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Charging Ahead - Lithium Battery Requirements in 2024 and Beyond

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December 1, 2023
By Heather Walker, Associate Director of Product Development and Implementation

Our recent webinar, "Charging Ahead - Lithium Battery Requirements in 2024 and Beyond," garnered an overwhelmingly positive response, and if you missed it, don't worry – you can catch up on demand. The insightful discussions delved into crucial topics shaping the landscape of lithium battery transportation and usage. Here's a summary of the key highlights:

ICAO State of Charge Restrictions for Air Transport:

Back in 2016 the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) set a 30% state of charge (SOC) limits on air shipments of standalone lithium-ion batteries. Recently, ICAO took a decision to extend that 30% SOC restriction to air shipments of lithium ion batteries packed with equipment. This SOC limit will become effective January 1, 2026, but it is recommended that these batteries are held to a SOC not exceeding 30% of their rated capacity beginning January 1, 2025. Further, ICAO is adding a recommendation that all lithium ion batteries contained in equipment shipped by air be at a SOC of 30% or less. These decisions have significant implications for the supply chain of lithium batteries and battery-powered devices. 

UN TDG WG on Lithium Battery Classification:

The UN Working Group on Lithium Battery Classification is continuing its work to identify the hazards of lithium cells and batteries during thermal runaway and classify them accordingly. While the project is far from finalized, there have been discussions on adding many new UN numbers, test protocols, and how SOC and packaging may affect classification. The ultimate goal is to establish hazard-based classifications and incentivize safer cells and batteries. 

SAE G-27 Lithium Battery Packaging Standard:

Established by ICAO in 2016, the SAE G-27 committee is working on a package performance standard for the safe air transport of lithium cells and batteries. Focused on cylindrical cells like 18650s and 21700s, the standard includes rigorous test procedures to ensure safety during transport. However, challenges, open issues, and test validation raise questions about its implementation timeline and regulatory use.

New Battery Technology and Chemistry: Sodium Ion Batteries

With the electrification of nearly everything, the battery industry is always on the lookout for new battery chemistries. One such chemistry, sodium-ion batteries, has recently been introduced into the dangerous goods regulations with the creation of new UN numbers. For now, the shipping requirements for sodium ion batteries will mirror the lithium-ion rules. 

Popular Questions and Answers:

The webinar generated a burst of questions from participants, ranging from the application of regulations to specific scenarios like reverse logistics and consumer electronics. Notable queries included concerns about the SOC limit for medical equipment, the impact on commercial aircraft restrictions, and the potential distinction between lithium-ion and LiFePO4 batteries. Here are some of the ones we would like to emphasize or that we didn’t have time to address during the discussion:

Will the 30% SOC for shipping apply to medical equipment? 

Yes. While regulators are aware of concerns regarding the urgent need to ship fully charged medical devices and their batteries, there are no specific regulatory carveouts for medical devices at this time.

Batteries packed with or contained in are delivered to a distributer by ground where SOC does not apply, but then the distributor will ship the product by air to customers.  How will the distributer know what the SOC is for these products when they are in final packaging?

It is the shipper’s responsibility to comply with shipping regulations, including any SOC limits. Controlling SOC on customer returns will be extremely challenging, which is why ground/ocean shipping would be recommended in these instances.

I checked the ICAO website and couldn't find anything about SOC changes to WITH at this time. Do you have a link to share?

Yes, you may visit - (AC.10/C.3) ECOSOC Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (sixty-third session) | UNECE for more information.

Are Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries treated the same as lithium-Ion batteries?

Yes. Lithium iron phosphate batteries are a type of “lithium ion” chemistry.

Conclusion:

As the regulatory landscape for lithium batteries evolves, staying informed and actively participating in discussions is crucial for businesses and professionals in the industry. The "Charging Ahead" webinar provided valuable insights, and the diverse range of questions posed by participants reflects the complexity and depth of these evolving regulations. As we look to the future, it's clear that continuous dialogue and collaboration will be key in navigating the dynamic challenges of lithium battery transportation and ensuring the highest standards of safety and compliance. CHEMTREC will seek to provide more webinars like this in 2024, stay tuned! 

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