The US government is forming groups of experts to study lithium-ion battery safety issues in manufacturing and transportation.
Transportation secretary Elaine Chao (pictured) is spearheading the formation of two expert committees on the batteries as part of a package of measures included in the 2018 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act that was recently signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Chao will appoint up to eight members to the new ‘lithium battery safety working group’, all of whom will have “expertise in the safe manufacture, use, or transportation of lithium batteries and cells”, according to the Act. The group will “promote and coordinate efforts related to the promotion of the safe manufacture, use, and transportation of lithium batteries and cells”.
Within its first year, the group will assess additional ways to decrease the risk of fires and explosions from lithium batteries and cells— and consider additional ways “to ensure uniform transportation requirements for both bulk and individual batteries and new or existing technologies that may reduce the fire and explosion risk of lithium batteries and cells”. The group will also be able to make recommendations to Congress.
Chao is also to establish a separate ‘air safety advisory committee’ on lithium-ion and lithium metal batteries that will include leading battery manufacturers.
The committees will help the Transportation Department work with federal, regional, and international transportation agencies to ensure enforcement of US hazardous materials Regulations and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) technical Instructions “with respect to shippers who offer non-compliant shipments of lithium-ion and lithium metal batteries”.
A spokesperson for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) told BEST Battery Briefing: “The FAA reauthorisation bill contains language that prevents the FAA from imposing regulations for transport of lithium batteries that are more restrictive than the global standards adopted by the ICAO. Concerning the creation of a lithium battery safety working group, we don’t want to speculate on outcomes, but the hope is that they may have data-based proposals that can be brought to ICAO that will advance safety.”