TSA Cracks Down on Batteries


Back in March we passed on some advice on safe air travel with batteries, courtesy of the Department of Transportation. Apparently not enough people have been listening to the advice, because as of January 1, there are formal rules dealing with lithium batteries on airplanes. If you’re planning air travel in the new year with electronics, here’s what you need to know:

  • You may not pack spare lithium batteries in checked luggage
  • You may pack devices with installed lithium batteries in checked luggage
  • You may carry spare lithium batteries in carry-on luggage
  • You may bring lithium batteries installed in a device
  • You can bring lithium ion batteries installed in a device that are up to 8 grams of “equivalent lithium content”
  • You can bring up to two spare lithium ion batteries with an aggregate of 25 grams of equivalent lithium content.
  • Lithium metal batteries, whether installed or carried as spares, are limited to 2 grams of lithium each.

Clear as mud, huh? For additional guidance, the TSA says all cel phone batteries are below the 8 gram equivalent threshold, as are most laptop computer batteries (but apparently not all). Even an external 130 watt-hour laptop battery is below the 25-gram limit on spare batteries. They also say “Almost all consumer-type lithium metal batteries are below 2 grams of lithium metal. But if you are unsure, contact the manufacturer!”

More to the point, if you’re unsure about how much lithium is in the batteries you’re bringing along, do you think you’ll get consistent answers from the TSA screeners across the country? Will they even be able to distinguish lithium ion, lithium metal, and other types of batteries from each other, let alone know how much lithium metal is in each one? While this is shaking out, the best advice is, alas, the simplest: travel with as few batteries in your carry-on luggage as you possibly can and, as always, allow extra time in the airport.



you know, we need to be use our common sense a bit when it comes to these confusing rules about lithium or alkaline batteries. People have been travelling with these items before terrorism becomes a way of life for these misfits. I guess ‘commonsense’is not all that common afterall.


This is an FAA rule for checked baggage only. Probably means it’s a safety concern, not security. Other countries already ban spare lithium batteries in checked baggage due to fires that can occur in the lower part of the plane. You can take spare lithium batteries in your carry-on bags.


Don’t get too worried about this. This rule refers to rechargable lithium ion batteries and lithium metal batteries.

Most people use non-rechargeable alkaline batteries such as Duracell batteries.

Alkaline batteries are not affected by this regulation. You can still bring these non-lithium batteries on board either in checked luggage or in carry on luggage.

Mike Gunderloy

The rationale is that loose lithium batteries in checked luggage can cause fires – there have been a couple of incidents in the past year or so. As for the exact number, I have no idea how they decided that was a reasonable limit. Chicken entrails, maybe.

Mike Gunderloy

Kathleen, the TSA site is pretty clear that you can only bring two spare batteries. But batteries in devices are exempt. Pick up a cheap digital camera that takes AA batteries and tuck your spares into that?


This is really confusing. I just flew home for the holiday and had to be rescreened 3 times because they could not figure out what was the rectangular box in my carry on (laptop charger). Now, I’m confused because I intended to pack it in my checked luggage for my return trip. :( I guess I’ll mosy to the TSA website and hope for the best!

Kathleen Weaver


I have to travel in February with an insulin pump, and I prefer to use Lithium batteries with it. I usually carry 3 spare AA lithium batteries, do you know if can do that?

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