How to Ship Lithium Ion Batteries

Learn about the ins and outs of shipping lithium ion batteries and the regulations you'll need to follow
ship lithium ion batteries
Grab these resources for this guide
USPS' Guide to Lithium Ion Batteries
USPS' packaging and shipping restrictions
FedEx's Guide to Lithium Ion Batteries
FedEx's packaging and shipping restrictions

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.

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

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

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.

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.

International restrictions also vary from country to country. Some countries don’t allow for the importation of lithium ion batteries. Therefore, it’s always a good habit to check USPS’ Individual Country Listings for more specific information on where you’re shipping to.

Related Shipping Guides

2 Comments

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  1. Jeff Beach

    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.

    Reply  
    • Rockwell Sands

      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.

      Reply  

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