What You Need to Know About Safely Shipping Electric Bike Batteries

Shipping an electric bike battery presents its own set of unique challenges. The bikes are challenging enough to ship. They’re larger than a standard bike, and bulky, with a weighty frame that makes for odd-sized packaging. Because of the motor and battery, the average electric bike weighs approximately 44 to 55 pounds, or 20 to 25 kilograms, about twice as much as a traditional bike. But what about safely shipping electric bike batteries?

Electric Bike Battery Shipping Obstacles

The primary obstacle for shipping is dealing with what powers the electric bike—its lithium battery. The first issue is its weight. A good portion of an electric bike’s weight is its battery. Electric bike batteries can weigh anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds or 5 to 9 kilograms. The exact weight and size of an e-bike battery will depend on its storage capacity, which is an important performance indicator. Capacity, and thus weight, is determined by the amount of energy that can be stored in each cell of the battery and is typically measured in Amp-hours (Ah) or Watt hours (Wh). Ideally, the higher the storage capacity, the heavier the battery and the greater range the bike can cover on a single charge.

The second issue in shipping lithium batteries is the hazard that they pose. Lithium batteries are considered dangerous goods and are subject to strict shipping and handling requirements and regulations, including proper identification and documentation. Lithium is a highly reactive, flammable, and combustible material. When used in the manufacture of batteries, unlike traditional alkaline batteries, lithium batteries contain a flammable electrolyte chemical and have an exceptionally high energy density, which makes them more prone to overheating and igniting under specific conditions, such as a short circuit, physical damage, improper packing or assembly. 

Regulations for Shipping Electric Bike Batteries

The regulations for shipping an electric bike battery fall under international and domestic classification protocols and requirements related to dangerous goods transportation. Shipping of lithium-ion electric bike batteries is subject to UN 3171, Battery-powered vehicle, UN 3481 when applicable, and Class 9 miscellaneous hazardous materials regulations. The UN prefix and four-digit code, 3171, is the international classification assigned by the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods to indicate shipment for a lithium battery-powered vehicle. UN 3481 indicates to the shipper that the battery is removed and packed separately from the vehicle in the same outer packaging.  

The Class 9 Hazmat is a classification assigned by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to identify hazardous substances and articles during transportation. When lithium batteries are transported in commerce, they must conform to all applicable HMR requirements for transportation by air, highway, rail, or water. 

Shipping Requirements for Electric Bike Batteries

Shipping lithium batteries for electric bikes to, from, or within the United States requires proper packaging and hazard documentation subject to regulations. Lithium-ion batteries are accepted by all the major carriers and delivery services like USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL. The only exception is if your e-bike battery is small and happens to weigh less than 11 pounds (5 kilograms). If so, it can be shipped without a dangerous goods designation like any other product. 

If the shipment of electric bike batteries is by air, they can only be shipped via cargo aircraft. Documentation is subject to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations that govern international and domestic air transport. 

Shippers must also provide proper documentation. Hazardous material, or simply, Hazmat shipping papers are the official documents of record that shippers prepare for carriers that must provide detailed, critical information about the hazardous material being transported. This may include information about the battery type, capacity, and compliance with relevant safety standards. Such papers ensure the proper handling and necessary emergency response information for first responders in the event of an incident.

The packages containing lithium batteries must be properly labeled and marked to indicate the presence of lithium-ion batteries. This helps handlers and carriers identify and handle the packages appropriately.

Lithium batteries must meet certain packaging requirements and be packaged to prevent short circuits, damage, or accidental activation during transportation. This often involves using specific packaging materials and designs that meet regulatory standards.

Your Best Shipping Option: The Experts at MLI Environmental

MLI Environmental is a certified carrier of hazardous material. We offer onsite services to make certain your lithium batteries are packaged correctly to ensure compliance. Our personnel are trained and certified to meet Department of Transportation (DOT) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations for shipping hazardous materials by ground and air, domestic and international. We will prepare the required documentation and proper labeling, properly classifying and identifying the dangers and hazards presented by lithium batteries following DOT and IATA guidelines. If you are preparing to ship your e-bike or are in the business of shipping e-bikes, whether across the US or around the world, contact MLI today for more information about how we can help to ensure your e-bike and its battery are shipped safely.