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!
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 example of lithium ion batteries are found in our cell phones and laptop computers.
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 your carrier’s policies 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.
- USPS’ 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?
No matter which shipping carrier you choose, none of them can ship packages containing only lithium ion batteries or cells to international destinations. You can only ship lithium ion batteries internationally if they are already pre-installed in the equipment they power. It’s important to note that these international mail pieces don’t allow markings or documentation. This rule also applies to shipping to military addresses, such as APO, FPO, and DDO destinations.