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Apple’s Lithium Batteries Protected After House Vote

Congress votes to prevent regulations on transportation of said batteries

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The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would bar new rules concerning the transportation of lithium batteries.  The proposed new rules would classify the batteries as hazardous materials and thus subject them to tighter regulations regarding their shipment.

Congressional Democrats backed the regulations proposed by the pilot unions, among others that attempt to limit the shipment of lithium batteries whether stand alone or packaged inside a laptop, digital camera or cellphone.  According to Bloomberg, the regulators say that the batteries are a risk to overheat and ignite.

The proposed rules, filed on behalf of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (part of the Department of Transportation), would affect packaging and transportation of the lithium batteries.  From the official proposal:

The proposed changes are intended to enhance safety by ensuring that all lithium batteries are designed to withstand normal transportation conditions. This would include provisions to ensure all lithium batteries are packaged to reduce the possibility of damage that could lead to a catastrophic incident, and minimize the consequences of an incident.

Why are lithium batteries so dangerous, according to the Department of Transportation?

Lithium batteries are hazardous in transportation because they present both chemical (e.g., flammable electrolytes) and electrical hazards. If not safely packaged and handled, lithium batteries can present a significant risk in transportation. Batteries which are misused, mishandled, improperly packaged, improperly stored, overcharged, or defective can overheat and ignite and, once ignited, fires can be especially difficult to extinguish. Overheating has the potential to create a thermal runaway, a chain reaction leading to self-heating and release of the battery’s stored energy. In general, the risks posed by all batteries are a function of battery size and chemistry. The high energy density (i.e., high energy to weight ratio) of lithium batteries increases the consequences of a short circuit or fire posing a greater risk in transportation.

Yikes.

An analysis was commissioned and it was predicted that the new rules could cost companies like Apple, Panasonic and Samsung $1.13 billion the first year is costs relating to training, packaging and transportation.  As of now, however, those companies need not worry about the projected costs as the newly elected Republican House of Representatives has voted to kill the new rules.  A similar but different bill will be up for debate in the Senate at a later time.

Apple’s Lithium Batteries Protected After House Vote
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  • Katherine Mack

    The way that this article is written suggests that Apple, Samsung, Panasonic and the rest are trying to get away with something. They are not, and neither are the thousands of smaller companies that manufacture and sell products containing lithium batteries. The proposed PHMSA rule is nothing short of riduculous. There has been a tremendous amount of work by the industry to prevent accidents with lithium batteries. Most accidents that occur in shipping are by companies and individuals who have no knowledge or (more likely) do not want to follow the existing and very stringent requirements for shipping lithium product. All lithium batteries are already classified as Class 9 Hazardous goods. This new rule would have classify all batteries and products containing batteries greater than 3.7Wh as Class 9. This means that your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, any notebook PC are considered Class 9. So would all medical products including AEDs. If this rule goes through, the public should expect to pay an additional $50-$80 per phone for just the added shipping costs. You would also need to wait at least 6 months+ for your product as UPS, FedEX, DHL, etc. do not have the bandwith to ship any fraction of the products affected via Class 9 Hazardous.

    Next time, don’t put the fear of God in your article before your do your homework.

    • http://www.ientry.com/ Josh Wolford

      The description about the danger of lithium batteries isn’t from me, it’s from the official DoT proposal. This writer has no opinion on the legislation.

  • http://bit.ly/e88T9g marsh

    I guess this issue polarized the house.
    The HAZCOM Song deals with the labelling issues http://bit.ly/e88T9g

  • Being Enlightend

    Apple’s name is in the title and content of this piece, implying they specifically had some involvement in the congressional action referenced. Yet there is not a shred of reporting that confirms this insinuation by inclusion. Apple is clearly not the only company that will benefit financially from this action by Republicans in Congress. So that indicates you have some direct interest in pointing the finger at Apple. Why does not matter. Assuming you have minimal credentials and training, your journalistic credibility and personal integrity are clearly lacking. You can choose to do better.

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