Lithium-ion Batteries Banned as Cargo on Planes

By James O Malley on at

The International Civil Aviation Organisation has banned cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries on passenger planes, which could prove frustrating for technology companies and manufacturers.

The Washington Times reports that he batteries, which are found in everything from our laptops to our phones, have been banned because authorities are worried about an increased risk of fire - with aircraft fire suppression systems deemed not good enough to handle, say, a cargo container stacked full of 'em if it were to catch fire mid-flight. The worry is that if a battery short circuits it could create a "thermal runaway" effect, whereby it heats up neighbouring batteries unusually, and before you know it there is a highly volatile and potentially explosive container ready to blow in the cargo hold.

The ban is only temporary, and is expected to last until 2018 when new container standards are being introduced to mitigate the fire risk. Transporting lithium-metal batteries, which are the sort that can't be recharged (like those found in watches) has already been banned for years for similar reasons.

There is at least some good news for passengers: The ban won't extend to electronics in normal baggage, so you can still take your laptop on the plane. It only applies to bulk transportation of lithium-ion batteries, so it will only really inconvenience industry - who will have to either stick to using slow container ships, or use a cargo plane instead. The Rechargeable Battery Association (yep, that's a thing) has apparently opposed the new ban, saying that it will be a "significant disruption in the logistics supply chain".

So don't be surprised if next year's Mobile World Congress debuts the Galaxy S8, which is powered by a large windmill instead.