ICAO DG Panel Backs Most Stringent Lithium Battery Requirements Yet

Posted on 10/29/2015 by Roger Marks

Reports from the annual International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Dangerous Goods Panel in Montreal, happening this week, suggest that ICAO is backing a plan to require lithium batteries to be shipped at a reduced state-of-charge as low as 30%. While Federal Aviation Administration test data shows that batteries shipped at a 30% state-of-charge are far less likely to be involved in a battery fire on board an aircraft, there are some logistical issues for manufacturers, suppliers, and other shippers to consider.

First, at a pre-ICAO meeting with US regulators in September, industry representatives with the Rechargeable Battery Association (PRBA) argued that shipping lithium batteries at a reduced state-of-charge can lead to accelerated physical and chemical degradation of the battery. In other words, these batteries will be less useful once they reach their destination.

Second, industry is concerned that a limitation on state-of-charge can only be realistically met by original manufacturers or major initial shippers. Other distributors in the supply chain, including retail shippers, may not have the expertise or equipment needed to verify state-of-charge before offering a shipment.

lithium metal button cell

The ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel’s lithium battery safety recommendations will be finalized at the end of this week and will eventually be incorporated into the ICAO Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods. These international Technical Instructions are used as a model for both the International Air Transport Associations Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) and the US DOT’s 49 CFR Hazardous Materials Regulations.

For more on lithium battery transport safety recommendations that may be discussed at the Dangerous Goods Panel in Montreal, read our feature on the US DOT’s Pre-ICAO Lithium Battery Safety Meeting.

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