New spare lithium battery travel rules go into effect 1 January 2008

There are some major new rules regarding packing along spare lithium batteries on aircraft that go into effect early next week, 1 January 2008, so if you travel with lots of devices then make sure you comply with the requirements. In most cases you should be fine carrying the batteries with you on the plane, but there are limits in what can be checked.

Nokia battery
I'm starting to think about what to pack for CES in Vegas and also have a few trips to Alaska planned for the early Spring. I just spotted some news on GottaBeMobile that is going to have an impact on how I pack for these upcoming trips. According to the new government regulations, effective 1 January 2008, the following rules apply to spare lithium batteries carried on flights in the U.S.:

  • Spare batteries are the batteries you carry separately from the devices they power. When batteries are installed in a device, they are not considered spare batteries.
  • You may not pack a spare lithium battery in your checked baggage.
  • You may bring spare lithium batteries with you in carry-on baggage – see our spare battery tips and how-to sections to find out how to pack spare batteries safely!Even though we recommend carrying your devices with you in carry-on baggage as well, if you must bring one in checked baggage, you may check it with the batteries installed.

There are also some important quantity limits that may impact geeks like me who tend to carry lots of spares for devices. The limits are expressed in grams of “equivalent lithium content.” 8 grams of equivalent lithium content is approximately 100 watt-hours. 25 grams is approximately 300 watt-hours. Here are the quantity limits:

  • Under the new rules, you can bring batteries with up to 8-gram equivalent lithium content. All lithium ion batteries in cell phones are below 8 gram equivalent lithium content. Nearly all laptop computers also are below this quantity threshold.
  • 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. Examples of two types of lithium ion batteries with equivalent lithium content over 8 grams but below 25 are shown below.
  • For a lithium metal battery, whether installed in a device or carried as a spare, the limit on lithium content is 2 grams of lithium metal per battery.
  • Almost all consumer-type lithium metal batteries are below 2 grams of lithium metal. But if you are unsure, contact the manufacturer!

Check out the full table and check your batteries before next week. Also, make sure you read the TSA website that gives you guidelines on how to pack your batteries for travel. The large capacity Portable Power Station I use often is 118 watt-hours so it will take quite a bit of battery capacity to exceed this new limit. I think manufacturers will start expressing the "equivalent lithium content" of their batteries in the near future to help travelers figure out the regulations.

It seems these regulations were developed in response to apparent fire hazards with lithium batteries.