There has been a lot of press going around about the new travel restrictions on lithium batteries.  Unfortunately, much of the press doesn’t understand the technology and what it really means to the average traveler.

First, here is the link to the DOT press release on the new rules.

These regulations are an adoption of international hazerdous goods shipping norms within the US passenger market. 

These regulations are focused primarily on lithium primary cells - batteries that use lithium metal and are not rechargeable.  Some cameras use these in formats such as CR3 and others.  The button cells in watches are also primary lithium batteries.  People buying EnergizerLithium  e2 AA/AAA batteries for their cameras will also be affected by these regulations.  The other uses for lithium primary cells include high power flashlights and security systems.

These regulations are not focused on rechargeable lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries, except for those extremely high in capacity.  This means that a person using cell phone batteries, standard size laptop batteries, and other similar devices will not need to be concerned about these new regulations.

There is a cap on the size of rechargeable lithium ion batteries allowed, although your average person will not be able to effectively calculate whether or not their device would be affected by these regs.   Batteries with more than 8 grams, but less than 25 grams of equivalent lithium metal are considered “Extended Capacity Batteries”.  Passengers are restricted to two of these type of batteries in their carry on bags.  Batteries with greater than 25 grams of equivalent lithium content will not be allowed on the plane, and must be shipped as a hazerdous good.

Here is how you calculate equivalent lithium content:

Watt Hours * 0.3 X * number of cells in the battery pack

The problem for the average consumer is that they don’t know how many cells are in their battery pack unless they take it apart.  Doing so would likely damage the pack casing, and is potentially dangerous.

The good news is that the largest battery you are likely to use would be one of the the 8800 mAh capacity batteries found in some notebooks.  These packs usually have either eight or 12 cells, each rated between 2400mAh and 2000mAh. 

Therefore, a 12 cell 2000mAh pack will have the following equivalent lithium content (to calculate watt hours, just divide the mAh by 1000):

12 * 2.0 * 0.3 = 7.2 grams of equivalent lithium metal.  Therefore, no restrictions.

Notebook manufacturers are not stupid… they won’t make a pack that has travel restrictions on it, as the word would get out and people wouldn’t buy their laptops.

These new US FAA regs are extentions of existing international shipping norms that battery manufacturers have already been working with, so the end result is that most people will not be affected by these “new” regs in the slightest.

The only exception is the external extended batteries that people use for notebooks, dvd players and the like.  Some of these are rated as high as 24000 mah.  They will all have less than 25 grams of equivalent lithium, but you wouldn’t be allowed to take more than two of them.  However, given that a battery of that size could power your laptop about 24 hours, odds are that a single one is all you would ever travel with anyway.

Hope this clarifies.  Drop me a note and let me know if this helped!