“The potential for self-ignition, for uncontained fires, is huge,” he said. The new regulations “need to be looked at very hard in the cold light of day, particularly with what has happened with the 787 batteries.”
The battery rules were changed in order to conform U.S. shipping requirements with international standards as required by Congress, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said in a statement.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency that sets global aviation standards, adopted the aircraft battery cargo exemption in October 2011, and it went into effect Jan. 1. The organization’s standards normally aren’t binding. But a provision inserted into U.S. law at the behest of the battery industry and their shippers says the rules can’t be stricter than the U.N. agency’s standards.
Previously, U.S. regulations prohibited the shipment of lithium ion batteries on passenger planes in packages weighing more than 11 pounds, although heavier batteries could be shipped on cargo planes.
The new rules allow the shipment of lithium ion batteries weighing as much as 77 pounds, but only if they are aircraft batteries. Shipments of other lithium ion batteries greater than 11 pounds are still prohibited. The 787’s two batteries weigh 63 pounds each. It’s the first airliner to make extensive use of lithium ion batteries, which weigh less and store more power than other batteries of a similar size.