Lithium-ion batteries may no longer be transported as cargo on passenger airplanes under a final rule issued by federal regulators at the end of February.
Seeking ways to reduce the threat of lithium-ion fires and explosions aboard commercial aircraft, Congress last year directed the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to revise regulations governing the transport of hazardous materials.
The new rule also issues restrictions for the transportation of lithium-ion batteries on cargo planes, prohibiting any lithium-ion cells and batteries to be charged above 30 percent of their capacity.
“This rule will strengthen safety for the traveling public by addressing the unique challenges lithium batteries pose in transportation,” Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a statement.
The FAA has addressed concerns over the hazards lithium-ion batteries pose to commercial aircraft in the past, saying that under certain conditions, a lithium-ion battery fire could overcome an airplane’s fire-suppression system, resulting in a catastrophic failure.
Reuters reports that federal authorities have identified more than three dozen lithium-ion battery incidents on commercial aircraft between 2010 and 2016. More than a dozen of those involved explosions, fires, extreme heat, or smoke that could have been prevented by restrictions set by the new rule.
“The agency also noted three aircraft accidents in 2007, 2010 and 2011 linked to lithium-ion batteries transported as cargo as either the cause or a factor that increased the severity of the fire. Those accidents resulted in the complete loss of all three aircraft and four lives,” according to Reuters.
The new rule is based on air-safety measures instituted in 2016 by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the arm of the United Nations that established international standards for air transportation. Recognizing the growing dangers lithium-ion batteries present as they become more prevalent, most U.S. passenger airlines voluntarily adopted the UN’s requirements in 2016.