Can you take lithium batteries on a plane is a particularly interesting question as the answer is the opposite to that for most other items.
Generally you can take lithium batteries on a plane, if fitted in its device, in either your hand luggage or your checked bags but you can only take spare lithium batteries in your carry on bags.
How bizarre is that when most items, which may pose some kind of security threat, are NOT allowed in carry on bags and must go in checked bags in the hold! But it does get even more strange. You can have lithium batteries in your checked bags if they are installed in the device they are designed for.
Confused? Well don’t worry, here is the full explanation
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What lithium batteries can you take in carry on baggage?
Lithium ion batteries
Lithium Ion batteries are also known as rechargeable lithium, lithium polymer, LIPO and secondary lithium.
Airline passengers are allowed to carry all consumer-sized lithium ion batteries (up to 100 watt hours per battery). This size covers most AA, AAA, cell phone, PDA, camera, camcorder, handheld game, tablet, portable drill and standard laptop computer batteries.
External chargers for mobile phones etc (also know as charger or power banks) are batteries so fall into this category. I have been using an Anker PowerCore 20000 for a while now. This works with most devices, can charge an iPhone over 5 times, and is allowed in your carry on bag.
With your airline’s approval, you can take devices which contain larger lithium ion batteries (101-160 watt hours per battery). However, spare batteries of this size are limited to two batteries in carry-on baggage only. This size includes the largest aftermarket extended-life laptop batteries and most lithium ion batteries intended for professional audio/visual equipment. Check with your airline before travel as you may have them confiscated if not.
Most airlines recommend that if you are taking lithium batteries on a plane then:
- either put some insulating tape over the terminals to ensure that the batteries cannot accidentally short out
- or place them in individual plastic bags.
Ideally, you should store, transport and charge your lithium batteries in purpose-made fireproof bags which are quite cheap and available here from Amazon.
Lithium metal batteries
Lithium metal batteries are also known as non-rechargeable lithium and primary lithium.
These batteries are most often used in cameras and other small personal electronic items. Consumer-sized batteries (up to 2 grams of lithium per battery) may be carried.
This includes all the non-rechargeable lithium batteries typically used in cameras. These include AA, AAA, 123, CR123A, CR1, CR2, CRV3, CR22, 2CR5, etc. and the flat round lithium button cell. Note: The “C” prefix denotes that it is a lithium battery.
What lithium batteries can you take in checked baggage?
The only lithium batteries allowed in checked bags are those that are actually installed in a device. For example, a laptop with a lithium battery, can go in checked bags provided the battery is correctly installed. It cannot be separate and not separate.
You cannot take spare, uninstalled lithium batteries on a plane in checked bags. These must go in carry on baggage. This includes external battery packs used to charge phones etc.
Don’t forget that “Checked Baggage” also includes bags which are checked into the hold at the gate. If, for example, the airline says that there is insufficient space for further carry on bags when you reach the gate. They will tell you that they will put the additional carry on bags in the hold. If you have lithium batteries in your carry on then make sure you tell them that it contains the batteries. They should then either allow you to take the carry on bag on board or remove the batteries and take them on board separately with you.
AskTSA if you are unsure
The TSA have a very useful service on Twitter where you can ask a specific question about what you can take on a plane and they will answer quickly. Here are some examples relating to lithium batteries:
Why are spare lithium batteries not allowed in checked baggage?
Spare, uninstalled lithium batteries are not allowed in checked luggage. This is because because fires which involve lithium batteries are accompanied by a great deal of heat. This is because lithium batteries generally store lots of energy. The fire control systems in the baggage hold of an aircraft may not actually be able to control a fire which involves lithium batteries. Not good news I think you will agree.
They can be carried in the cabin though as, should there be a fire involving them, the crew can use fire extinguishers to put the fire out. If they are in the baggage hold, which is not accessible during the flight, it would not be possible for the crew to react.
The chances of the batteries catching fire are pretty much negligible though so the is no need to worry.
You can read this research by the University of Washington on Lithium Battery Safety
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) video on the possible risks with lithium batteries on a plane:
Can I take an electric bike on a plane?
Unfortunately this is not possible due to the power output of the lithium batteries of an ebike. Aviation rules state that batteries that are larger than 300WH are ‘dangerous goods’ and cannot be transported by air. Ebike batteries almost certainly exceed this limit.
Are lithium and lithium ion batteries the same thing?
No, lithium batteries are not rechargeable whereas lithium ion batteries are rechargeable. However, the same rules apply for the purposes of whether they are allowed in checked or carry-on baggage
For the current full list of regulations relating to all batteries, not just whether you can take lithium batteries on a plane, please see the TSA Batteries Carried by Airline Passengers page.
Also there are a number of useful articles on the FAA page “Lithium Battery Safety Resources“
This is a CAA (UK Civil Aviation Authority) video explaining the lithium battery safety policies:
More airport security posts:
Read my other articles ion what is and what isn’t allowed to be carried on a plane –