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EV battery transportation – a guide

Dr Marco Ottaviani, Dangerous Goods, Battery Regulatory, Environmental and Safety Affairs based in Italy, presents to Auto Recycling World a brief guide covering the potential risks of end-of-life EV batteries, with reference to transportation according to ADR 2021, and why it is important for trained professional operators to deal with end-of-life EV batteries.


EV battery transportation - a guide p
Dr Marco Ottaviani

The growing penetration of electric or hybrid vehicles on the car market leads soon to the situation of a vehicle fleet that is profoundly different from the current one and where the presence of EV batteries will become prevalent. It becomes increasingly important to understand how to safely manage EV batteries during their transportation and end-of-life phase. It is important to emphasize that the battery is a “live” item, an accumulator of energy that is released under controlled conditions. However, batteries can represent a risk if they are not dealt with by a trained professional operator at the end of life.

Repeated charging and discharging cycles modify the characteristics of the batteries and over time they no longer correspond to the initial ones of the prototype that has passed all the tests in the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, part III, sub-section 38.31. Therefore, additional safety measures must be considered during transport for batteries at the end of their life or of damaged items. It then becomes necessary to insert them in an inner packaging and surround them with non-combustible and electrically non-conductive material inside an outer approved packaging, after having inserted them in a bag made of durable plastic to contain any electrolyte leaks.

The ADR 2021, the Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road, has clarified who can assess the battery to identify it as damaged or defective and has drawn up an exemplary and non-exhaustive list of criteria to be evaluated: in assessing a battery as damaged or defective, an assessment or evaluation shall be performed based on safety criteria from the battery or product manufacturer, or by a technical expert with knowledge of the battery’s safety features. The assessment may include acute hazards (such as gas, fire, or electrolyte leaking), signs on the use or misuse of the battery, or of physical damage (such as deformation to battery casing, or colours on the casing, the external and internal short circuit protection), or damage to any internal safety components (such as the battery management system). 

Furthermore, under normal conditions of carriage, damaged batteries can be “critical”, i.e., dangerously react, produce a flame or a dangerous evolution of heat, or a dangerous emission of toxic, corrosive or flammable gases or vapors. “Critical” batteries require special packaging that allows to withstand a thermal runaway of the battery.

Before transporting a lithium battery, it is necessary to determine its condition and which goods category it belongs to, as the applicable packing instruction, such as the transport requirements, the type of packaging and the necessary additional precautions, is a direct consequence of this.

Note: a used battery can be transported in the same conditions as a new battery if it conforms to the type tested according to the applicable provisions of UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, Part III, sub-section 38.3.

The following flowchart is a preliminary study prepared for the platform, summarizing and helping to identify the different options and the related transport conditions:

EV battery transportation - a guide flowchart r

To help operators understand and conform battery shipments to the rules of road, sea and air transport, a free access platform that allows them to find solutions to all possible transport conditions for lithium batteries, but also to lead-acid batteries, nickel batteries, sodium batteries has been created. Summary sheets containing transport requirements are supplemented with illustrative examples of packaging instructions to guide the reader. The link to the platform is the following:

BatteriesTransport is a joint industry initiative with the goal to facilitate the implementation of the legal requirements applicable to the transport of battery cells, batteries and equipment containing batteries.

1According to ADR, new lithium batteries shall be of a type proved to meet the testing requirements of the Manual of Tests and Criteria, part III, sub-section 38.3 to be transported; this does not apply to the transport of batteries for recycling and to damaged and defective ones.