5 questions you should ask about lithium battery packaging testing

When it comes to shipping lithium batteries compliantly, labels and marks grab all the headlines, but the real story is in packaging. After all, while labels and marks are critical for proper identification of a package’s contents, the package itself is what keeps those contents from causing damage.

In the case of lithium batteries and battery-powered devices, you need your package to mitigate a potential thermal runaway event. If it fails, you can have a serious (and seriously expensive) incident on your hands.

And how do you know if your package is good enough? It’s all in the testing.

One of the reasons shippers trust our Obexion line of lithium battery packaging is that our partners at PA2 test the stuff seven ways from Sunday. When we share this test data with PHMSA in the Special Permit application process, we’re confident each Obexion product will stand up to the worst-case scenario it’s designed to handle.

How was your lithium battery packaging tested?

A lot of people don’t know that PHMSA relies on self-reporting of test data. The agency simply doesn’t have the resources to conduct tests verifying every data point shared by manufacturers applying for Special Permits, so it’s up to the manufacturers to make sure their tests reflect real-world performance.

Because manufacturers conduct their own tests, and PHMSA grants Special Permits based on those tests, a box can be in full compliance and not provide full mitigation of a thermal runaway event.

For complete peace of mind, here are five questions you should ask your packaging manufacturer about the testing of your lithium battery packaging:

  1. Were the batteries or cells tested at their maximum chargeable capacity? New batteries can maintain a 100% state-of-charge, while older batteries have lower capacity. Regardless, batteries charged to their fullest capacity pose the highest danger in a thermal runaway incident—and tests should reflect this higher degree of risk.
  2. What was the maximum temperature attained in the packages tested? Obexion Max has mitigated lithium battery fires as hot as 1246°F in test conditions, while the exterior of the box never exceeded the 392°F limit placed in its Special Permit. Obexion technology pulls the heat away from the igniting battery, which inhibits its ability to propagate to adjoining batteries.
  3. What was the actual total watt-hours of the batteries or cells in the package during the test? Data submitted for Special Permits covering shipments up to 100 watt-hours do not necessarily have to reflect tests performed with 100 watt-hours of batteries or cells. Some tests use lower wattage.
  4. Were the batteries or devices used in the thermal runaway test similar to the size, quantity and weight of the batteries or devices you ship? Testers can achieve a given level of watt-hours through many combinations of cells or batteries. Tests conducted with configurations closest to those you actually ship will likely provide the best protection against thermal runaway in one of your shipments.
  5. Has the test simulated the worst-case scenario for the batteries or devices you’re shipping? All these factors combine to create a worst-case scenario test of the shipments you actually make, and only a worst-case scenario test can assure you that your packaging can handle, well, a worst-case scenario.

Packaging for your real worst-case scenarios

A thermal runaway event is one of the most unpredictable, most damaging hazards in Dangerous Goods transport.

That’s why Obexion packaging is fully tested with the specific batteries you’re likely to ship—under the most dangerous conditions in which you’ll ever ship them. Because you may not actually know how old the batteries in your shipment are, for instance, or what their state-of-charge will be, we test for the worst-case scenario: brand new batteries, with maximum watt-hours, at a full state-of-charge.

While there may be less expensive packaging options available, these packages may not contain the technology required to prevent a thermal event from propagating to other batteries. This may result in more damage—and it can hurt your company. What if carriers stop accepting your shipments?

Regardless of where your batteries are in their lifecycle—new, defective or recalled, end of life—or what you’re shipping—single devices, large numbers of batteries, etc.—there’s an Obexion package for you. And you can be confident it’s been worst-case scenario tested.

Find the Obexion packaging that best fits your lithium battery transport needs.


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