49 CFR Lithium Battery Regulations Revised for Air Transport


Due to their unique challenges to safety in the air transportation environment, transporting lithium batteries safely by air has been an ongoing concern. Unlike most other hazardous materials, lithium batteries have a dual chemical and electrical hazard. If involved in a fire, this combination of risks can create a scenario that exceeds the fire suppression capability of an aircraft and leads to a catastrophic plane failure.

Final Rule to amend the 49 CFR Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) for lithium battery shipments takes effect on January 20, 2023. Published to the Federal Register just before the winter holidays, the new Rule replaces an Interim Final Rule (IFR) that’s been in effect for nearly four years.

This IFR aligns with the lithium battery transportation requirements with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Technical Instructions for the Safe Transportation of Dangerous Goods by Air. Lithium metal cells and batteries (UN3090) and lithium-ion cells and batteries (UN3480) are prohibited for transportation as cargo aboard passenger-carrying aircraft. The outside of each package containing lithium metal cells or batteries is transported in accordance with Packing Instruction 968. Section II or lithium-ion cells or batteries are transported following Packing Instruction 965.

This Final Rule modifies the Hazardous Materials Regulations for lithium cells and batteries transported by aircraft and is consistent with the earlier published Interim Final Rule, which responded to congressional mandates.

  • prohibited the transport of lithium-ion cells and batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft.
  • required lithium-ion cells and batteries to be shipped at not more than a 30 per cent state of charge aboard cargo-only aircraft when not packed with or contained in equipment.
  • And limited the use of alternative provisions for smaller lithium cell or battery shipments to one package per consignment.
  • In response to comments, this final Rule provides editorial amendments and modification of certain provisions, including marking requirements, requests for an extension on the compliance date, and exceptions for lithium cells or batteries used for medical devices with approval by the Associate Administrator.

The IFR amendments primarily affected air carriers (both passenger and cargo-only) and shippers that offer lithium-ion cells and batteries for transport as cargo by aircraft. The IFR amendments neither restricted passengers or crew members from bringing electronic devices containing lithium cells or batteries aboard aircraft nor restricted the air transport of lithium-ion cells or batteries when packed with or contained in equipment.

The growing use of Lithium batteries in many of our devices must bring about changes for the safe transport of these items to guarantee the safety of all parties involved in their transport.

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