USCG: Don’t load EVs with damaged Li-ion batteriesWritten by Nick Blenkey
As EVs (electric vehicle) use grows, so do the risks of battery fires and the Coast Guard has issued a new Marine Safety Alert warning of the extreme risk of loading EVs with damaged lithium-ion batteries onto commercial vessels.
The Coast Guard notes that during response and reconstruction after Hurricane Ian, first responders encountered numerous vehicle fires involving EVs powered by lithium-ion batteries.
“Subsequent investigations have revealed that the vehicle fires resulted from exposure of the lithium-ion batteries to salt water,” says the alert. “Many vehicles had been susceptible to flooding. Salt water exposure can significantly degrade lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, causing a chemical reaction that creates an extreme fire risk. Review of vehicle registration records revealed there are over 7,000 electric vehicles (EVs) in Lee County, Florida, with potential for damage.”
The Coast Guard strongly recommends that vessels, ports, shippers, and regulators:
- Conduct a comprehensive review of the vehicle shipping requirements found in both the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR) and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. All lithium batteries are hazardous materials regulated by the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). As such, they are required to comply with the Lithium Battery Guide for Shippers.
- Conduct review of additional requirements for shipping damaged lithium ion batteries located in the PHMSA Safety Advisory Notice for the Disposal and Recycling of Lithium Batteries in Commercial Transportation. Due to the large size of EV batteries, the packaging requirements to comply with damaged shipment regulations are inadequate.As such, IMDG special provision 376 specifically requires approval from the competent authority (PHMSA or U.S. Coast Guard) prior to shipment of damaged lithium batteries.
- Remain vigilant and ensure damaged lithium-ion vehicle batteries are not loaded onto vessels for shipment, placed within port facilities, or enclosed in containers.