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Air travel with Lithium Batteries in the USA

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Ouch, that is pretty bad. That is going to cause a LOT of confusion. And it's pretty easy to track down the source of the problem...

 

I quote from dot.gov, the official announcement spot that TSA links to

 

"Common consumer electronics such as travel cameras, cell phones, and most laptop computers are still allowed in carry-on and checked luggage. However, the rule limits individuals to bringing only two extended-life spare rechargeable lithium batteries (see attached illustration), such as laptop and professional audio/video/camera equipment lithium batteries in carry-on baggage."

 

If you read this quickly, it does seem like you're only allowed 2 batteries per person. But then it says 'extended life', and below they explain what extended life means

 

Examples of extended-life rechargeable lithium batteries (more than 8 but not more than 25 grams of equivalent lithium content):

 

laptopLithiumBattery.gif

 

So, I still firmly believe you are allowed any number of normal electronics lithium batteries (im traveling in 10 days with at least 10 lithium batteries), and that AP is actually wrong, and is thus unnecessarily causing extra confusion. You are only limited in taking huge batteries with insane amounts of lithium that almost no one has :)

 

 

Cor

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Well I certainly hope you are right. But too many of the TSA (and FAA, too) people are nincompoops who don't read, don't understand, and simply do what the latest interpreter of rules tells them. In my experience, the "interpreters" are also closed-minded. Generally, if you want to refer to any copy of the rules with these people, you've probably already in a situation where you're going to lose.

 

I am a pilot and have found over many years' experience that the FAA is one of the worst, absolute worst government bureaucracies in existence. My experience with the TSA hasn't given me any faith in their being better.

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I've edited Joe's post to include Cor's excellent breakdown of the rules.

WP vs AP as the new year unfolds.... something new everyday :)

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I do agree that AP bringing out this seemingly wrong press release may really mess up things at airports :) Im going to install as much as I can inside the actual device, and carry spare batteries in a plastic bag, with the terminals covered. And im going to bring a printed set of the rules, just to be sure.

 

Ive mailed both AP and TSA to ask about this, but I dont expect a response. If you read the rules it's not like they are unclear. Nowhere do they contain any limit on batteries below 8 grams of lithium. If there actually was such a limit, id bet the notices would be much much stronger, as lots of travelers carry spare lithium batteries.

 

Cor

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By my calculations, anything at 16.8v, 5.87AH is under 8g. This excludes many of the small batteries in HDCAM and ENG cameras used by production companies. Going over mean you can carry 2 spares and 1 installed in the camera.

The other problem is weight in the cabin baggage. For those travelling out of the US it shouldn't be too much of a problem except for production crews. But those from other countries coming in have issues with weighed cabin bags. I guess that camera vest is coming out of the closet.

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Interestingly, there has been, for a long time, a rule limiting batteries to no more than 100Wh. Anything larger is considered hazardous cargo and must travel in special containers. I dealt with this when I used to do custom batteries for video lights. The key thing there is in the custom labels. ;-)

 

It appears now that some batteries may be OK for lithium content but not for total capacity. It also appears that not everyone is aware of the 100Wh restriction.

 

I could see how this could effect video people. Still is probably not effected too much.

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Craig, are you referring to the Class 9 rule of shipping of dangerous /hazardrous materials?

I had that problem too and it was a pain to fill in all the custom forms etc. I haven't got the latest IATA HGM rules... will try to look for it.

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I think what Cor has done is prove that it's unnecessary to panic over this. You can carry spare batteries, as many as you like. It seems to affect very few products.

 

... be ready to repack when travelling through SE asia !!

 

on a trip this year one of our travellers who had a couple of dozen D-size rechargeables for his strobes was told he couldn't carry them on and had to check in at security.

 

It certainly seems with increased security measures (and I don't have a problem with this concept) that the challenge of travelling with multiple electronic devices will remain for a while until they can come up with a scanner that categorically say 'this is explosive' v. 'this isn't' - expecially if travelling through multiple jurisdictions.

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Big Blue

I believe that is in Thailand and Indonesia, which DO NOT have the lithium restrictions yet. That is a local issue with size of battery in hand luggage, not content. Any NONE lithium batteries can be stored in the checked luggage. Let's not confuse the issue.

You do make a good point about travelling to countries outside the US (although I believe this Li rule will be international soon with 85 reported incidents at FAA regarding Li fires). With connections in other international airports, there *may* be local rules with differ from DOT/FAA rules. It's best to find out through the airline or embassy. IATA is also another source.

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I travelled to Bali from Perth last week and was questioned at check in about lithium batteries. The girl got all confused when i started talking about the mixture of Lithium, Ni-MH and Li-ion batteries i was checking, said something about a memo and let me go.

 

On the return leg nothing was asked!

 

I wondered what was going on.

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I do not think that there is even the slightest chance of the TSA screeners getting this right for the first month or so. We are going to have a particularly hard time traveling internationally.

 

Here is the ruling on lithium:

 

(17) Except as provided in §173.21 of this subchapter, consumer electronic and medical devices (watches, calculators, cameras, cellular phones, lap-top computer, camcorders, etc.) containing lithium cells or batteries, and spare lithium batteries and cells for these devices, when carried by passengers or crew members for personal use. Each spare battery must be individually protected so as to prevent short circuits (by placement in original retail packaging or by otherwise insulating the terminals, e.g., by taping over exposed terminals or placing each battery in a separate plastic or protective pouch) and carried in carry-on baggage only. In addition, each installed or spare battery must not exceed the following: (i) For a lithium metal battery, a lithium content of not more than 2 grams per battery; or (ii) For a lithium-ion battery, an aggregate equivalent lithium content of not more than 8 grams per battery, except that up to two batteries with an aggregate equivalent lithium content of more than 8 grams but not more than 25 grams may be carried.

 

So, you can indeed carry as many small lithium batteries as you want, but each should be in its own plastic bag (do not put them all in one zip-lock bag).

 

Last year, I flew from LAX to Brisbane departing on March31 and arriving on April 2. It turned out that Australia changed their liquids on board rule on April 1. When I got into Brisbane to transfer to the next leg of my flight, the Australian security screeners confiscated my duty-free :) , even though it was in a heat sealed bag that said in big red letters: "Screened by the TSA. Do not open until you reach your final destination." They were, of course, happy to sell me the same stuff up the stairs in their duty free shop though. :D .

 

It will not be long before our best bet will by flying naked with no checked bags :P

 

--Mark

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"We're from the government. We're here to confuse you."

 

I received an updated link for info on the lithium-ion batteries. This one's from the TSA. And - what a surprise - it has some mis and confusing information it in.

http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/ass.../batteries.shtm

 

So I went back to the original source and called the contact number in Washington on the PHMSA news release. They in turn referred me to an 800 number that's an info hotline for all the questions about this. Here's that number:

 

800/467-4922 (then push the number 1)

 

It was clear after talking to the (nice) guy who picked up the phone that he was just parroting the information that's been on the website and didn't really know much himself, other than what he'd been handed. (And he says they're getting hundreds of calls.) I asked him if there was someone else I could talk to who might be a little better-versed on all of this and he said, "How about if I give you the number of the guy who actually wrote the regulation?"

 

So I spent about the last 20 minutes on the phone with Arthur, the author of the regs and he was very helpful. but he also freely concedes that this is a very confusing area and that a lot of the attempts they've made to clarify things have probably only made things worse.

 

Arthur also said (as I mentioned in a previous post) that although the regulation technically went into effect yesterday (Jan. 1), it's going to be a few months before the TSA people (don't forget this is a DOT reg that's being implemented by TSA) are trained and up to speed. Arthur said their goal is smooth implementation without hassling the flying public.

 

He also pointed out that the regs were originally designed mainly for mfgs who bulk-ship lithium-ion batteries. That's why the language is written in "grams of lithium" which doesn't do the consumer much good. But now they're going to apply this to the general public as well.

 

The easiest way to think about this: If you have extra/spare lithium-ion batteries that you're traveling with, put them in your CARRY-ON bag.

 

Arthur told me that even though the language on the website refers to "loose" batteries, what it really means is any battery not in the device it powers. And on the TSA website, where it implies that lithium-ion batteries in a plastic bag or in original packaging can be checked, Arthur says that is NOT correct.

 

Basically, they define the batteries as under 8 grams of lithium, 8-25 grams of lithium, and over 25 grams of lithium. The other way to think of that (which you can calculate from the battery) is in watt-hours. 8 grams is roughly 100 watt-hours. 25 grams is roughly 300 watt-hours.

 

Batteries under 8 grams (100 watt-hours) - No limit. Take as many as you like (according to Arthur).

Batteries 8-25 grams (100-300 watt-hours) - Limit two per passenger per device.

Over 25 grams (300+ watt-hours) - Not allowed.

 

Arthur basically said that cell phone, digital camera, and regular laptop batteries all fall under the 8 gram (100 watt-hour) limit. No problems. For instance, my HP laptop battery ends up being about 45 watt-hours. Even my extended 12-cell battery would be about 90 watt-hours, so is OK.

 

The way you can figure out the watt-hours of your battery is to look on the battery and take the voltage times the amp-hours to get the watt-hours. (Mine was 10.8V x 4.4AHr = 47.52 watt-hours.) If the amp-hours are in milliamps, you'll need to convert to amps. But basically, Arthur said most consumer stuff should be fine. but he did re-emphasize that, to play it safe, put ALL of your spare lithium-ion batteries in your carry-on.

 

I also specifically asked him about AA batteries (which I put in my checked bags) and he said they're not an issue, nor are NiMH batteries. With my AAs, I also leave them in their original packing and Arthur said that's perfect. He also pointed out that, if you've got checked batteries in your bag, it's a good idea to stand by the TSA guy while they x-ray the bag so that if anything needs to come out, the TSA guy can just hand it back to you. Arthur specifically said, "We don't want to end up with bins of batteries the way we did with lighters."

 

So that - I think - should be the latest info. As I've said before, it's an evolving subject. It looks like the practical implementation is a ways down the road but that doesn't mean some over-zealous TSA person couldn't ding you tomorrow. And if you've got questions, call the 800 #.

 

- Ken

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Looks like everything I originally posted is correct then (see first post of this thread now). The rules are really not that hard to understand, its just that the whole issue has been messed up by Associated Press, who put out a wrong press release concerning this matter. I contacted AP about it, but did not receive a reply (didnt expect it though).

 

I'll keep an eye out for changes, and will edit the first post of this thread as new info becomes available. Im especially interested in specific equipment that does have more than 25 grams (or even 8 grams) of lithium content. It would be a nice service to list those items.

 

Cor

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Anton Bauer Dionic 160WH: over 8g

IDX Endura Elite 142WH: over 8g

Red Brick (Battery for RED One): 140WH: over 8g

 

That's just a few. Good news is all these batteries fit ENG/larger HD cameras. Bad news is that if they are infront of you at the security check... it'll be a long wait. :)

 

Ken,

Thanks for going out to get the info. As Cor says, the crappy reporting and knee jerk reaction to new rules caused most of the panic. It's ridiculous that AP won't write an amendment.

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Anton Bauer Dionic 160WH: over 8g

IDX Endura Elite 142WH: over 8g

Red Brick (Battery for RED One): 140WH: over 8g

 

Don't lose sight of the fact that these specific batteries would be considered "medium" batteries. You can bring TWO spare ones in your carry-on IN ADDITION TO ONE HOOKED UP IN THE CAMERA.

 

It's easy to forget two things:

 

1. Most of the batteries we use will NOT be affected at all.

2. Ones that are affected, you're still allowed two extra batteries.

3. Don't forget you can also have a battery in the camera/device, so really you can have THREE batteries for each device in your carry-on.

 

Even Arthur (the guy I talked to) agreed that they've done a pretty bad job of explaining things to the public and have probably made the situation worse.

 

- Ken

Edited by Ken Kurtis

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Sure but each of these weigh over 1.2kg. Then we have to think about those cannister batteries using Li-Polymer and Li-Ion battery packs. Now they have to be packed proper and SHIPPED to location. Which really adds to cost.

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I just noticed a small detail in ken's excellent work that I did not know.

 

"Batteries 8-25 grams (100-300 watt-hours) - Limit two per passenger per device."

 

The original rules dont mention two per passenger per device, but two per passenger..period. That includes installed batteries..I quote:

 

Special Case: Up to 2 Lithium-Ion Batteries, Spare or Installed (between 8 and 25 grams aggregate lithium equivalent content)

 

Ken, can you confirm that it is two per device? I dont read it that way, and that would be a very positive change for the video guys.

 

Cor

 

ps: I have editted the original post (first post in this thread) to include Drew's extra battery info. Keep em coming.

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Ken, can you confirm that it is two per device? I dont read it that way, and that would be a very positive change for the video guys.

 

I asked Arthur specifically about this. Arthur (the guy who wrote the regulation) said it was two batteries (plus one more installed in the unit) per device.

 

Now, I will agree when I first posed the question to him, he paused a bit. He thinking was that these batteries are so large and heavy, how many can one possibly carry? As he put it, "You'll get a hernia lugging too many of these around."

 

But his intepretation was two per person per device, not two period.

 

The real kicker will be to see whether the TSA understands any of this as Arthur does. I have a nightmare scenario of me being in the security line and the TSA person wanting to take all my batteries and my plaintive wail being, "But Arthur said this was OK!!!"

 

:-)

 

- Ken

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I would still be very careful. This specific point is very unclear in the rules, but if you combine the two parts where these 'medium' type batteries are explained, they seem to suggest two total per passenger. This will be where in practice people will end up in arguments with TSA unfortunately.

 

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.

 

Then, further on in the rules, it explains how you can carry these batteries:

 

“Special Case”

Up to 2 Lithium-Ion Batteries, Spare or Installed

(between 8 and 25 grams aggregate lithium equivalent content)

 

The kicker is the 'or installed'. Without those 2 words I would say the written rules would agree with his verbal explanation, but as it stands, they dont match. For now im going to leave the '2 total per person' in the first post until this is more certain. It would suck if we caused people to lose several hundreds of dollars worth of batteries. Err on the side of caution. But i'll add a note about this as well.

 

Cor

 

ps: added a summary to my original breakdown of the rules, so it is even more clear that almost no one is affected.

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Great, our dutch national newspapers are also reporting that 'you can only take 2 lithium batteries now'. I sent in a letter to the editor, but i dont think anyone cares in the news world :P

 

Cor

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Great, our dutch national newspapers are also reporting that 'you can only take 2 lithium batteries now'. I sent in a letter to the editor, but i dont think anyone cares in the news world :P

 

I think you are right. I just talked to the AP office in Washington DC where this article came from and noted that I think they have a error. The woman said well we got this directly from DOT and was not really inclined to believe me that there was an error. I said well you might want to get a copy of the actual regs and perhaps double check what you were told. She said thanks and hung up. So I would not be hopeful that they will change anything. Though others might want to call as well (202-641-9000) for fun.

 

BTW How to do this is read the byline "WASHINGTON (AP)" which is the local office you want to call - I found their number via the website. Oh yeah, be sure to IMMEDIATELY identify yourself - they seem pretty snippy if you do not.

Edited by allen

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William, that's the original rule... just worded for grade 3 and above :P

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William, that's the original rule... just worded for grade 3 and above :P

 

E.g. TSA... <_<

 

Very glad I wasn't trying to travel with lithium batteries the last couple of days!

 

Linda

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