What to know about shipping batteries

Hi community, do you have any guidance you can provide on what someone needs to know about shipping batteries? I plan to ship a Boron with bundled 18650 batteries amounting to 10Ah. I can't find in the documentation much about what to keep in mind if you're shipping batteries with your product.

I'm also curious if anyone here has any advice on selling their product as hardware, or "as a service" where you retain ownership of the hardware, if there are tax implications/benefits to one scenario or the other?

Shipping batteries is a complex topic that depends on many things, making it impossible to easily document. It will vary on country, but even assuming the United States: It will depend on whether you're shipping by air or ground. Possibly also the shipping carrier you are using. Whether the battery is integrated into your product, or loose in package. There may be power disconnection requirements (it can't turn on during shipping). There will be outer package labeling requirements. The size of the battery does matter, as well as how many are in the entire package.

@Mikey1 ,

This is a good question and one that, as @rickkas7 points out, can be complex.

Adafruit gave a decent overview of the issues in a short video:

My approach was to set up an account with one shipper (reducing one variable) and then I called them and discussed the specifics of my shipments (device in product, no more than x in a box and ground shipping only, US domestic only). They recommended the labelling I needed to use on the box and that process has worked for my relatively simple use case. I also had to use their on-line shipping tool and specify that this shipment contained LiPO batteries when I ordered / printed the label. Depending on your needs, you may be able to arrive at a solution with your shipper of choice.



I'm not an expert. I'm a hobbyist. But I looked into this recently.

Most of the big shippers in the US have explanations on their website. UPS has a good page. Here it is: https://www.ups.com/assets/resources/webcontent/en_US/pack_ship_batteries.pdf

It sounds like your application falls into the category UN8431. So I think you'll need to print a "UN8431" sticker and apply it to the outside of your box. You add your phone number to bottom of the sticker and then ship it as you would ship normally. The regulations say you need to disconnect the battery. It's not enough to rely on power switch (if your device even has one). Also, it's probably a good idea to run down the battery charge as much as possible, keeping in mind your Boron won't completely drain it (I think it drains it to 3.0v).

Since I was shipping to my sister, I decided to bypass this for my first prototype and just ordered a new battery from Adafruit and had it sent to her house.

Now I'm ready to do a field test with several more devices. Although I think the LiPo batteries from Adafruit are safe, I decided I needed more legal protection because there's enough risk in this category that their shipping is regulated, and of course, the litigious public is well acquainted with pictures of bloated cell phones, etc. So I formed and LLC and attempted to purchase product liability insurance. After a lot of research and shopping, I couldn't get a policy without agreeing to an exclusion for the batteries. And I didn't really want my users opening the enclosure and re-connecting the battery. So I redesigned my product without a battery.

I'm requiring my field testers to purchase their own power bank. Not ideal. The Boron will be powered from the USB line and therefore loses its ability to ascertain the voltage level of the external battery. But it shifts all the risk onto my users and the company that produces the power bank. I think this will end up working well for my particular use case. But the journey was a hassle to get to this point.

If you go this route, your users need to purchase a power bank with a USB-C output port. USB-A and Micro USB output ports shut off after a few moments because their protocol doesn't include logic to sense the low power consumption of devices like the Boron. USB-C does.

Hope that gives you a few more alternatives.

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