Look around—lithium ion batteries are everywhere in today’s world. They power our cell phones, laptops, cameras, and more. In fact, the device on which you’re reading this article is most likely powered by lithium ion batteries! Despite their omnipresence, people often ask us about how to ship lithium ion batteries. The truth is, there are some restrictions since lithium ion batteries fall in Class 9 of Hazardous Materials. However, you can still do it…as long as you follow the rules. Let’s get into it!
Table of Contents
- Shipping Lithium Ion Batteries: The Checklist
- Lithium Ion vs. Lithium Metal
- The Guidelines to Follow for Shipping Lithium Ion Batteries With USPS
- Package the Lithium Ion Batteries Properly
- Check with Your Carrier
- Can I Ship Lithium Ion Batteries Internationally?
- Double-Check Your Destination Country’s Guidelines
Shipping Lithium Ion Batteries: The Checklist
While rechargeable lithium ion batteries are the most popular choice for powering devices, they come with potential shipping hazards. These batteries can produce a high level of heat if short-circuited, and the chemical contents can catch fire. When you’re ready to ship, follow these steps to ensure that everything goes smoothly and according to plan.
Lithium Ion vs. Lithium Metal
First and foremost, it’s important to know which kind of lithium battery you are dealing with. The two main types of lithium batteries are lithium ion and lithium metal. They both contain high levels of energy. However, the main difference between the two is that lithium ion batteries are rechargeable, while lithium metal batteries are not. The most common examples of lithium ion batteries are found in our cell phones and laptop computers.
The Guidelines to Follow for Shipping Lithium Ion Batteries With USPS
We’ve listed out the regulations you’ll need to follow if you want to ship lithium ion batteries with the US Postal Service, as well as which you services you can (and can’t) use in certain instances.
If Batteries Are Installed In or Packed With the Equipment They Are Intended to Operate:
- Each mailpiece must contain no more than 8 cells or 2 batteries
- The total watt-hour rating for each cell must not exceed 20 Wh
- The total watt-hour rating for each battery must not exceed 100 Wh
You Can Ship All Domestic USPS Services If the Batteries Are Contained Within the Item They Power
- For air transportation, affix UN3481 Lithium Battery Handling Label on the package
If Individual Batteries Are Mailed Without Equipment:
- The mailpiece must not exceed 5 pounds
- The total watt-hour rating for each cell must not exceed 20 watt hours
- The total watt-hour rating for each battery must not exceed 100 Wh
You Must Ship Parcel Select Ground If the Batteries are Outside of the Item they Power
- For surface transportation, affix UN3480 Lithium Battery Handling Label on the package
Package the Lithium Ion Batteries Properly
Like all hazardous materials, shipping lithium ion batteries all comes down to packaging properly. The main point here is that no batteries can come into contact with other batteries during transit. Be sure to use the right kinds of packing material! We suggest using blister sealing to wrap individual batteries, then placing cushions and dividers between each battery. Lastly, do NOT use envelopes or poly mailers! You’ll always want to ship lithium ion batteries in strong, corrugated boxes.
Mark Your Package As Containing Hazardous Material
Make sure you’ve properly labeled your package! In addition to markings or a lithium battery handling label, you’ll need to include documentation. This documentation should indicate:
- Whether the package contains lithium metal or lithium ion batteries or cells
- Potential of a flammability hazard in the event of damage
- Any special procedures to follow in the event of damage to the package
- A contact phone number for additional information
Check with Your Carrier
Regulations vary depending on the kind of lithium batteries you are shipping (lithium ion or lithium metal), the maximum allowable amount of batteries, and whether you are shipping via ground or air transport. Also, regulations differ based on whether you are shipping the batteries by themselves or batteries pre-installed in equipment. As always, it pays to check the policies of whichever shipping carrier you choose for shipping lithium ion batteries and cells. We’ve included links below in case you’d like more information on policies for each of the three major carriers.
- The US Postal Service’s packaging instructions and restrictions for lithium ion batteries and cells
- FedEx’s overview of lithium battery and cell shipping requirements
- UPS’ guide on packing and shipping batteries and cells
Can I Ship Lithium Ion Batteries Internationally?
You can ship lithium-ion batteries only if they are pre-installed in the equipment they power. When we say “pre-installed,” this means that you’re not able to remove the rechargeable batteries from the item without opening it up. You’d have to pry the item open with all sorts of tools to get inside and remove the battery. If this is the case for your items, you’re good to go!
For other items, like certain power tools, you technically attach and remove the lithium ion batteries at the bottom. So, if your lithium ion batteries aren’t pre-installed within the equipment they power, you can’t ship them overseas at all.
Here are some examples of items that come with lithium ion batteries already pre-installed inside:
- Video game controllers
- Certain video game consoles (for example, the Nintendo Switch)
- Portable speakers
- Electric shaving razors
Double-Check Your Destination Country’s Guidelines
Before shipping any products with lithium ion batteries internationally, you should do some homework and make sure the country you’re shipping to allows for the importation of these types of items in the first place. Some countries allow for it, while others don’t. The best way to verify is to check the Individual Country Listings on the USPS website.
Have any questions? Drop us a line in the comments below!
6 CommentsPost a Comment
Hello, I’ll like to ship a PS5 and controller from the US to an APO in Japan
Joyce De Mattos
I bought a remote car toy for my grandson. Can I send it by mail to Okinawa. It’s an FPO-APO address. Thank you
Joyce – Yes, you can! If you need some help figuring out how to send packages to military addresses, this guide may help you out: https://www.shippingschool.com/how-to-ship-to-military-addresses
Hello Rockwell, I’d like to import Lithium ion battery packs from China to USA. Ideally, I’d like them to come in manageable boxes to my house, as opposed to a pallet which I cannot manage at home. Can you tell me if this is possible due to restrictions on number of cells (8) or watt hours per box, while being reasonably cost effective? The purpose of buying from China is to get a good price. Any help is greatly appreciated.
Hi Jeff, thanks for the comment! Admittedly, I’m more knowledgable about shipping lithium ion batteries within and from the United States, rather than importing them from a foreign country such as China. Importing goods involves an entirely different set of regulations and guidelines to follow, and it varies from country to country. You may want to check out this post here – it’s dedicated to the exact issue you’re asking about: https://www.chinaimportal.com/blog/lithium-batteries-shipping-from-china/
Sorry I’m not more help here! Another thing to keep in mind is the increasing number of tariffs on Chinese goods. I’m not sure what prices for Chinese lithium batteries are off the top of my head, but it may make sense to procure your batteries from another source when all is said and done.
I’d like to post a bond touch bracelet to my girlfriend in Greenville SC from the UK, how do I do this?