In the United States (and in many other nations worldwide), the powerful lithium batteries that fuel your electric bike are prohibited on passenger aircraft. So, unfortunately, you cannot take most electric bike batteries on an airplane. “Lithium batteries, which power everyday devices, can catch fire if damaged or if battery terminals are short-circuited,” explained the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in a March 2019 lithium battery fact sheet.‹ Go back to the blog
Lithium Battery Restrictions for U.S. Air TravelAs you know, on a passenger aircraft you can either carry on baggage or check it, so that it is placed in the plane’s cargo area. Unfortunately, neither is an option for most electric bike batteries. The FAA allows airline passengers to bring lithium-ion batteries of up to 100 watt-hours (Wh) each onboard a plane in carry-on luggage. Exceptions can be made for batteries up to 160Wh which are contained in equipment like certain medical devices, for example. But no spare batteries larger than 100Wh may be carried on. Lithium batteries in checked baggage may also be up to 100Wh, but no spare batteries are permitted at all, thus the battery must be attached to a tool, electronic device, or piece of equipment. The 100Wh limit is well below what you would normally expect to find with an electric bike battery.
Calculating Watt-hoursWatts, volts, and amp-hours are the primary energy measurements used to describe electric bike batteries and motors. And while you may find a battery’s watt-hour rating printed or embossed on the side of the battery, it can also be calculated given volts and amp-hours. To determine watt-hours, multiple the battery’s volts by its amp hours. For example, a 48-volt electric bike battery rated for 11.6 amp-hours would be 556.8 watt-hours or about five and half times more than the FAA limit for passenger flights.
48 x 11.6 = 556.8
Alternatives to Flying with BatteriesIf taking your electric bike is important, you have at least two possible alternatives to flying with lithium-ion batteries.
Shipping Electric Bike BatteriesYou may be able to ship the battery to your destination. Your electric bike’s lithium-ion battery may be shipped in some circumstances, but it will be considered dangerous and will require special handling and labeling. Locate or calculate the battery’s watt-hours and then check with specific carries for their current guidelines. You may have more leeway if you ship both the electric bike and the battery together. At the time of writing, several organizations offered guidelines for shipping lithium-ion batteries.
- FAA’s “Interactive Guide to Shipping Lithium Batteries,”
- “How to pack and ship batteries,” from UPS,
- FedEx’s “Lithium battery shipping overview,”
- Lithium-ion Battery Regulations by DHL,
- “Lithium Batteries Guidance” by DHL,
- Lithium Batteries from the International Air Transport Association.