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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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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.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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