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DOT Regulations for the Shipment of Lithium Ion and Lithium

Posted: Jul 28 2009 12:57pm
DOT Regulations for the Shipment of Lithium Ion and Lithium Metal Batteries: Ground, Ocean and Air
Compiled by Sid Kuropchak, Light Electric Vehicle Association (
July 25, 2009


This report covers all of the documents available to determine the proper shipment methods for Lithium batteries for electric bikes. The report gives the most detail for the shipment of single batteries by themselves; the balance of the report is for batteries shipped with bikes and batteries ship within the bike.
There are three things any shipper, manufacturer or customer should know in regards to the shipment of electric bike batteries:
a. Need to know the rules
b. Need to know which rules to follow
c. Need to know something about the batteries

In regards to the Department of Transportation (DOT), there are two variables you need to know about:
a. The type of transit: ocean, ground or air (ground via rail or highway)
b. The size of the battery (in the case of batteries for electric bikes, that would be Medium); this is calculated by either the equivalent Lithium content (.03 x the rated capacity in Ah per cell) or by watt hours (amps x volts). Note: details are contained in the definition section at the end of this report.

Here are some additional points:
• Whether you are shipping one or a hundred batteries, the rules are the same.
• There are special requirements for shipping Lithium Metal batteries, but only for air shipments
• There are some differences if you are shipping batteries by themselves, a battery with a bike in the same outer carton, and a bike with the battery in it (such as in the down tube of the bike). See 3090 and 3091 below.
• This paper is about DOT regulations, but you still need to check with your carrier if they have any other requirements. Some carriers may have a special handling or hazmat fee, for example.

The first place to start is at the DOT Hazmat regulations:

Then go to ... 49;cc=ecfr and hit Control F and type in 3090. This will take you down the page to the section that applies to Lithium Batteries that most dealers and retailers will be interested in for shipping batteries by themselves. Right above 3090 is 3091 (two rows) for Lithium batteries, contained in equipment and Lithium batteries packed with equipment. Each of these rows spell out the following:

Hazardous materials descriptions and proper shipping names
Hazard class or Division
Identification Numbers
Label Codes
Special Provisions
Packaging Codes- Exceptions, Non-bulk and Bulk
Quantity Limitations- Passenger aircraft/rail and Cargo Aircraft Only
Vessel stowage- Location and Other

Next go to: ... .2&idno=49
Then hit Control F and type in 189 and it will take you to the section that deals with all Lithium medium sized batteries. If you comply with these sections for Ground Transportation of all types of Lithium Batteries (alone, not in or with the bike), nothing else is required.

Here are some comments on this Section that deals with Ground Transportation of Batteries only:
c. Although you should be able to count on the original manufacturer that the testing has been done, you could ask them for documentation, but it is not necessary. Check their website.
d. As with any thing heavy, just make sure the battery is packaged in a sturdy carton for protection. It is likely that the carton you received it in from the manufacturer is sufficient.
e. The marking on the outside of the carton has to be exactly as stated. Black lettering on the brown cardboard or white label is fine.
f. Self explanatory; refers to shipping a crate, for example, with batteries in it
g. Refers to preventing the accidental turning on of the battery, or to cause some event to happen that would cause the battery to short circuit
h. You must submit a written report if an event occurs during the actual transportation of the battery

If you can’t comply with the above, or you want to ship via ocean or air, then you must comply with the Full Regulations, where there are no exceptions.
Title 49, Section 173.185 Lithium cells and batteries
A4 spells out more packaging info for Air and the Full Regulations for Ground and Ocean if you can’t meet the exceptions reviewed above for Ground. ... 20&idno=49.

A. What are the various types of lithium batteries?
Lithium batteries fall into two broad classifications; lithium metal batteries and lithium ion batteries. Lithium metal batteries are generally non-rechargeable and contain metallic lithium. Lithium ion batteries do not contain metallic lithium and are rechargeable.

B. What are lithium polymer batteries?
A lithium polymer battery is a type of lithium ion battery. Generally, the main difference is lithium ion polymer batteries contain a polymer electrolyte.

C. What is the difference between a lithium cell and a lithium battery?
A lithium cell is a single encased electrochemical unit consisting of one positive and one negative electrode that exhibits a voltage differential across the two terminals. A lithium battery is one or more cells electrically connected. A single cell battery is considered a cell and not a battery.

D. How are component cells connected to form a battery?
Cells in batteries may be connected in parallel, in series, or in a combination of the two. When cells are connected in series the voltage of the battery increases but the capacity in ampere-hours (Ah) does not change. By contrast, when cells are connected in parallel the capacity in ampere-hours of the battery (Ah) increases but the voltage stays the same.

E. How do I determine the watt hour rating for a particular lithium ion battery?
The watt hour (Wh) rating is a measure by which lithium ion batteries are regulated. Lithium ion batteries manufactured after 1 January 2009 are required to be marked with the watt hour rating.

You can also arrive at the number of watt-hours your battery provides if you know the battery’s nominal voltage (V) and capacity in ampere-hours (Ah):
Ah x V = Wh

This information is often marked on the battery.
Note that if only the milli-ampere-hours (mAh) are marked on the battery then divide that number by 1000 to get ampere-hours (Ah) (i.e., 4400 mAh / 1000 = 4.4. Ah).
Most lithium ion batteries marketed to consumers are below 100 watt-hours. If you are unsure of the watt-hour rating of your lithium ion battery, contact the manufacturer.

Additional Links:
Transportation Regulations for Lithium, Lithium Ion and Polymer Cells and Batteries: ... ations.pdf
US Department of Transportion: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Regulations:

Re: DOT Regulations for the Shipment of Lithium Ion and Lithium

Posted: Aug 28 2009 2:37pm
by mwkeefer

Thanks for the very useable and navigatible Lithium battery DOT regs!!!

I recently became certified for Hazmat shipping because of my company but ... this is great information for everyone to have access to, someone should make this a sticky.


Re: DOT Regulations for the Shipment of Lithium Ion and Lithium

Posted: Sep 10 2009 7:56pm
by nutsandvolts
I have a critical system outage that requires a lithium battery. Isn't this special: due to the new shipping regulations on lithium, the soonest I can get this battery in my paws is 4 days! :evil: I can get most parts within 90 minutes delivered to my door, worst case scenario has always been overnight delivery first thing next day for anything, but not lithium. It is the only part that could ever take 4 days for delivery. I could technically rig something up that works but it doesn't work that way, I have to use the official part. These regulations are going to change the lithium battery market over time. Companies cannot have 4 day outages. Therefore, we can no longer rely on our wonderful lithium chemistry.