A look inside 3 committees leading the charge in lithium battery storage and transportation regulations

April 30, 2024

Lithium-ion batteries are ubiquitous, safe products when properly designed, tested, and handled, powering devices ranging from cellphones to electric vehicles to medical devices to power tools. And the reason they are overwhelmingly safe is in no small part due to the deliberate effort of standard setting, driven by people as dedicated to progress as they are to safety.

While the sum total of all lithium-ion regulations, standards, and best practices represents the work of hundreds of organizations and many thousands of professionals, some of the most vital work in regulations and standard setting regarding lithium-ion at the moment is carried out by two organizations that we’ll focus on in this article: SAE International and the United Nations.

SAE International is a global professional association and standards organization with more than 138,000 members across the world. Founded in 1905 at the dawn of the automobile age as the Society of Automotive Engineers, and with Henry Ford as its first vice president, the organization has evolved over time and expanded its scope beyond automotive engineering to also encompass aerospace, autonomous vehicles, transport industries, and other adjacent areas.

The United Nations, founded in 1945, exists in its own words as a “forum to address issues that transcend national boundaries” and has a venerable history that needs no introduction to most.

Both of these organizations are a natural, authoritative source for standards-setting, since both by definition concentrate considerable brainpower and expertise into one place. And much in the same way that SAE helped address rapidly emerging needs for standardization in the early twentieth century – and the United Nations helped a world recovering from a second World War navigate critical challenges in infrastructure and human services – these two organizations are helping us today to navigate the challenges that come with the continued growth of and innovation in lithium-ion batteries.

Americase has been a long-time partner of SAE International and UN, working hand in hand with both of these organizations to help shape and develop the standards and regulations to ensure safe practices across all businesses working with lithium-ion batteries.

SAE G-27 – Lithium Battery Packaging Performance Committee

A group convened by SAE International in 2016, the SAE G–27 Committee has a specific focus on aerospace standards. Its members are working to create a minimum performance standard for the safe shipping of lithium batteries by air as cargo. More broadly, the G-27 committee facilitates the free exchange of information among highly skilled professionals, all focused on a shared goal that must consider multiple facets, such as packaging design, appropriate materials, and other qualifications, to be successful. By creating as comprehensive a standard as possible, the committee aims to provide more meaningful, compelling data and examples to help inform governmental regulatory agencies, with the ultimate goal of regulatory agencies adopting the standard as official regulations.

SAE G-27 is working diligently in its ongoing effort of creating comprehensive standards to help government agencies ensure the safe air transportation of lithium-ion batteries. Americase’s CEO Robby Kinsala and VP of Sales for Lithium & Hazmat Division Chris Egloff are writing and voting members. They actively contribute to the committee’s work by providing testing insights and lithium-ion battery thermal containment and propagation expertise.

To see the committee’s most recently publicly available documents, visit SAE.

Storage regulations

SAE J3303 – Lithium and Lithium-Ion Cell and Battery Containment Performance Recommended Practice for Storage

Spearheaded by Chris Egloff, this SAE subcommittee was formed in 2023 and states that it seeks to “prescribe test conditions to quantify the effectiveness of micro-containment devices for containing thermal runaway hazards of lithium/lithium-ion cells, batteries, and equipment during storage resulting from the failure of a cell within the container.” In other words, J3303 is working on crafting standards and regulations for safe storage of lithium-ion batteries.

Although International Fire Code 2024 (IFC 2024) permits storage in specific, certified containers, SAE notes that “industry has not developed a standard for demonstrating container performance for thermal runaway” and asserts that standardizing best practices can assist in mitigating risk.

Because lithium batteries and lithium-ion cells can be stored in such diverse environments (e.g., indoors, outdoors), the work of this committee is particularly detailed and complex, including necessitating testing multiple configurations of containers and different types of batteries in various conditions, while carefully tabulating and analyzing the data to garner insights that the committee can use to guide their work. Americase brings industry-leading battery thermal containment and testing expertise insights to the J3303 committee, helping lead the efforts to create standards for safe storage of batteries across multiple industries.

UN IWG on Hazard-Based Classification of Lithium Batteries and Cells

As a truly global organization, the United Nations is huge and multidisciplinary, with committees of some of the best minds on the planet working together to solve some of our toughest, most complex problems. Classification of lithium batteries is one of the challenges on which the organization is working. Currently only two categories of lithium batteries are defined in the regulations, which the UN recognizes as no longer sufficient. This Informal Working Group (IWG) is focused on developing more categories and granularity to ultimately create more detailed, stringent, and consistent standards and regulations for lithium battery packaging to ensure safety.  

Both writing and voting members of this UN IWG, Americase’s CEO Robby Kinsala and VP of Sales for Lithium & Hazmat Division Chris Egloff provide testing expertise and insights, as well as deep knowledge of the thermal properties of lithium-ion batteries to the IWG.   

Says Americase CEO Robby Kinsala, “We have the honor of working alongside some of the greatest minds in the industry to help standardize the way lithium-ion batteries are classified and define best practices for handling them in different conditions.”

The IWG working group brings together a number of experts working through extensive and immense volumes of data – the recent session information document can be seen here.

Standards are never set once. We’ll be there.

Information compiled by data clearinghouse Statista forecasts that by 2030, global demand for lithium-ion batteries will increase sevenfold. And as supply rises to meet demand, the lithium-ion market – valued at $54.6 billion USD in 2021 – is expected to be worth approximately $257 billion USD by 2030.

While lithium-ion batteries are everyday objects today, the technology when it emerged was nothing short of revolutionary. In 2019, John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akiro Yoshino were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry “for their contributions to the development of the lithium-ion battery” following decades of research – research that continues today as sustained interest and innovation in labs around the globe. The Nobel Prize committee commented that lithium-ion batteries “laid the foundation of wireless electronics such as mobile phones and laptops” and  make a “fossil-fuel-free world possible.”

The world that’s built on that foundation is one we can count on to not sit still when it comes to innovation, and that means use cases – and challenges – will change. Innovation is central to Americase and has been since its founding nearly 40 years ago. You can count on us to have our finger on the pulse, to know when change is on the horizon, and to respond with best practices and solutions that meet a higher standard.

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