New Concerns About Shipping Rechargeable Lithium Batteries By Air
A story by Joan Lowy of Associated Press says government test results raise new concerns about rechargeable lithium batteries. The article says an inspection campaign by Canadian authorities found that 78 percent of companies that ship them by air weren't declaring their shipments properly and "a surprising number of companies" had shipped damaged, defective and waste batteries", far more likely to catch fire.
We know that defective, damaged, overcharged, poorly packaged or batteries exposed to heat can cause a fire. They've been allowed on passenger planes because the halon gas suppression systems in cargo compartments can extinguish the fire. The tests now suggest that an explosion could cause enough pressure to activate depressurization valves allowing halon gas as well as smoke into both the passenger cabin and the cockpit. It would also dilute the suppression system allowing the fire to grow.
The FAA said it in statement yesterday that it is continuing battery testing. On Monday, United Airlines informed cargo clients that it will no longer accept lithium-ion batteries for shipment in cargo containers but will in pallets.
While the aviation industry is considering new standards and airline pilot unions are pushing for limits, there is no consensus. Frequently shipped by air about 4.8 billion lithium-ion cells were manufactured last year alone and forecast to reach 8 billion over the next ten.