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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Interpretation Response #17-0053

Below is the interpretation response detail and a list of regulations sections applicable to this response.

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name:

Individual Name:

Location State: NC Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

November 01, 2017

Steven Gregory
Honda Power Equipment Manufacturing Inc.
P.O. Box 37
3721 NC Highway 119
Swepsonville, NC 27359

Reference No. 17-0053

Dear Mr. Gregory:

This letter is in response to your May 18, 2017 and May 22, 2017, emails requesting clarification of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) applicable to packaging and shipping requirements for "UN3481, Lithium ion batteries contained in equipment. You seek guidance on the acceptable level of protection provided by the following packaging scenario:

  • The lithium ion battery is installed inside a pedestrian-controlled lawn mower;
  • The battery's terminals are connected to the lawn mower;
  • The battery is secured by a latch;
  • The equipment is protected from accidental activation by a switch near the battery that requires a plastic clip to continue normal functionality of the lawn mower; and
  • The "bail" and a separate button on the "blade control bail" provide additional protection from accidental activation.

We have paraphrased and answered your questions as follows:

Q1. You ask if it is acceptable to ship a lithium ion battery contained in equipment (i.e., a lawn mower).

A1. The answer is yes, provided the lithium ion battery complies with the applicable requirements of § 173.185 and the equipment is packaged in a manner to prevent short circuits, movement (i.e., shifting) within the outer package, and accidental activation of the equipment while in transportation.

Q2. You ask what level of protection is acceptable to prevent short circuits and accidental activation of the lithium ion battery when contained in a lawn mower.

A2. As provided by § 173.185(b), the shipper must ensure that the lithium ion battery and the equipment as presented for transport are packaged in a manner to prevent short circuits, shifting within the outer package, and accidental activation of the equipment. When lithium cells or batteries are contained in equipment, the outer packaging, when used, must be constructed of suitable material of adequate strength and design in relation to the capacity and intended use of the packaging, unless the lithium cells or batteries are afforded equivalent protection by the equipment in which they are contained. These are performance standards, meaning the HMR do not prescribe any specific method. The method described in your email to prevent accidental activation of the lawn mower appears to meet the intent of the HMR.

Q3. You ask if the lithium ion battery can be connected to a key-activated lawn mower.

A3. The answer is yes, provided the equipment is secured against shifting within the outer packaging and packed to prevent accidental operation during transport (see § 173.185(b)(4)(ii)).

Q4. You ask if enclosing a lithium ion battery in a plastic outer cover provides adequate protection from short circuit.

A4. As provided by § 173.185(b), the shipper must ensure that the lithium ion battery and the equipment as presented for transport are packaged in manner to prevent short circuits, shifting within the outer package, and accidental activation of the equipment. There is not sufficient information included in your email to provide a definitive answer. However, it is the opinion of this Office that if your plastic outer cover is non-metallic, completely encloses the cells or batteries, and separates the cells or batteries from contact with the equipment, other devices, or conductive material, then placement in a plastic outer packaging would be adequate protection against short circuit.

I hope this information is helpful. Please contact us if we can be of further assistance.

Sincerely,

Dirk Der Kinderen
Chief, Standards Development Branch
Standards and Rulemaking Division

173.185, 173.185(b), 173.185(b)(4)(ii)

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
173.185 Lithium cells and batteries