due to such a fire is infinitesimally small.

RE: Are we missing thr MUCH bigger story?
By Fritzr on 1/2/2008 3:44:09 AM , Rating: 2
Swissair Flight 800 blew up in flight. First reports caused major public uproar with speculation that the aircraft had been bombed or hit with an anti-aircraft missile. The final report was onboard fire that detonated the empty fuel tank in the aircraft midsection

A cargo plane went down in Florida due to an improperly packed load of gas cylinders. Final report indicates crew was likely dead from the fire before impact.

Every time a plane goes down and the reson is found to have been preventable there is a media uproar followed by FAA rules aimed at preventing it happening a second time. This time they noted a potential safety hazard that has an occurrence rate greater than what is allowed for aircraft crashes. To give an idea of perception, on one immigration forum an airline is currently blacklisted due to frequency of crashes being greater than 1 per decade worldwide.

The rules are often changed after accidents of this sort. The Flight 800 crash was due to causes that had already been identified and had previously been ruled allowable as long as future aircraft were not built with the same fault. The reasoning was that aircraft that had the fault had no record of accident due to the fault, so the risk was acceptable for the remaining life of the existing fleet. The fault was marginally flammable insulation. Difficult to ignite, self sustaining flame once lit, no fire suppression system where the fire burned to save weight.

The Florida crash was due to a shipper ignoring the rules for packing.

Lithium batteries can cause fires when used correctly. These fires are rare. Lithium batteries can cause fires when shorted. These fires are the reason for the label advising you that shorting a battery is a *very* bad idea. Will you bet your life that the passenger in the next seat packed the batteries correctly? The TSA & FAA obviously have decided that based on past history they can't trust 100% of all passengers 100% of the time to pack hazardous materials correctly.

It would be nice if TSA workers were properly trained, but that is an entirely different problem. Some of the 'weapons' seem silly, but next time you get a chance, contact a hospital that maintains a ward for the suicidally depressed and ask what their patients have used to kill themselves. Amazing what can be used when you put your mind to it and don't mind using things "incorrectly".

RE: Are we missing thr MUCH bigger story?
By Alexstarfire on 1/2/2008 4:13:18 AM , Rating: 2
Well, unless they packed the Li-Ion battery with a box full of metal, then yea, I would. I think the whole point is that they allow some Li-Ion batteries, but not all of them. If they outright banned them all then I could understand a little bit. But they are saying that you can have them if they are being used and not while they aren't, generally speaking. That doesn't make any sense. They are only going to explode when being used, ie charging or using the device it's in. I have yet to hear of one exploding because it was stored improperly or wasn't in use.

RE: Are we missing thr MUCH bigger story?
By PandaBear on 1/2/2008 11:49:27 AM , Rating: 2
Paper clip with knock off batteries that has no short protection?

By TomZ on 1/2/2008 12:20:57 PM , Rating: 2
That would be a more general hazard - it would threaten our safety in our offices, homes, in cars, trains, etc. - in other words it is inherently unsafe and should not be allowed generally, let alone on planes.

By Shining Arcanine on 1/2/2008 6:37:03 AM , Rating: 1
"Will you bet your life that the passenger in the next seat packed the batteries correctly?"

My life does not depend on whether the passenger in the next seat packed his batteries correctly, as there is neither correct nor incorrect way of packing them.

By TomZ on 1/2/2008 8:24:38 AM , Rating: 2
Nice post, however, it all hinges on some incorrect information:
Lithium batteries can cause fires when used correctly. These fires are rare. Lithium batteries can cause fires when shorted.

That is incorrect - these batteries will only cause a fire when they are defective. Under normal circumstances, it is impossible for them to catch fire during charge or discharge operations, including short-circuit. All these types of batteries have built-in protection against short-circuit as well as over-temperature that could lead to fire.

This is the reason why consumers can't buy these types of batteries (the raw batteries themselves) off-the-shelf - we can only buy ready-made "smart" battery packs. And when an engineer designs these types of batteries into a product, they work directly with the battery manufacturer to ensure that proper safety circuits are built-in.

Obviously, these safety measures are nullified when the battery itself is defective, but that is the exceptional case, not the normal case. And as I said before, if you look at the statistics (handful of fires compared to billions of batteries in use), the incidence of these fires is very very low.

RE: Are we missing thr MUCH bigger story?
By Shining Arcanine on 1/2/2008 6:45:37 AM , Rating: 2
If the fact that they can cause fires is of any concern, then it would be logical to ban lithium ion batteries, rather than to restrict how many of them you can carry, as if lithium ion batteries are dangerous, do you really believe that allowing any on an air plane is a wise thing to do?

By PandaBear on 1/2/2008 11:51:41 AM , Rating: 2
Sure, I'd say ban all air travel. Problem solved, air pollution no more.

By nothingtoseehere on 1/1/2008 1:39:31 PM , Rating: 3
The web site is pretty clear that the limit for LiIon batteries only applies for batteries with over 8 grams of Li, so your 85WH batteries that are each below 8 grams are not limited to two, see this quote:

"# You can also bring up to two spare batteries with an aggregate equivalent lithium content of up to 25 grams, in addition to any batteries that fall below the 8-gram threshold."

My main worry would be is not what the rules say, but how they are going to be misintepreted, not by bloggers, but by TSA people in the airports...

Will people have any recourse if they are?

By Inkjammer on 1/1/2008 2:17:22 PM , Rating: 4
My main worry would be is not what the rules say, but how they are going to be misintepreted, not by bloggers, but by TSA people in the airports...
I was just about to post that. The TSA, while having a hard job, seem to be a little too aggressive at times.

I'm a world traveler, and have had more problems with the TSA than I care to recount. My question is how they plan to measure the amount of grams in the batteries and enforce it. I don't put a lot of trust in the TSA's math skills. They can barely handle my belongings with care, what makes me think they can respect my expensive electronics?

My Alienware m9750's battery is big, black and doesn't have any visible information on the battery. Not on the top, not on the bottom. So unless they're going to weigh the batteries, I don't see where they're going to get their data from to gauge if the battery is valid. If they were to decide my battery violates the code, what happens to my battery? Do I just lose a $150 laptop battery? Do they mail it to me? Do I just get one of those evil TSA pamphlets that says, in a manner of speaking, "We're the TSA. Sorry for damaging your items beyond repair. We can not be held accountable, as we did it for the security of the nation. Thank you for understanding and complying. Love, your friends at the TSA".

If you've gotten one of those fliers you know exactly what I mean. I've had belongings damaged by the TSA worse than if I took the item out and curb stomped it. I don't want them on my laptop. At all.

By RMSistight on 1/1/2008 4:15:41 PM , Rating: 2
What you guys should do is carry printouts of battery specifications or anything else that you carry. I fly pretty frequently for short track speedskating meets and I bring the following with me:

Dell m1330 laptop (Li-Ion)
2 x 9 cell battery (85 wh x 2)
1 x 6 cell battery (56 wh)

Sony HDR-HC7 camcorder
3 x NP-FH70 Li-Ion batteries (12.2 wh x 3)
1 x NP-FH50 Li-Ion batteries (6.1 wh)

+Misc cell phone battery

I have all detailed printouts for all my laptop and camcorders batteries indicating their battery type and how many watt/hour they use. Hell, you can even do the math for them to have it written down on a piece of paper...haha.

By Mk4ever on 1/2/2008 12:22:48 AM , Rating: 2
Not the best idea, nor a bright constructive solution to the problem, but I seriously suggest you print some info from any other battery and stick it on your battery to look like other original stickers. Save yourself endless arguments with stubborn employees and save your batteries.

By Manch on 1/1/2008 11:08:33 PM , Rating: 2
I personally don't have a lot of faith in TSA. They are ill-trained, rude, and I believe ultimately ineffective. Well, I take that last part back they are pretty effective at pissing you off before you get on a 12-14 hour cattle car err plane trip.

I have an external battery for my laptop which is awesome for flights from Tokyo to Atlanta. The last two times coming back from Atlanta I got held up over my spare battery. I even kept the paper from the manufacturer that came with the battery saying it was approved by the FAA for use on an aircraft and they still gave me crap about it!

Now that I'm stateside again I drive rather than fly. I can stop when I want. Eat when I want. Smoke when I want. To top it off with the 90min+ show time just to get on the often delayed flight the total trip hours usually equal the driving time. I absolutely refuse to fly if I dont have to it's just not worth the hassle.

As far as recourse goes, hope they have enough time to mail it off or they're willing sacrifice the battery or the ticket. I had to mail a brand new zippo that was sealed in the box no fluid in it what so ever because it wasn't allowed on the plane. Thats just ridiculous. "Conveniently" they had a zippo mailing service just out side the gate.

you're right to worry. What the rules are and what they enforce seems to always be in contradiction.

Yeah not worth it.

By marvdmartian on 1/2/2008 10:07:48 AM , Rating: 2
I laughed when I read your TSA comments. Yeah, people forget that (for the most part) the TSA employees are the same people (morons) that were private security employees before 911. And look how effective they were back then!

I loved the title to this article too:
Complicated, but Not Brain Surgery

That's a good thing, since it's pretty evident that, with TSA, we're not dealing with anyone approaching the level of a brain surgeon, are we??

By adam92682 on 1/1/2008 1:34:59 PM , Rating: 2
I think it would be easier to just ban Sony batteries instead of creating all of this confusion.

RE: Batteries
By Ihmemies on 1/1/2008 2:08:05 PM , Rating: 4
So what do photographers do? Use old film cameras which don't need juice? AA batteries? Standard Nikon D2/D3 battery weighs 250g.

RE: Batteries
By Targon on 1/1/2008 5:58:45 PM , Rating: 2
Unless you need a lot of rechargeable batteries, there isn't a huge need for a huge number of spares. If you need to fly somewhere and need that many spares, you could always arrange for the spares to be at the place you are flying to as well.

How many pictures can be taken on a full battery charge at this point? These are the things that people will figure out going forward, but I honestly wonder about people who feel they NEED that many batteries. Only those going to places where electricity is not available should be concerned IMO.

RE: Batteries
By PandaBear on 1/2/2008 11:53:20 AM , Rating: 2
and the Chinese knock offs that are much more likely to caught on fires that sony.

A Shipment?
By monitorjbl on 1/1/2008 1:40:44 PM , Rating: 2
the Administration stated, "Safety testing conducted by the FAA found that current aircraft cargo fire suppression system would not be capable of suppressing a fire if a shipment of non-rechargeable lithium batteries were ignited in flight."

Hm, a shipment...does one passenger's laptop count as a shipment? Or are they expecting all of the lithium batteries to burst into flame? I'm all for airline safety, but honestly, what are the odds of that happening?

RE: A Shipment?
By KristopherKubicki on 1/1/2008 1:44:30 PM , Rating: 2
There's a lot of speculation that it occurred in a cargo plane fire last year that destroyed the aircraft (fortunately on the ground). The FAA and the USDOT have not confirmed this, but they won't rule it out either.

RE: A Shipment?
By TomZ on 1/1/2008 5:02:44 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe the new rules should have been applied to cargo planes instead of passenger planes, since that's where there is a much higher risk of a carton of batteries being shipped, since that is what this is meant to prevent.

Hundreds of millions of passenger flights without a single Li-ion battery incident - that, in my opinion, tells us the real probability of having a problem in the future.

I do agree that there should be restrictions in place that disallow a carton of batteries from being shipped on a passenger flight, just like any other flammable material. But the new rule seems way too complicated to be effectively and efficiently understood and implemented.

RE: A Shipment?
By monitorjbl on 1/1/2008 6:31:30 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I'm with you on this one. Passenger planes are not cargo planes, and should not have the same rules.

I can't see one laptop posing anymore risk than actually flying on a plane. Statistically speaking, you stand a far better chance of dying in a plane accident due to pilot error or mechanical failure than having an Li-ion battery explode on you.

You would think that, in the extremely unlikely event that a battery did burst and do so on a plane, the flight attendants could handle one fire.

RE: A Shipment?
By KristopherKubicki on 1/2/2008 7:59:46 PM , Rating: 2
Yep I concur too.

I'm a fairly frequent flyer..
By agentjka03 on 1/1/2008 2:13:29 PM , Rating: 2
Yet, I haven't really seen the result of all this battery hoopla. Is TSA really paying attention to what kinds of laptops people are putting through their scanners? Hundreds of thousands of laptops come through security every day, and every time I fly, I don't see any of them confiscated.

RE: I'm a fairly frequent flyer..
By Lifted on 1/1/2008 2:44:35 PM , Rating: 4
Confiscated for what? The only reason I'd imagine they'd confiscate a laptop is if they believe there may be a bomb inside, not just intel inside.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh

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